Virginia Chang

July 2, 2008


Interviewed by Ann Kelsey

Filmed by Michael O’Hagan

For the County College of Morris, Learning Resource Center

Randolph, New Jersey

County College of Morris 40th Anniversary

Transcribed by Jardee Transcription, Tucson, Arizona


Today is Wednesday, July 2, 2008, and this is an interview with Miss Virginia Chang.  Miss Chang is being interviewed at the Media Center, County College of Morris, Randolph, New Jersey.  The interviewer is Ann Kelsey, Associate Director, Learning Resource Center, County College of Morris.  The interview is being filmed by Michael O’Hagan, Producer, Learning Resource Center.  This interview is for the County College of Morris’ 40th Anniversary Oral History Project.  Miss Chang was one of the first librarians and the first book cataloger in CCM’s library.

Kelsey:   When and where were you born and raised?

Chang:   I was born in Seoul, Korea.  And you said when?

Kelsey:   When.

Chang:   1940 November 17.

Kelsey:   How long did you stay in Korea?

Chang:   I left Korea when I was twenty-three years old.

Kelsey:   And why did you leave?

Chang:   I came here to continue my studies, as my parents had planned.

Kelsey:   “Here” being the United States?

Chang:   Correct.

Kelsey:   So you came here to go to college.

Chang:   Correct.

Kelsey:   Where did you go?

Chang:   I went to Minnesota, Mankato State.  Now it’s a university, but then it was Mankato State College.

Kelsey:   And what did you study there?

Chang:   I was just finishing up my undergraduate major, which was art.  And then I minored in library science and French.

Kelsey:   And what degree did you earn?

Chang:   Oh, what do you call that?  B.A.

Kelsey:   In art?

Chang:   In art, yes.

Kelsey:   And then did you go to library school after?

Chang:   Yes, I went to the University of Oklahoma, where I earned my MLS.

Kelsey:   And what year was that?

Chang:   1967.

Kelsey:   And when did you get your B.A.?

Chang:   1967, same year.  In June I graduated, and I started in September.

Kelsey:   How did you find out about County College of Morris?

Chang:   Well, I was working in Florida, which to me, it always felt like the end of the world.  I wanted to be near New York City.  So I came up here, looking for a job in New York City, and I learned about this college, so I applied.

Kelsey:   Did you see an ad?

Chang:   Yes.

Kelsey:   What was the hiring process?

Chang:   I applied.  I don’t remember when exactly.  Then I was called probably May in 1969, and I was told to come for an interview.  And I came here, the college, there wasn’t any building—actually, only one, Henderson Hall.  The director interviewed me, that was it.  Later I learned later librarians were interviewed by many more people, like deans, but I was interviewed by one person, the director.

Kelsey:   And who was that?

Chang:   Mr. Bunnell.

Kelsey:   And when did you find out that you had been hired?

Chang:   That was probably not until August.  I don’t remember.  Probably very close to school start—probably August.

Kelsey:   And so then you started in September?

Chang:   Correct.

Kelsey:   Describe your job.

Chang:   Well, I was a cataloger.  Should I tell you what the catalogers job means?

Kelsey:   Sure.

Chang:   It’s not for librarians only, so I’d better.  At that time, unlike my last years,  when we didn’t have many books to catalog, at that time there were—each day somebody would bring me a truckload of books for me to catalog, and that was my job, basically.

Kelsey:   And where were you actually working?

Chang:   At that time, the first time I came here, we were housed in Henderson Hall—cafeteria, I believe.  And there we worked.  And to my great surprise, I thought when I’d get here, that first day, I was shown around, kind of orientation, and I didn’t expect to work right away.  But to my great surprise, Mr. Davis, who was head of what is now the media department, he just rolled out big book trucks full of books, and I sat down right there and began to work.

Kelsey:   How many librarians were working here when you started?

