All in the Family – Generational Duo Reflects on the Pages of Michener’s History as Library Turns 50
September 28, 2022
Monique Becker ‘17 knows the ins and outs of Michener Library. She knows where the best studying spot is; an alcove on the third floor in a back corner easily hidden from others, and she knows the history of the library; like the fire that caused damage to the construction of the building in 1970.
“Michener has been here for forever,” Monique said. “If you look at past pictures, there was nothing on this side of campus — and then there was Michener.”
The building and resources inside have been a staple structure in her life. So much so, Monique decided to begin her career at the University Libraries working as a library technician II in the Collections and Development Department after graduating from the University of Northern Colorado with two degrees; one in Journalism and one in Anthropology.
“I’m really into books and writing, and I missed working on campus and being around students,” Monique said.
Monique Becker '17
It was the timing of her job search that really helped her navigate into the next chapter. While there aren’t job openings at the libraries often, Monique credits this to the relaxed environment and dedicated staff, she knew one position was going to be available. Her grandma, Nancy Becker, was about to retire after working at the libraries in various staffing positions for 35 years.
“I thought I had maybe five more years left to work, but then the COVID-19 pandemic hit, and the library temporarily shut down. It changed how we were working, so I decided to retire,” Nancy said.
With an opening in the Collections Department and two other library positions also on the market at the time, Nancy encouraged Monique to apply to all three.
“I told her these are all good jobs, and any would be a good decision, so try it if you want to and give it a whirl,” Nancy said.
Monique did and landed the role her grandma had taken on for so many years.
“With her knowledge and experience, I knew she could do any of them. I was surprised she got mine, so I was really happy for her,” Nancy said.
Also happy with her position, Monique has settled in over the last year and a half and says there are some comical situations that come up when taking over a job her grandma once had.
“It’s funny because I still have some of her files, so whenever I’m not sure how to do a task, I look back at her notes and I'm like, ‘oh, these were clearly from the 90s they no longer work for me now,” Monique laughed.
While the family members can say they have shared job titles, they both agree the day-to-day tasks within that job have evolved. When Nancy was on staff, she helped receive monographic paper materials for the library, like scores and books. But now that Monique has the position, she focuses more on electronic material.
“I was talking to my co-workers, and they told me just five years ago, there used to be 600 books a week that would be cataloged and stamped, and now I get in maybe 50 books a week,” Monique said. “E-books are so much easier for students to access, especially those going to school online.”
All aspects of technology evolved throughout Nancy’s career. She used to assist students with checking out a cord to plug into an electric typewriter stationed at the library, navigate through the card catalog cabinets and place professor’s material on Reserve for their courses.
“It was challenging, but it did bring a lot more students physically into the library” Nancy said. “You could always tell when a class changed, because students would rush into the library to check out material and study late into the night. Now they can access most things at home."
Even the way books are stamped before they are checked out has been updated.
“Whenever I bring over a book my grandma wants checked out, she’ll ask me why I stamped a book this way, and I say that’s how they’re done now and she’ll respond that’s not how it should be done,” Monique laughed.
There is one aspect that hasn’t transformed since Nancy first got her job in 1985 – the library’s work environment.
“Everyone is dedicated to giving their all to the students,” Monique said. “It's all about how we can improve students’ access to resources, so I think that’s why a lot of people like being here."
“People enjoy the atmosphere and their work,” Nancy added. “The university is a nice place. I certainly miss the routine and the people.”
Some of the co-workers Nancy worked with for many years still work at the University Libraries with Monique. Monique even calls one of her colleagues unrelated to her, her ‘work grandma’.
“I’ve known some of the staff I work with now since I was a baby,” Monique said.
Which means, the strong family ties make the likelihood of a Becker working inside Michener Library for another 50 years a strong one.
Fifty years ago, the James A. Michener Library was dedicated on Oct. 27. In honor of the building’s anniversary, the University Libraries is celebrating with a retrospective exhibit that covers not only Michener Library’s history, but the overarching history of libraries on campus. On display throughout the fall 2022 semester, the exhibit includes historic photographs of campus, furniture and technology from previous eras and interactive displays.
– written by Sydney Kern