Interview with Karen Reiter, 04/18/2018

UW Oshkosh Campus Stories
Derek Wnuk, Interviewer | uwocs_Karen_Reiter_04182018_uc.mp3
Campus Stories Oral History Project (UWO Audio Series 51) |


DW: Ok, my name is Derek Wnuk and I am here interviewing. Karen, could you uh, could you spell that out?


DW: OK, awesome. And I am interviewing her for the campus stories oral history project and today's date is April 18th, 2018 and the interview is starting at 1:25 PM. So Karen, before we kinda dive into like the UWO history, all were kind of just going to get started talking about your childhood a little bit. So um, if you could tell us where you grew up and what city are you from?

KR: I grew up in what was then a small village called Belgium, Wisconsin, which is, currently now on highway expressway 43 between Port Washington and Sheboygan. But when I was growing up, there wasn't, I mean the major highway was 1:00141, which was probably the main way that most people came up to like Door County from either Milwaukee or from Illinois.

DW: So what was the, what was the community like that you grew up in?

KR: The community was made up of-- the original families were "Luxembourgers."

DW: Okay.

KR: There was a mistake made on the map of the state of Wisconsin when they, Belgium and Luxembourg both wanted to become a township and they decided both Luxembourg and Belgium.

DW: Mh-hmm

KR: The villages at the time decided that they would just stay with the mistakes. So people that live in Luxembourg, Wisconsin are Belgian--


DW: Oh wow.

KR: The people that live in Belgium are "Luxembourgers."

DW: That's kind of crazy.

KR: My family, was part of the original 13 families that settled in that community at the time, if anybody's familiar now, here is Harrington State Park, which used to be a quarry operation and down there was a dock where my ancestors and the 12 other families docked with their deeds to their property, and I am very pleased to say my great grandfather, Michael Reiter, was part of the beginning of the governmental part of what would be the township of Belgium.

DW: Oh wow.

KR: My grandfather, Nicholas, also was part of the community because he was the 3:00postal delivery.

DW: Oh wow, that's neat.

KR: My father for over 35 years was either involved, well more than 35 years I'll take that back, probably since I was a small child, so that would be in the late '50s. He was part of the village board and for 35 years he was the president of the village, so there is quite a heritage in our family of being involved in the community and taking part in that community.

DW: That's awesome.

KR: My grandfather Nicholas who became the postmaster, he and his brother went down and stayed with relatives in Chicago and both got educated down there and 4:00that's how my grandfather then became the postmaster, and his brother got a business degree, and while they were down in Chicago and they met two young Irish women now, I mean, at the time I think my dad thought they were more Irish, but having done some ancestry on them, my poor dad was very proud of his Irish heritage is more English than Irish.

DW: Oh.

KR : So they met these two women, my grandmother's name was Delah and her sister's name was, Catherine; married two brothers and came back to Belgium and set up households.

DW: Wow, so it sounds like you guys have had a big impact on the community of Belgium. You guys have done a lot for the community.

KR: I would say yes. My grandfather, my great grandfather and my father, everybody knew my dad. I mean everybody knew my dad, so it didn't make it easy 5:00for me and my siblings to get away with very much.

DW: Oh yeah.

KR: I'm the oldest of 11 children

DW: 11, wow.

KR: I grew up in, his is going to be, I mean, this is like I grew up in a big white house on a quarter-acre in the middle of the village.

DW: Okay.

KR: The home's property was given to my grandfather, Nicholas and the two houses that were right next door also given to two of his siblings from their father and mother. So I grew up in what was my grandparents home. My grandfather, Nicholas passed away before my dad even married my mother.

DW: Oh.

KR: So I never had the privilege of getting to know him. But from what I've heard, not so much from my dad, but from people that live in the community is my 6:00grandfather, was a really wonderful man and was very well liked in the community and respective. So in that he would have been thrilled to know that he had all these grandchildren because my mom and dad had 11 children and I'm the oldest.

DW: So what was that like, growing up with 11 brothers and sisters?

KR: Well, I grew up with 10 siblings.

DW: With 10, yeah.

KR: My baby sister was born when I was in college.

DW: Oh wow.

KR: So-- I was joking with my mom I said you didn't have to replace me. For me, I think it was really good to have all those brothers and sisters. I think it certainly gives you a broader thought, broader view on how to interact with others. My roommate from college, Sandy, she had a sister who is seven years 7:00younger. She loved to come into our house cause our house was exciting. Something was always going on and there was always some dispute and-- she didn't have a father in her life and was thrilled when my dad would yell at her.

DW: Really?

KR: Along with me and all the others, you know, but that was thrilling to her and I on the other part was going to her mother's house because she would make me.. make my bed and treat me like a little princess. So, you know, so it was a trade off, but I mean she just loved coming to our house and there were, I mean she loved kids too so there were lots of kids who would want to sit on her lap. So, it was fun. I'm still close to, while I see all my brothers and sisters they all are now living in Wisconsin, so I get to see them happy and sad occasions.

DW: So you still see him like on a holidays like Christmas?


KR: Oh yeah and unfortunately now-- I'm seeing them at funerals. That would be my most recent time, but we're not in each other's business, but we are there for each other.

DW: Awesome. I can't imagine growing up with 11 siblings.

