Librarians to soon retire from TTU with 110 years combined service to the university

The Angelo and Jennette Volpe Library and Media Center at Tennessee Tech University is a special place to Christine and Roger Jones — for more than one reason.

Not only did the couple meet in the TTU library nearly 60 years ago, but they’ve also dedicated 110 years of service to the institution throughout their combined careers. When they retire on Jan. 4, Christine will have served more than 58 years as a TTU librarian, and Roger will have served more than 52.

Their combined years of service to the university, in fact, far exceeds the age of the institution, with TTU established by an act of the Tennessee General Assembly in 1915.

“People sometimes ask us why we wanted to stay here for so long, but it’s simply because of our love and appreciation for TTU,” Roger said.

Christine agreed. “I wouldn’t have worked anywhere but TTU, even if I’d been offered all the money in the world,” she said.

In addition to serving as librarians under five of the university’s nine presidents, both are also TTU graduates. Christine graduated in 1947 with a degree in business, and Roger graduated in 1950 with a degree in social science.

They met in the library when Christine, a student worker there, asked a friend of hers to introduce her to Roger after she saw them talking together beside the card catalog. Roger, who was on a debate team, had just won a debate, but Christine said, “It was his pretty eyes that made me want to meet him.”

They both went on to earn library science degrees from George Peabody College in Nashville, which is now a part of Vanderbilt University. Christine earned hers in 1948 and began working at TTU two weeks later. Roger earned his in 1955, five years after the couple married.

“I’d always planned to go to law school, but Christine talked me into going to library school instead,” he said. “I never did get around to going to law school — but I never regretted it.”

At a reception that was held recently to honor the couple, TTU President Bob Bell joined former president Angelo Volpe to present the Joneses their retirement gifts.

Bell called the couple “true landmarks of the university,” saying the wealth of knowledge and experience they each provide will be a tremendous loss to TTU upon their retirement.

Volpe told the couple, “Because we so appreciate all that you’ve done for the university and wish you well on your retirements, we thought it would be appropriate for two university presidents to be here today.”

Roger said the most daunting task of his 52-year career was converting from the Dewey Decimal to the Library of Congress classification system.

“That was back in the days before computer databases, so every book, every periodical, every newspaper — it all had to be done by hand, and until we got everything converted, we used both systems, so we wouldn’t have to deny students any book they wanted to check out,” he said.

The position from which he will be retiring is coordinator of collection management and development, which involves overseeing the library materials budget and working with faculty members in the selection of materials available at the library.

Christine, who will be retiring from the position of regional history librarian, says what she likes best about her job is the opportunity to both help students and learn something new at the same time.

“It’s rewarding to me to help students enlarge their vision,” she said. “They always seem to come to me with questions I’d never before considered, so when I help them find the answer to their questions, I find the answer too. I learn new things almost every day.”

Both say what they will miss most about the university upon their retirement is getting to interact with the many faculty, staff and students who’ve impacted their lives over the years.

Winston Walden, director of the Volpe Library and Media Center, said, “I’ve been a librarian for 30 years, and so much about the job has changed in that time. I can’t imagine how much things have changed in 50 years.

“The Joneses are unique and admirable, though, because you just don’t see anyone staying at a career in anything for that long anymore,” he said.