Office of Public Affairs

Library System Stalwarts Take Themselves Out of Circulation

Ed Moore is about as far removed as you can get from the stereotype of a buttoned-up librarian. Instead of muted cardigans and tweed blazers, the contents of his closet are decidedly more tropical.

“It was maybe 30 years ago. I wore a Hawaiian shirt to work and it was such a hit it became my trademark,” Moore said.

Those shirts were a beacon to generations of students who needed help with research projects. At 70 years old, Moore held court behind the front desk at the Gorham Library and Learning Commons in Bailey Hall for more than half his life.

He’d become such an institution that his co-workers weren’t ready to let him go when he announced his plan to retire in July. They threw him a farewell party and surprised him with a gift of a framed Hawaiian shirt. It will hang on the library wall so a little piece of Moore’s personality will always peek out over the shelves.

“I remember one of the first things (Ed) told me on my first day at the library was that the patron in front of me is always the most important part of my job. Anything else I'm doing can wait if a student has a question or needs my help,” said Carrie Bell-Hoerth, who succeeded Moore as Learning Commons Coordinator.

The changes in the library system extend all the way to the head office. This summer also saw the retirement of the longtime Director of Libraries and Learning, David Nutty. He arrived in 2003 while the Portland collection was in the middle of relocating to the building that would eventually become the Glickman Family Library.

After completing the vision of the previous administration, Nutty spent the next 19 years putting his own stamp on the library system. The list of projects he oversaw includes a remodel of the Gorham Library into a more wide-ranging Learning Commons, the merger of the computing center at the Lewiston-Auburn College into the local library facility, and construction of the Osher Map Library and Smith Center for Cartographic Education.

“David has been a true partner in the tremendous growth and expansion of the OML,” said Osher Executive Director Libby Bischof. “I have deeply valued his institutional knowledge, sage advice, support, keen insights, and generosity of time and experience. I will miss just being able to pick up the phone, or walk up to the fourth floor to ask a question or solicit an opinion.”

Even with all the money spent on upgrades and maintenance, Nutty never forgot about the department’s human infrastructure. More than half of his budget at the time of his retirement was devoted to staffing.

“I’ve basically hired everyone who is currently a staff member at USM Libraries in my tenure here,” Nutty said, “and I’m really proud of the staff. It’s a tremendous staff.”

Nutty’s praise is based on a wealth of experience. He worked as an academic librarian in four universities before putting down roots at the University of Southern Maine.

Moore’s path to USM took a different route. His prior library experience was limited to only a work study job during his own student days at St. Anselm College in New Hampshire. He wasn’t happy working at a jewelry story in the Maine Mall. The entry-level opening for a library clerk sounded like just the change he needed.

The library system that Moore entered in February 1980 was still an analog world. The internet and cell phones were years away. Computers were a rare luxury. A card catalog was the best tool for finding a book.

Technology changed everything. Search engines like Google unleashed a torrent of information. Access was no longer the problem for students. Their new challenge was discerning good information from bad. Before they could help students, Moore and his colleagues had to learn how the new technology worked for themselves.

Creating databases and digital copies of books was only the beginning of a larger cultural shift. Once famous as bastions of silence, libraries became social hubs where students could discuss their projects. Moore prided himself on fostering that environment. The study rooms with their fun decorations and comfortable furniture are a particular point of pride.

Moore also prided himself on always having an answer, no matter the question. Wi-fi trouble? Replacement ID card? Expired parking pass? Lost file recovery? Just ask Ed.

“The phrase ‘That’s not my job’ has been out of the library vocabulary at USM for a long time,” Moore said. “We’ll find an answer to your question if we don’t know it. Our job is to find out. And there’s no such thing as a stupid question. There’s only questions that need answers.”

That tone was set at the top. Nutty empowered his staff to think of themselves as educators. They might not give lectures or follow a curriculum, but they had valuable skills to share.

“Students will always need help,” Nutty said. “Faculty can do part of that, but it really takes an effort by the libraries to also be a part of that teaching and learning and student success. Libraries are part of student success.”

Just as Nutty and Moore both committed themselves to the same field professionally, they also share a personal love for music. Nutty’s office walls were covered with flyers from the many jazz festivals he’d visited over the years. Retirement will allow him to hit the festival circuit with his wife, Sue, in search of new additions to his collection.

Moore is all about rock and roll. He plans to dust off his guitar and spend his free time jamming with friends. His playing draws on influences as varied as The Beatles, The Decemberists, and The Velvet Underground. Even his reading list is heavy on rockers with memoirs by Johnny Rotten of the Sex Pistols and Chris Hillman of The Byrds.

Nutty also has a backlog of pleasure reading that took a back seat to his library duties. The irony is not lost on either of them. Nutty’s favorite titles tend to be historical non-fiction. While he’s got an e-reader, he’ll reach for a physical book when he wants to shut out the world and disappear into the text.

Another way that Nutty and Moore are alike is in their appreciation of each other.

“I learned early on that Ed is known for his service to students and is known in Gorham,” Nutty said. “I could always count on Ed being student-focused before we had a phrase ‘Be student-focused.’”

Moore was just as effusive, saying, “As far as staff goes and supervising, I look for the strengths in people rather than weaknesses that need to be corrected. You find what people are strong at and use that to develop them and create a successful department. And David is really skilled at that, and that helped me a lot. He’s the best director I’ve ever worked under.”

As evidenced by Moore’s comments, the bar was set high for the committee tasked with finding a new leader for the library system. Even the title of Director was retired with Nutty. The next leader would be known as Dean of Libraries and Learning.

After weeks of searching, the committee selected Zach Newell. He’ll greet the campus community in an open house on Wednesday, September 28, from 3-5 p.m. in the University Events Room at Glickman Library. Hawaiian shirts are optional.