KR: Well now, well I have 26 nephews and nieces that I haven't sat down to talk about how many great nephews, but we just got one two weeks ago, a little Kennedy and that would make my dad very proud because he was a campaign for John Kennedy in 1960--. so I brought that to my niece [Louise?] to let her know that Grandpa Reiter would have been-- would be very happy with the change and the choice of the name.

DW: That's awesome. When you were, when you were growing up, what would you say that you said your dad was a really well respected man, and then what would you 9:00say that they kind of taught you? Like the morals and values that you kind of learn from them growing up and your childhood?

KR :Well, I went to eight years of parochial school. So you have to, I mean and so did everybody else. Our whole neighborhood was made up of like families of nine or six or five. We grew up on one big neighborhood with lots and lots of kids. Now you would-- people would say we were raised free range, like we didn't get to come home-- [inaudible] were out there, their parents didn't know where we were, but we knew at noon when the fire was somewhat off every day we should go home for lunch. So, I mean, we rode our bikes all over-- across the street from us lived the [Schmidts'?] and our dabs fixed up--it used to be a barn and they fixed up the upper part of it and we was like a playhouse for us.

DW: Mh-hmm

KR: They moved all the furniture up there. We have places to put all our play 10:00clothes and all that kinds of stuff-- so we played school and we played, all kinds of different things in that area. We also took the pillows off the coaches and the pillows and would jump off the steps. And what are the girls that live next door to me now believes she probably broke her nose doing that.

DW: (Laughs) Oh no.

KR: That's one of the things that I always marvel in our family that not one of us ever broke a bone until number nine, did it motocross racing.

DW: Oh wow.

KR: Next door to us love the doctor..

DW: Oh so he was there in case anybody got hurt--

KR: Well he was just there. If somebody seated stitches just say, well go over and have doc sew you up. Go along with your sister. Now I think about that and thinking-- I could never do that in this day and age.

DW: Yeah, that's true.

KR: Everybody was friends or acquaintances and my dad was very good friends with 11:00the doctor. In fact, they were together the night my brother, Patrick, was born-- they were celebrating St Patrick's Day together.

DW: Oh wow.

KR : So my brother, David, is named after the doctor. That's part of just being in a small town in that community..

DW: A tight knit community, that's awesome. So, well, how would you say, how important was education in your household and in your family?

KR: Well, I know that my family had to operate in a military precision. I always said my dad was the general and my mom was the sergeant who kept everything kinda in-check-- everything was very regimented in that we got up every day and got ready to go to school. When we came home you could have-- snacks or something. Then you had to do your homework before-- if you could go out and, 12:00you know, play church. The Catholic Church played a big part in our family. We did go to church every Sunday and we-- I think as we got older, you know, and people got involved, my brothers and sisters and myself got involved with sports or school activities that we started to-- not-- always come together every night as a family.

DW: Mh-hmm.

KR: One of the things when I was smaller, my dad came home every day for lunch,

DW: Mh-hmm.

KR: Because he worked in a food canning company, and again, to my dad's credit, was a self-made man-- didn't have a college education, but by the time he ended his career of over 50 years with that company, he was the chief sales manager 13:00for that company.

DW: Awesome

KR: You might be familiar with Jolly Good Soda.

DW: Oh yeah.

KR: That was the company that my dad worked with them when they were still in the vegetable canning business. In our community-- everybody knew everybody, so you weren't going to be getting away with anything. They'd say, you're Rusty's kid.

DW: Yeah.

KR :My Dad was also very good friends with Ozaukee County sheriff. He would say-- or if he saw us or just patrolling around and he would see us he'd go "well, do your dad because does your dad know what you kids are doing?" Ehh, probably not.

DW: Moving forward on to education.. what were your schools like when you were a kid?

KR: I was really lucky I went to parochial school for eight years and you hear 14:00these horror stories of parochial schools-- besides having a second grade teacher who wasn't a sister (not being very nice) and nobody, I never saw any child be hit, I saw kids be scolded. I guess now in hindsight, looking back, I think my biggest concern was-- this was all before dyslexia was diagnosed.

DW: Oh yeah.

KR: A lot of boys who had difficulties reading it was probably that reason-- that was all before, you know. So they were kind of-- not given the help they should of needed in learning how to read. I don't blame that on anybody, I just, you know, feel sorry now that they went through it.

DW: Mh-hmm.

KR: We certainly, no bullying was allowed.

DW: No bullying? That's good.


KR:I mean, the first kind of real bullying and I encountered is when I went to high school and when I went to high school, they're just been a big controversy because everybody in Belgium who had gone to Port Washington to high school.

DW: Mh-hmm

KR : With the baby boomers coming into play, there wasn't room enough for all for us to come from Belgium. Students from the Fredonia area and [inaudible] area were all going to Port Washington to high school. So what was decided was they were going to build a high school where the students from Ozaukee county would go to school.

DW: Wow.

KR: There was a big upheaval about where it was going to be built and people in Belgium didn't like where it was going to be built and the people and Fredonia didn't like where it was going to be built. It ended up that the people in Fredonia and that surrounding area and even parts of the town of Belgium, they 16:00would go to school on a new school called Ozaukee High School. We-- the community in Belgium, the village, decided that they weren't going to have any part of that and they made arrangements for us to go to high school in Cedar Grove, which was in Sheboygan county and that community was all Dutch and Protestant.

DW: Oh wow.

