This week we say goodbye to Jean Coates, who will retire on May 27 after 22 years at Davidson, 21 of them in the library. Jean started as a staff member in circulation and interlibrary loan, earned her Masters of Library and Information Science degree while working full-time, and moved up the ladder, finishing her career as Assistant Director for Access and Acquisitions. Known for her dedication to going above and beyond to serve faculty and students, Jean will now spend lots of quality time with her husband, Fred, and her six grandchildren.
Among the library staff, Jean is famous for a number of things, including the three freezers of homemade ice cream she brought to the parties to thank our student workers. Her dedication to service, though, is the characteristic that everyone immediately associates with Jean.
Cara Evanson said, “Customer service is Jean’s passion, and she is 110% invested in making sure library patrons get the service they need. When I refer a patron’s question to Jean, she is always on it immediately – even when she’s out of the office. She does everything in her power to make sure the patron gets the answer he or she needs. Also, not only does she know all of her own student employees well, she makes it a point to know the name of every student employed in the library (for a total of 55). I know she regularly comes in early and stays late to train her students, though she never draws attention to that fact. Thanks, Jean, for your stellar example of service!” Jan Blodgett agreed: “Two things come to mind when I think of Jean – her care for the students with the end of the semester parties and her teaching and showing by example that customer service is primary –that we care about the people who come in the door.” Lisa Smith, whose unenviable task is to follow Jean at the front desk, said “I’ve always loved the humorous stories Jean would tell. She is like the library’s very own Fannie Flagg! She is also a wonderful role model for student employees and cares for them like they are part of her extended family. She is the perfect first contact for people in the library and exudes friendliness, helpfulness, and dedication to duty.”
Turning a colorful phrase, while attending to patrons’ or co-workers’ needs, has made the staff eager to hear the next “Jeanism” that would come out of her mouth. Denise Sherrill said, “I can’t even remember half of them but you can always rely on one of them to enlighten a meeting.” Sharon Byrd noted, “Her work with the students stands out, as well as her ‘Bless her/his heart’ comment. Always wanted to hear what came after that!” Several staff learned from Jean the phrase “Don’t let the door hit ya where the Good Lord split ya!” Cara Evanson provided a recent example of a Jeanism: “I LOVE Jean’s wacky phrases, though they’re much funnier when Jean delivers them than as words on a page. Here was one particularly memorable one, on discovering a random hula hoop lying in the library earlier this spring: ‘I used to do it all the time when I was a stick of a kid, but I can’t hula hoop worth a flippydoo now!’ Also, sometimes she says, ‘if a frog had wings, it wouldn’t bump its hiney when it hopped.’ I’m still trying to figure out what that means.”
Jean’s dedication to her student workers has come through in several quotes, but her ability as their supervisor should not go unmentioned. Jill Gremmels said, “Jean is the best student supervisor I’ve ever seen. She is able to be caring and friendly while still being firm and maintaining the expectations that ensure good service.” Jon Hill said, “I’ve only worked with Jean for six months, but I’ve learned so much about managing students from her.” Trish Johnson recalls Jean’s frequent admonition to student workers that combines strong supervision with customer service: “You are the first impression for anyone that walks through the front door. Make sure it’s a good first impression.”
Kim Sanderson summed it up: “Jean is probably the hardest working person I’ve ever known. Whether it was organizing and overseeing the inventory of the entire collection for many years, or planning the shifting of the stacks many times, or supervising hundreds of students, she did it all very well and with a sense of humor.”
Jean, we wish you the happiest of retirements. We hope you’ll come back and visit often—and you don’t even have to bring ice cream.