36 Years of Service: Interview with Gina Thayer-Coleman

This week we’re honoring Circulation Services Manager Gina Thayer-Coleman, who is retiring after working at your library for 36 years. Gina has been instrumental in implementing and maintaining the library’s automation systems for the last 30 years, and has served as a devoted mentor and leader to her fellow employees. We asked her to reflect on the library’s growth over the years and her role in it.

JCPL: In what ways have you seen the library change and grow over the years?

Gina: I’ve seen so much change and growth, particularly in the automation of our circulation systems. When I came to JCPL, we were using the old Gaylord charging machine, where the library user’s card number and the due date were stamped onto the book’s card. Those book cards had to be sorted, counted, and filed alphabetically. When items came back, we had to find the cards before they could be re-shelved. This was a time-consuming process with frequent errors.

I helped implement our first automated system in 1991, in which books were checked in and out using barcodes. This change made our lives so much easier! We could find materials much faster, which literally saved us hours of hunting. After computers were introduced, we upgraded to new systems every five to seven years.

A few years ago we moved to RFID technology, which allows us to check items in and out just by putting them on a reader pad. In the last few years we introduced self-check kiosks to allow users to check out and renew their materials. We also implemented the Automated Materials Handler, which has made the most dramatic change in how we work. With the machine checking materials in and sorting them, staff members have more time to interact with and help users!

I’m proud of the fact that during my tenure at JCPL, we’ve experienced an almost 250% increase in circulation from my first year (1983) to this last year. In 2018-2019, we circulated over 613,000 items! Our automated systems are what make that level of circulation possible.

JCPL: What do you see as your most meaningful accomplishments?

Gina: The library has provided me many amazing opportunities over the years. I was trusted to implement and maintain each of our automation systems since 1991, and to develop library policies and procedures, such as text/email notifications and auto-renewals. I’ve also served as System Administrator for OWL, the consortium of public libraries throughout northeast Tennessee. My different roles and responsibilities throughout my career have taken me all over the country for trainings and conferences, which I’ve loved.

I am so very proud to have been selected as Interim Director in 2018 while we searched for a new director. Serving the library in this way was one of the highlights of my life.

JCPL: What has been your favorite part of working at the library?

Gina: The people! I’m grateful for everyone I’ve worked with and helped over the years. I’m proud of all the young people who once worked in Circulation who’ve gone on to professional jobs in many fields, including in libraries. I’ve built many strong relationships with library users, staff, and board members over the years, and I hope to continue these friendships as I move into the next chapter!

I’ll also never forget the wonderful library events I’ve participated in, like Same Book – Same Time, Food for Fines, and of course Summer Reading (including our famous worm races!).

JCPL: What are you looking forward to in your retirement?

Gina: My husband and I hope to do a good bit of travel, and one of our goals is to find the next place we’ll call home. And I want to read all those books I’ve checked out to others; I want to finish the quilt I started at least five years ago; I want to scrapbook our lives for the last twenty years; I want to see if I can still throw pots on a potter’s wheel; I want to paint again…I just want to do what I want when I want, for as long as I can! 

Thanks for sharing these reflections, Gina, and for your many years of service to the Johnson City community!

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