KR: It was a learning curve or-- I think both the students who lived in Cedar Grove and the Catholics who lived in Belgium that were going to send their kids. I remember the first day that I went to high school and I sat down in my English class, and we were waiting for the teacher to come in and start class. she walks in and she looked at us and she says, "I can tell who came from St Mary's and I can tell who came from the public school because the kids from Saint Mary's for 17:00sitting very properly with their pens and papers ready, and quietly waiting and the others were not. I do value that and that I think he probably gave me better study skills.

DW: Mh-hmm.

KR: I think for the kids that came from the parochial, we probably had a few more limitations in our science, but our English and our math skills were excellent. In one of my, I mean when I graduated from high school, I would say 70, 75 percent of us went on to a college.

DW: Awesome. Being at St. Mary's it kinda taught you more discipline.

KR: Right, right.

DW: Wait, what year did you graduate high school?

KR : 1970. I graduated in 1970. It was also the last year of that high school. They were building a new high school, so I was like last class to graduate from 18:00the old high school again because population grew and they had more money from the taxes that were being sent to Cedar Grove.

DW: Mh-hmm.

KR: A new school was built and that's a memory, but I think it was my first encounter of really realizing how religion played a part. Though my mother was Lutheran when she met my dad, she converted to becoming a Catholic after she was married.

DW: Oh wow.

KR: Not before she was married. Because she was Lutheran at that time, you couldn't get married in the church, you had to get married in the rectory.

DW: Oh really.

KR: So times have changed. But that was my first encounter of really seeing where, people based on religion were, didn't want the mixing of religions. My experience wasn't so much the color of your skin but your faith.


DW: Okay, so that was kinda like the ethnicity was kind of more focused on religion.

KR: Right, it caused a lot of problems for a lot of people including my sister's marriage to her husband. They've been married now for like over 45 years. So it's, you know, but my dad, you know, people just were not happy when, you know, different religions and all that kind of stuff. But that was during the late '60s. You know we're talking 67 and 68, a hallmark year for his three.

DW: Because of the Civil Rights and all that.

KR: I saw Kent State and you know, Vietnam War protesting and the beginning of Earth Day and becoming concerned about Earth Day. It's hard to believe I lived 20:00through that kind of stuff. Crazy. Looking backwards it changes who you are.

DW: Yeah I think that's awesome. And kind of instills some values, and like you said, shapes who you are and you're kind of based off of that. So after, at post-high school, what was next for you?

KR : I decided, and purely because my babysitter had gone to Whitewater. I decided to go to Whitewater. I knew Whitewater had that good school education, so I spent 1970 through 1974 there. It was a wonderful experience, broadened my horizons again, meeting people from all over.

DW: Mh-hmm from all over the place.

KR: My first roommate was a very nice young woman who had only four older brothers. Unfortunately college wasn't her thing and she dropped out after her 21:00first year and went into horticulture Unfortunately after that, soon after she went into horticulture, she found out that she had lupus and she died by the time she was 24.

DW: Oh wow.

KR: Again, that was like a daunting for me that life can be short.

DW: I imagine.

KR: I did keep many off my college friends as lifelong friends. It was a really good experience, I got to experience meeting a lot of guys that came back who were Vietnam vets and I spent some time in Madison with protesting and all that kind of stuff. When I graduated, at that time finding jobs in education and I 22:00was a history major.

DW: History major.

KR: I wanted what I really wanted to do was teach middle school and that my student teaching I did in Janesville, but then I had my library science degree as my other backup. When I didn't have a job-- when I graduated-- I did do long term sub-jobs. I worked for the Ozaukee County. I worked for Ozaukee County for like a year and then I finally took an exam to become a state employee working in the library. That's how on July 25th, 1977, I started here at UW-Oshkosh.

DW: Oh wow, you remember the date and everything. That's crazy.


KR: Oh yeah. That was my dad's birthday, but it was also, as I was getting ready and packing up my stuff, because I didn't have a place to live in Oshkosh my first three weeks I lived in Gruenhagen. The football players were there and getting ready for the season that [inaudible] you know that the state of Wisconsin employees are on strike and you might have to be crossing over a strike line.

KR: I'm like well, I'll deal with it, you know, I'm just going to have to deal with it. Well, the day that I started, the strike ended and the employees-- I think it started on July, 1st, and ended the 25th and the employees got the raises that they wanted.

DW: Oh wow.

KR: I think also there were workplace issues too that we're going to be resolved 24:00with their contract.

DW: What was the deciding factor that made you choose UWO?

KR: That was where there was a job and I needed to get a job to support myself.

DW: Ok. That was where there was a job.

KR: Time to move out of the house-- even though I'm student teaching or when I was long-term subbing, I was living in Milwaukee with my aunt and uncle when it was time to get out on my own.

DW: Okay, so you were hired as a librarian?

KR: Well, yeah mh-hmm.

DW: And you said that you participated in a lot of work with committees and things like that.

KR: Right. Well as a young person, when I started at Polk Library that had just, when I started, there was a major purge. A lot of people didn't like the 25:00previous director whose name was was [Dean Matthews?] I don't know her, but I feel like I know her because I heard so many horror stories about her in front what I was told, even though she was there for six months, they discovered that she did not have the credentials for the job.

DW: Mh-hmm. Wow.

