On August 19, 2021, Lois Coutant celebrated 50 years of service to Ohio University Libraries. It is a remarkable milestone in a career coinciding with considerable changes in libraries overall.
When asked what the biggest change has been since she started, Lois replied, “almost everything.” Very little can be accomplished without the use of computers now, Lois pointed out. But the changes have been more than technological. In the early 1970s, staff working with materials wore smocks, the card catalog was the apex of information organization in libraries, and while you were not permitted to eat or drink at your work desk, you could smoke a cigarette.
Lois started as the secretary to the head of Technical Services Division. In addition to the usual secretarial duties, Lois compiled the monthly reports for monographs and serials accounting. Over the next couple of years, academic libraries truly started entering the computer age, and Lois was encouraged to apply for an open position in cataloging by her then supervisor, Mildred Dugas, who perceptively recognized that the future of libraries was in computers, especially cataloging. Lois stayed after hours for a number of days learning what she could from her supervisor, so she would be the best candidate for the position—and she got the job.
As the organization of information has become increasingly automated and complex over the last 50 years, Lois has kept her never-stop-learning attitude, constantly adapting and growing. It is not surprising that Lois summarizes what she enjoys most about her job as the 4 C’s: Co-workers, Computers, Challenge and Change.
Currently a library support senior specialist in Metadata Services, Lois not only creates and updates metadata but helps maintain the Libraries’ systems that enable colleagues to do their work and researchers to find materials. Starting very early in her career, Lois was tasked with complex assignments, and over the years she has become a valuable source of Ohio University Libraries’ institutional knowledge. She is the go-to person for questions about the databases behind the ALICE catalog.
In 2021, Lois is as busy as ever. Yet, whether she is handling the Libraries’ system error reports, transferring materials from one of the Libraries’ collection to another, or cataloging National Bureau of Economic Research Working Papers, she always makes time for her colleagues. “Helping others,” Lois said, “has always been the best part of my job.”