More to librarian than Dewey Decimal

(07-13-2009)

On the third floor of the Adams State College Nielsen Library in the room dedicated to children's material, Evelyn Rizzi opened the door to proudly show off her work-study students' latest project - a mural for the south wall. She told me, "Aren't they great."

Rizzi is an outstanding example of the kind of person on campus who works hard at the technical aspects and fulfills her job description but doesn't stop there. She leads by example when coordinating and supervising the 20 some work-study students in the library and has won their appreciation and devotion. After 25 years, she is retiring from her position as library technician II.

Students painting the mural that morning included Chelsi Rasmussen, '09 elementary education graduate; Dawnia Brownlow, '09 business administration graduate, and Anthony Lopez, '10 art education major. When I asked what kind of supervisor Rizzi was, after she left the room, I couldn't take down the notes fast enough. Their enthusiastic comments included: "She is a great boss and an awesome leader...She is not afraid to get in and work with us...a true leader."

When asked if the skills they learned from Rizzi would apply in their careers, Rasmussen said, "Absolutely, she is so organized I have learned great organization skills I will use in the classroom." Besides modeling a good work ethic, Rizzi has supported the students in other ways. Brownlow said: "She is someone you can talk to if you've had a bad day." Lopez appreciated her trust in them and encouraging their ideas. "I love that woman."

Outgoing and Goal Orientated

Libraries and librarians have long received a reputation of a quiet place, where spinsters hoard material and shush noisy patrons. It is doubtful that environment ever had a place in the Nielsen Library, and if it ever did...it is gone now. "It is more of an open friendly caring environment," said Rizzi.

Mary Walsh, resource sharing librarian, said: "Ev will be sorely missed. She always finds the silver lining and she makes everyone smile. Plus, she played the best practical jokes." Murleen Goodrich, librarian technician, remembers when Rizzi had her believing she had thrown away periodicals meant for the bindery. "I was actually on my way to change into clothes appropriate for climbing into a dumpster to rescue them when she started laughing and told me it was a joke."

Like many at an institution of higher education, Rizzi started her career in a different department. She accepted a position as a custodian in 1984. She said custodial work is a "thankless job" and her body couldn't take the physical stress anymore. Her solution, start taking classes and change her circumstances. "I knew I had to do that in order to change." Although she wasn't degree seeking, Rizzi sought out classes that would help her reach her goal. She learned a variety of computer programs. When she heard of an opportunity over at the library in 1993, she approached the director and said "try me for six months, if it doesn't work out, I’ll go back as a custodian."

However, Rizzi had her mind set on her goal and she was determined to succeed. She wrote down everything she was taught during her job training, "step-by-step." She remembers Glenda Geu, systems and automation librarian, telling her "you take the best notes." Rizzi embraced the latest technology and used computers and their programs to do her job more efficiently and accurately.

Memorable Coworker

When the library's current director, Dianne "Di" Machado first accepted the promotion, Rizzi told her "I can help you with the position." Machado said working with Rizzi has been a pleasure and an honor. "There was never a job too awful, too dirty, too intense that Evelyn wouldn't do. If she saw something needed to be done, she rounded up students and got the job done, and done correctly."

Her enthusiasm and willingness to work hard has been appreciated by all the other librarians. "Things have been good at the library for a long time and Evelyn is the main reason," said David Goetzman, circulation and cataloging librarian. "I couldn't have had a better coworker."

Geu agrees: "Evelyn is not only a grand co-worker but a good friend. She has been efficient, organized, thoughtful, encouraging, dependable, and creative. Her retiring leaves a big hole at the library."

Working together 40 hours a week can be a pleasure, when the team is cooperative and can be like a second family when an employee is fortunate enough to work in an environment of support and encouragement. "I loved my job," Rizzi said. "It has allowed me to have new opportunities and my friends are those I work with." She says the same is true with many of the students. "Some become lifelong friends."

Content With Accomplishments

Rizzi's duties included technical services, patron place holds, cataloging, ordering supplies and books, as well as supervising the work-study students. "I have always learned a lot from the students."

"I will sorely miss Evelyn," Machado said. "Her work ethic, her sense of humor, her kindness and her friendship to all of the library staff will certainly leave a void in our library team once she has retired. We have had some wild times. Times that we will never forget."

Rizzi said she deeply appreciated the support and understanding of her colleagues when she helped care for her mother, in her last years, and when she recently lost a brother. "This bunch is like a big family. They are close friends I can call in middle of night and they are there for you."

She and her husband, Ben, have two sons, Clayton (Cali) and Eldon (Saria) and a grandson, Shooter. Clayton, Eldon and Saria are Adams State alumni.

Plans for retirement include traveling, spending quality time with their grandson, camping without the worry of a deadline for getting back home, and having the time to reconnect with her husband. "I always worked and I missed out on a lot. I don't want to miss out on my grandchildren. I could work another ten years, but why."

On the Web...

By Linda Relyea