KR: That was one of the reasons why she was terminated in that position. Now anytime you have people like that, it, the people, even though she was only there six months, I mean she did many cruel things to them like put them at a reference desk where they had no experience to answer questions. You couldn't leave if you had to go to the restroom, you had to get permission.

DW: Oh wow.

KR: It was a crazy time and especially for me being a young person where 26:00people-- I can look at it as post traumatic, you know, I mean, they had many of them has major problems, a lot of people left and either moved to different positions on campus or moved to different school districts and what became librarians there. When I came the library was being run by three people at the time. They had a tech services, the head of media, and what we'd call now, like a public service that they call public services, but I think we'd probably call access now.

DW: Okay.

KR: I was interviewed by three people at the time and they basically offered me the job right on the spot. I started working in what was called the media center and to my good fortune, I got to work with a lot of students who are more my 27:00peers and the people that were working in the library. My early years I, really, built up quite a relationship with a lot of the students.

DW: That's awesome.

KR: And learned a lot about media and how to thread a film machine, ow to fix a projector and, and train students to do that. A lot of those students, including one who is now my sister in law, we had lots of good times.

DW: Oh wow.

KR: I only did that for a year and then I got moved into the acquisitions area where like in a job in, grew and changed. In the beginning, one of my main functions was-- ordering films from different film companies to bring onto campus, for that to use in their classrooms. That was high pressure because if 28:00something didn't show up-- it was my responsibility to find out where it was; what to do. Then on the other side when we had like over a thousand different periodicals, journals, and newspapers coming to the library, I also ordered and took care of all the problems-- the billing problems that went along with that. I didn't do the claiming and I only did the billing. That's what I did in my second year. Then I stayed in that position until I left the library and changed--. constantly changing.

DW: Mh-hmm.

KR: Because also by the end of, well I'm the beginning of the 1980s, we were getting ready to move over to an online catalog. We had to, besides doing our job, we also had to do inputting to get the records ready to be-- transported 29:00over into the card catalog.

DW: Mmm.

KR: Eventually, later in the eighties, then we also did our accounting that way. I thought, you know, having started with typewriters and carpet papers, you know, the automation part of it I think was-- a defining moment and particularly around libraries of just being able to sort store and search for that kind of information. You didn't have to go out and put 20 card's out into a card catalog that was about.

DW: Yeah.

KR: There were a lot of faculty people that had great resistance to that. Even some long term like library employees-- just anything new is-- and I'm familiar and people don't want to make a mistake. What they get a lot is they put the younger people with the older people because we never worked alone, we had two 30:00people working in the beginning when we first started to check out books and stuff. That was pretty-- memorable and a major change.

DW: Yeah.

KR: I was glad I was young now and I looked back and I was glad I was young when I did it.

DW: That's kinda crazy. Like back then, newspapers were such a big thing. Today, no one really reads the newspaper anymore and really everything is online.

KR: I still like reading the newspaper. I just don't like that there's such limited amounts of information like in the Northwestern.

DW: Mh-hmm.

KR: That was one of the things that my dad made very much a part of all our lives. My brothers and sisters all still like to look at the newspaper and we would read Time and Newsweek in our house. There was an underlying political 31:00feeling growing up.

DW : Yeah.

KR: But it wasn't like my dad wasn't going to say, oh, you're going to be a Democrat, or my mom didn't say you're going to be a republican or I mean that they were big believers in forming your own beliefs. I was just working at the polls here on campus at the beginning of April and I said to, and I give credit to the young people that came, because if you move now you have to go through the whole procedure of re-registering. I said, you know, the first time I ever voted when I was 18, I got from my dad as village president.

DW: That's awesome, wow.

KR: I got to my name-- say where I live. I give young people year on this campus or anywhere a lot of credit because when you're young you move a lot. You move a lot when you're in here.

DW: That is true. What was like the diversity structure like at Oshkosh in your time at Oshkosh? It was there. It was predominantly men, right? Men culture in the 70s and 80s or--


KR: 90s, the 2000s there basically at the library. During my tenure there, it was basically-- female driven employees. It always seemed like at the top there was always-- a male director. We had quite a large amount of change-over for many years at the library. Unfortunately, I think we got a bad reputation-- not deserved, but that we were in crisis a lot.

DW: Yeah.

KR: Also what the Chancellors' that-- you know, would hear we've got these problems over in the library and I just think it was unfair to the employees. I think it was just like dominoes, you know, they just kept on falling down. There were lots of changes-- going on within the structure of the library and why and 33:00how we work going to be giving surface.

DW: Mh-hmm.

KR: I just think it was a changing time. I think now-- probably during Chancellor Kerrigan's tenure, things settled down and things got to be more normal in the library under Chancellor Wells. Also, I think he listened to the students and realized that the library was an important place for students to have as a resource and access to information, materials, and also a place they could go and study. I was there when they did the big remodel downstairs in the reference area. I mean it was like night-and-day from having orange and green carpeting to having a place that looked like a Barnes and Noble.

DW: Yeah, that's crazy. I mean, would you say that Polk-- it's kind of evolved 34:00where like students kind of go to the library more so today than they did back then to study-- and check out books.

KR: Well, having been a university student at one time-- I mean, it was a place-- everybody always had their go to the same place to study.

DW: Yeah.

KR: I know I certainly did when I went to UW-Whitewater, but I also think it could be a social place and now with the evolution of the changes in the library-- one of the things that they did was make more meeting spots because a lot of classes and students, they have to do joint projects together.

DW: Mm-hmm.

KR: At the library they could have places where they could get together and do those kinds of projects together, which I think is really, really good. I mean, you have to realize when I started at Polk Library there was a smoking lounge 35:00right in the middle of the library and people could smoke anywhere on campus-- at their desk.

DW: That's crazy. So yeah, students were free to smoke wherever they wanted?

KR: Well, they in the library, they had to smoke in the smoking lounge.

DW: Okay.

KR: Like I said, that's right upstairs on second floor, right in the middle of the room. I think I haven't been up there, but it was an it room, but I never smoke. But like I had a coworker she could smoke right at her desk.

DW: Oh wow. Times have changed.

KR: Yeah. Times have changed majorly and certainly times have changed with what was expected-- how you would look and come to work. When I first started working, People would come-- ladies would still be wearing heels and skirts-- men would come with suit coats and ties.

Then women started wearing suit pants. You would always look, you know, dressed 36:00very nicely. Now, I'm thinking though, I never really did that, but because I dealt mostly with faculty, some-- students was my favorite part of it-- the dressing is much more casual.

D: That's true, but it's crazy to see like how, like you said, the times will changed with the dress code and like how it was from skirts to more dressed down for women. I feel like they have more freedom now would you say?

KR: I think people just like to be more relaxed and the [inaudible] thing that they wear.

DW: More comfortable.

KR: When I started working back behind our seat behind the brick wall in the library, there was only one phone for I think eight or nine people. It was in 37:00the middle of a big--long area and so-- my name was Karen and I was on the phone doing film bookings and resolving journal periodical problems--. Erin Czech who was on the other side, was doing interlibrary loan requests which involved a lot of phone calls from faculty wanting to get copies of journals-- Erin and Karen were sharing a phone, so it made for some confusing times. I always felt sorry for the person in the middle because I was at the east end and Erin was at the west end of this room-- it was like you have to get all your books and stuff together and get to the phone and then talk to somebody and then people say-- "Why are you out of breath?"

DW: (Laughs) Oh wow.

KR: That's the other thing that I see now that as time went on, everybody got 38:00their own phones. Certainly I was expected-- to have to every, everybody that worked had to work a night and weekends. Eventually as time went on-- in the 80s-- I didn't have to-- that kind of phased out. I didn't have to work evenings and weekends. They hired people to do that.

DW: That must've been nice.

KR: I think that again, as far as being a service point was a much better-- choice on their part. I miss not having that contact with the patron, but for my overall workday or-- I always took Thursday nights, if I could, to work. If you're going to be too busy, because students were doing other activities usually on Thursday night and then I only had to go-- worked until after 11. Then you didn't get home until maybe quarter after 11 and then the next day you 39:00had to be there at 7:45 in the morning.

DW: They weren't like set. You didn't have the same or like nine to five schedule every day.

KR: You had to be there at 7:45 and you left at 4:30 every day-- the day you -- have one night or weekend had a weekend, you had a day off, then the next week.

DW: Oh wow.

KR: It kind of made it nice to have a long weekend. Made your vacation time or whatever go a little bit farther. But yeah. So-- anyway--

DW: I was interested about the computers. So when you first started, you started in the seventies, were there any computers around in the library?

KR: In 1977, when I started, they were just getting done--They had hired people to do key punching, so they were key punching all these cards-- that was in 40:00preparation for becoming automated and by the time we went up in 1977--. we weren't in a big hurry-- they weren't in a big hurry to get rid of the card catalog because it still held value. People and students were raised on using a card catalog, so-- we the card catalog yet. Then we had the access online. All the books had to be barcoded.. and everything had to be matched up. When we scanned the books we had to connect the [inaudible] to the number.

DW: Seems like a lot of work.

KR: Then during that time they were doing a major--inventory. We found books that were missing and found books that we didn't know we had-- and all that kinda good stuff. But again, we worked in teams and so it was a really nice way 41:00to meet a lot of people that ordinarily you wouldn't work with. For me, I was a fairly new employee it was nice to work with different people. You had asked me earlier about my involvement with committees--

DW: Yeah.

KR: I started out at Polk Library. We started having different committees and getting more people involved in during that time, I think in the eighties in particular, they were realizing that--

it would work better if you're kind of working from a, a team mindset. They decided-- doing more of that kind of stuff. It may seem strange now, but in the library we didn't have any set policy about if you were gonna-- want to take off for vacation, there wasn't a policy that said, okay, if you put your request in then it had to be answered-- unfortunately I worked with a supervisor who, for a 42:00period of time, wouldn't sign your request and we developed a committee that said, you know, if you put your request in, you would get an answer within three days.

DW: Mh-hmm.

KR: Everything was done by seniority, you know, you needed to have somebody there to work. It just always went by seniority and, or-- getting in by those three days. I thought it was a pretty good and fair system for people. At least it didn't make people like before you're going on vacation being worried, well, am I going to get into trouble because I don't have my vacation approved. That was like the first kind of committee thing that I worked in. They did all kinds of different things like you went for days for a morning for testing and would find out what color you were and if you were an introvert or extrovert. Then we 43:00had [inaudible] and the TQM and all these different things went through training as employees. Now and I think eventually that morphed into like-- there's a lot more training for employees to make them bleeders, which I really am in favor of doing that.

DW: Mh-hmm

KR: When Chancellor Wells came on board here at the university. One of the things that he really was interested in-- pushed was for it to have the classified staff more involved. Though we've recovered at that time by a contract with the state of Wisconsin-- he still wanted a board or council to meet and make recommendations to him about what was happening on campus. I.. was lucky enough to be involved in the inception and the forming of the first 44:00council and was a member of the first council. I was elected on that and I did serve as the president in 2008 and 2009. Before that in preparation from 2007-2008, I was the co-chair. That was a good time.

DW: Oh wow.

KR: What we've started within the council was we started a day of development for the classified staff.

DW: Mh-hmm

KR: We had a day of coming together and having a featured speaker-- we would have the chancellor speak.. we would then do different classes or projects 45:00together as a group. We would have lunch together and in the beginning we would have-- at the end.. at the end of the day we would have like a picnic thing, but financially-- we just decided it was better if we just had the lunches and stuff. For me it was a learning experience and growing experience of having to go to meetings once a month-- Chancellor Wells also meeting once a month with all the Deans of the major group.. the vice chancellor and I think for the first time-- I think a lot of people finally felt they had a voice on campus, at least said that were they had a vehicle to be heard.

DW: Oh wow.

KR: That was an honor to represent staff and to make an imprint for women on 46:00campus because I did come up against some resistance and I did get some apologies.

DW: Oh yeah. Wow.

KR: It was surprising to me, you know, because they had not really been involved politically. You know, being on campus, you don't want to think it's political, but it is.

DW: It really is. It kind of broadens you to that political nature. It sounds like you were like really instilled on invoking change in the campus life, which is kind cool.

KR: I just wanted to give everybody a voice. I mean OSA [Oshkosh Student Association] is a voice for students. Our council was a voice for the staff. The faculty have their voice. I mean, you know, it was just like, these are the 47:00people that-- not that everybody doesn't have a important part in the big picture, but when you look at the staff and for a lot of students-- they're the first people they have an encounter with when they're getting admitted-- when they're going to financial aid-- coming into the library. These are the people that the students and faculty-- often are the first people that they meet, you know, we're "frontliners." Who better to listen to than those people. The days, and I'll be sending you some pictures that day because those days were really good. They have now a smaller-- I think in a smaller way, but in the beginning and it was really something that-- in the beginning we invited even the old retirees back. So that was exciting.


DW: Well, I kind of wanna touch base on the racial features that you were exposed to. It Oshkosh us like a 19 in the late sixties. You heard of Black Thursday?

KR: Right.

DW: I know that kind of African Americans weren't really too prominent in going into the university after that. What was it like when you first came on campus? Was it, I'm guessing it was mostly white, but mostly white people?

KR: Yeah, you know, there were different ethnic groups that were like faculty people. I've worked with-- people who were from India and certainly learned-- I'm interested in that kind of stuff so I'm going to ask questions about their cultures. We had one lady who would wear a [inaudible] every day. She wore a [inaudible] most days to work and the jewelry is made in India. I mean, she 49:00would wear wonderful things like that. Campus.. there were a few places that we did have particular like in the accounting area, we had ethnic diversity there being someone was black or someone who was from the Philippines. But certainly in the faculty we had many more different cultures represented. And like I said, I always enjoyed working with them. I wasn't here in 1968, but we certainly an occasion every so often would be receiving bricks that had been dug up on Algoma and sent to the library.


DW: Oh wow.

KR: The library say, well, I took this, but return this because we think it's going to be as valuable to the history. Well, after you get in, Josh Ranger would be able to tell you to after you get like 20 or 30 of them back, you know, but they're, but I know that there was major destruction in Dempsey. I just want to say that time the library stayed open through that time.

DW: The library did stay open? While it was all happening? That's crazy.

KR: I mean, the worst thing that I ever saw happen at the library one night was when rats were let loose.. and they were rats from the psych department-- yeah, that was exciting, and the poor custodians had to go and get trash cans and kind of catch them, but that was exciting.

DW: But I mean that was--

KR: I mean the probably the most exciting--. There were other things that 51:00certainly happened in the library, you know, [inaudible] floods or-- thankfully no fires or anything but flooding, there was damage while I was there-- flooding damages. One of them-- well in the old days, they had periodicals down in the basement, and the pipes were open and we had-- flooding from there one time when the first flood that I was involved with, they took all the periodicals and put them in the freezer in the food service area. We had students that were taking carts and putting them in the freezer-- well unfortunately one student got locked in but she was found after like an hour, but still--. That would be one 52:00of the ways to do preservation. Then the books were eventually sent down to the state historical society and they put them in a chamber to kind of stop from mold developing.

DW: Oh really.

KR: I think they were able to save some-- but water is-- books or periodicals worst enemies besides bugs. I didn't see many bugs in our library.

DW: Were you really big into reading books back then, or were you just more into--

KR: Now you sound like people when I would travel and I'd say what I did and they go-- "oh, I bet you it's nice that you can sit at work and read."

DW: Yeah, I'm sure you get that a lot.

KR: I dealt basically with academic books. in the nineties we decided we're gonna broaden our horizons-- I was fortunate enough to work with OSA. We did get 53:00money to have what we called a browsing room where we had current best sellers and non-fiction books and more current journals like Gentleman's quarterly, People magazine-- We had a whole area dedicated to that collection and saw the library for many, many years-- worked with OSA to develop that collection. Before I left, it was decided that the library,like everything-- money was getting tighter and tighter and the library just decided that they were going to set aside a certain amount to keep that collection-- for that collection. From what I know, that collection is still housed in a separate --room and students do have access to current literature in that room.


DW: The second floor of Polk is where they have all the literature,-- all the books and it's-- I was walking through there the other day and it's like a maze. There's so many books. I don't know, a lot of that gets lost today because a lot of students aren't reading those type of books because everything's online now.

KR: One of the things because we knew students didn't have a lot of disposable income to buy the current stuff-- and that's one of the reasons that OSA and the library came to an agreement. I get to work many years with students that were involved in the selection of what was going to be put there. Then dealing with OSA, developing budgets, developing a criteria of what was going to be bought--. Then working and going for OSA and presenting the report every year and then 55:00requesting funds. We were always treated very nicely, but it came to a point where OSA didn't have as much money to give out and so the library decided that they would go in on our own-- Still have students involved, but because we have a big working staff, I mean they have a working staff of students that were working at the library. They use those students.

DW: Just for the interview, what year did you retire?

KR: I retired--. I stayed on a little bit longer, but-- time flies when you are retired. I'll get back to you on that.

DW: Yeah, that's fine.

KR: Because of my, well I got involved with Wisconsin Library Association and I was the president again, of a certain section, so I was part of the board for-- 56:00a few years and then put on conferences-- or library staff to come to. Because of that, experience I stayed on then a bit longer and worked in the business department-- small business, which they would put on conferences for their members-- They needed somebody to fill in and I thought it was going to be like a three month stint and it ended up being almost a year that I helped out there-- So that was fun too, but I was ready to retire because I really had decided that when I retired I was going to become a volunteer and give back.

DW: Yeah, I know you were telling me that. That's awesome.

KR: Certainly that's from my dad. My Dad was a big-- my mom to the time that she had, but my dad was very involved in the [inaudible]-- he was very involved in 57:00government-- he always was giving back-- especially to the nuns. He always had a special place in his heart to make sure the nuns had canned goods, and all these other different things. We as kids would go along with that. My dad-- if there were guys that were "down and outers" you'd always have my mom be making them sandwiches and he'd be taken them sandwiches and stuff or-- having people come and having Thanksgiving or Christmas. He'd feed them. I mean for me, that was my experience with my dad. Now, my younger siblings I don't think had that same kind of experience.

DW: Mh-hmm

KR: With my dad and my grandma-- my grandma Reiter who lived with us until she died-- I remember [inaudible] was coming to our backdoor and her giving them food.


DW: Really?

KR: Yeah, so I always kind of must in my mind thought [inaudible] were okay.

DW: Yeah (laughs)

KR: I mean it was always-- I was given-- I was grew up always thinking well you give back and help them.. you help people that are in need.

DW: That's what it's all about.

KR: I'm certainly, that I think is the best thing that was instilled in me that and that I'm not any better than anybody else.

DW: That's heartwarming to hear things like the just cause-- I feel like a lot of people don't do that today. I feel like some people are more selfish-- focus on themselves.

KR: I mean we can all be--. My other driving forces-- I really am involved in girls-- in helping. I'm involved with the American Association of University Women. I am currently a co-president of that group-- one of our major things that we do is we are involved in a stem program that's called tech savvy. We do 59:00that with the Appleton branch and we have been doing it now for the last two years, have been with UW-Fox-- where we bring girls in from middle school and freshmen and have a whole day of getting them acquainted with science-- listening to people talk.

DW: Mh-hmm.

KR: They see people who are-- how to do interviews to get into colleges-- how much is it going to cost-- Parents are invited, but they have a separate program and I've really found that to be a really rewarding experience-- having girls-- know that it's all right to like math and science. There were a lot of smart girls in-- I was never one of them, but there were still a lot of my peers that 60:00would play dumb around their boyfriends or always lose games to make them feel better.

DW: Kind of succeeded to men?

KR: That was not ever my attitude--. but there were a lot of girls that always--. I just want to make these young girls-- look at themselves a bit differently. I think men have to look at themselves in different ways too. Macho you just so far.

DW: That's true. I feel. Yeah.

KR: Having grown up with four brothers-- you know, and I chose not to marry. I would go out with my dad after my mom died and all these people say, "oh, you're such a nice young woman. Why aren't you married?" Then my dad would always say to them, she doesn't have to be married-- she can take care of herself. For me 61:00that was the best compliment my dad ever gave me-- which is really quite amazing. Because you never know when you're young you don't want to be like your parents-- I found more and more as I got older and spent more time with my dad-- is that-- on a lot of levels-- both spiritually, politically, morally, and ethically. I was on par with my dad-- which I never thought when I was 18, I would ever say that. Both my mom and dad said when I was 18, well talk to us in a year because again, it was my first experience being ethnic and having that, that was my first encounter of having--

DW: Yeah--

KR: I saw black people-- I talked to black people-- It wasn't that I was naïve about it, but really to become friends with that group of people--


DW: You didn't have that exposure to them.

KR: No, that was during the time black power was really big. My first time I ever got pushed off the sidewalk-- that was a time of reflection again-- not to say that I was ever angry about it, but it just made me think about it. I don't see things getting better in this country. I think we've fallen back majorly in being civil-- being decent people-- having morals and values and respecting one another-- and who people are as individuals.

DW: Yeah. Honestly, I just want to touch base, looking back at UWO experience-- would you do anything differently? Would you change or like do you think that it 63:00helped shaped you to who you are?

KR: I probably wouldn't have stayed-- I should have left, but once you get so many years in then you have your vacation time and then--. you as a student should know the more money you get, the more you spend it. I think [inaudible] I think it probably after three years should've left-- It got to be too easy and I got a new car.

DW: There you go.

KR: You got to pay the bills-- I don't regret my time. Like any experience, your life is a education experience-- I always feel that whatever I've learned I can share with somebody else and hopefully give them the information or help them in 64:00some way. I certainly see that with the next generation because the bulk of my nephews and nieces have gone on to get various degrees.

DW: Mh-hmm.

KR: I was lucky enough to have two of my one nephew and one niece come and they are UWO graduates-- One of my nephews had a degree here, um, and he-- it was really fun to have him here and he has got a degree and then decided he had just a fascination with Chinese and learned Chinese. After he graduated, he worked in a volunteer organization. I can't remember right off the hand what it is-- you're going to community work and he did that for a year. Then he went to South 65:00Korea and taught English for a year, but then eventually he ended up in China. Now he's married-- a very wonderful young woman there. They're going to start their own school next year.

DW: Oh wow. Good for them.

KR: It's very, very valued there in China-- for the Chinese parents to have their children learn English. That's their American dream. They want to be like Americans-- I don't know if that's good or bad. I'm hoping this fall I'm going to go and visit him in China and so that'll be exciting. Then my niece who graduated from here-- she's got a degree in special education. She's teaching in Green Bay at a high school there. I think both of them had a good time when they were here.

DW: Oh wow.


KR: They got a good education.

DW: Now that you're retired and that you're done with UWO. How's your life been? What are you going to travel more or like when you're planning? You've been traveling a lot?

KR: I've been traveling. My last trip was November. I spent a week in London and I spent a week in Scotland-- We stayed primarily in Edinburgh, in the Old City, which was really fun. I had been to England before-- for three weeks. I had not spent any time in London and I could've spent a whole week in London-- seeing everything that I wanted to do. [Inaudible] My next little trip is going to be-- going to China probably in October.

DW: Oh wow.

KR: My other little thing that I like to do is I like to go to presidential libraries. In June I'm going to go with a friend and we're going to go to-- 67:00Missouri and Kansas to go see Eisenhower and Truman's library. That's my next little excursion-- being a home owner, you always have things you have to fix in your home. One of the greatest concerns that my siblings had when I told them that I was going to retire is.. "what are you going to do?"

DW: Mh-hmm.

KR: I volunteer once a week at Mercy hospital. I am involved with a group through Mercy, but we go in vision screen-- children, schools, and in daycare facilities rom September to January. We go out and we screen them and it's very rewarding in that, we do find children that are having vision issues and then are referred-- by the school and the parents to have them be more closely 68:00examined by a doctor for their vision problems.

DW: Mh-hmm

KR: We often get-- then we follow up and find out that yes, indeed, these children did have vision issues or they are colorblind-- A lot of times teachers have kind of a heads up that they know, especially with boys. I've screened a girl who's colorblind, but boys-- kids are really good at mastering-- like figuring out how to say the right answers. That's really fun. I'm very involved right now. I'm co-president of-- like I said, the American Association of University Women we work on stem and so I find that really rewarding also, but also being available to the family because-- my siblings and I are all getting 69:00older so their health issues or babysitting emergencies-- I have friends who are having health issues. It's nice that I can help them out.

DW: That about wraps up our interview. Thank you for coming in again-- Is there anything else you'd like to say?

KR: I think this was a really good project.

DW: Yeah.

KR: Historically I think we sometimes become kind of lax about it-- I think while you still can get good memories-- This is good. I have to tell you one other story where I really defended for this probably have been in the late nineties-- I was buying a new car and I went up to

Bergstrom-- buying a new car and there was a UW-Oshkosh-- he was a graduate-- 70:00we're starting to talk about the financing and everything in the car. At that time there was a big article-- they've asked [inaudible] about calling Oshkosh UW-Zero

DW: Oh, I've heard of that.

KR: Oh he goes, "oh, well you work at, UW-Zero and I took great offense at that because I don't think anybody that graduates from here spends four years or maybe a little bit more. Is there ever a zero?

DW: No.

KR: Yeah, I'm never a zero, you know, education is always a plus in my mind.

DW: But no matter where you're going--

KR: Nobody can ever-- that's what I always tell my nephews and nieces and will continue to tell anybody that I know-- I mean, cause I've done some lecturing for girl scouts and did some stuff with girl scouts, like junior achievement-- I 71:00did a whole day teaching eighth graders, which was like my ultimate dream of teaching junior high--Told him that-- I never thought I'd ever get to teach anything to middle school and you're my dream come true. They're looking at me like, oh man, lady, you got some problems here. Nobody can ever take your education from you. Never, ever. He, I think was quite embarrassed after I kinda got on him because I'm thinking-- you graduated from Oshkosh and you're making yourself sound like you're a zero because you went there. I do take great pride in having more [inaudible]. can't take it back. I mean, nobody can take that away from me.

DW: Nope, no one can take that experience away from you. You're right-- well thank you again.

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