Chang:   There were already, Mr. Davis, who was head of the media.  And there was Mr. Tuttle, who was kind of like a supervisor of the circulation department.  And then I was hired as the first cataloger.  And that same day—September 3, I believe, right after Labor Day—Mr. Wessels, who was the first reference librarian.  So we started it together, and there were two other librarians already there, and the director.

Kelsey:   Were there also support staff?

Chang:   There was Mr. Bunnell’s secretary, who seemed to be doing everything.  Later she became acquisitions clerk, but at that time exactly what she did, I don’t know.  But she did invoices, checking in books, that kind of thing, acquisition work.  There was another person, Mrs. Holl, who was to work at the cataloging department.  We arrived on the same day.

Kelsey:   Were you all working out of one room?

Chang:   One room in Henderson Hall.  That was September through November.  Should I go on?

Kelsey:   Uh-huh.

Chang:   And then we moved, November, into the library building, which wasn’t completed at all.  It was the middle of November, no windows put in yet, no carpet.  And we sat in what is now Regina’s office [LRC 136], all day long, wearing gloves, filing all day.  Unlike now, those days, if you still remember, we used to file cards.

Kelsey:   So you were in one small office behind the circulation desk?

Chang:   Right.

Kelsey:   All of you filing catalog cards.

Chang:   Seven hours a day.

Kelsey:   In the catalog.

Chang:   Right.  Actually, just before I got there, it was filed.  After we moved in November, I discovered it wasn’t filed properly at all, and we started all over.

Kelsey:   Oh, my.  Describe the rest of what the campuswas like at that time—like the parking lots, and where you ate.

Chang:   I don’t remember now.  It’s almost forty years ago, and I wasn’t really looking around.  I was so absorbed in my own work, being new, so I really don’t remember much.  Parking doesn’t seem to be a problem at all, because I never remember having a problem.  Eating, I don’t remember whether there was a student center or not.  I don’t even remember that.

Kelsey:   Do you remember what the rules were like regarding smoking on campus?

Chang:   It wasn’t that much of an issue then.  Probably they were not allowed to smoke in the classroom, but it’s not like the whole campus is off smoking.  It wasn’t like that.  Nationwide, it wasn’t until recently, right?

Kelsey:   Yes.  What was the atmosphere like on campus during that time?  What were the students like?

Chang:   I’m afraid, Ann, I am not going to be much help to your project, because I don’t remember.  As I said, I was so absorbed in my work I wasn’t really involved.

Kelsey:   What do you remember about what things were like in the United States in that ’68, ’69, ’70 time frame?

Chang:   I don’t remember.  Now that you ask and I’m thinking, I felt like I must have lived in some kind of vacuum.  My whole life was here, the library, and working with books.

Kelsey:   But you were in college in 1967, is that right?

Chang:   ’66 through ’67, yes.  Actually, ’64 through ’67.

Kelsey:   And then you worked in Florida, in what kind of library?

Chang:   It was a college library, Catholic college, two years.

Kelsey:   So did you see any political demonstrations at that time?

Chang:   I don’t think so.  Even now, I’m not really on too much of political issues at all.

Kelsey:   Do you remember Martin Luther King being assassinated?

Chang:   That….  Martin Luther King.  That was after Robert Kennedy?

Kelsey:   No, right before.

Chang:   Before, yeah.  I remember the Kennedyassassination Martin Luther King, I guess so.  Everybody knew about it.  I must have known.  But I remember watching Robert Kennedy’s body being carried on a train, but I don’t remember Martin Luther King’s.

Kelsey:   Do you remember what your reaction was to Robert Kennedy being assassinated?

Chang:   My own personal reaction?

Kelsey:   Yes.

Chang:   I cannot tell you.  You know, my own father was also assassinated for political reasons, so it’s always hard.

Kelsey:   What was the social life like at the college?  Did the staff socialize together, did you go out to eat?

Chang:   You mean outside of work?

Kelsey:   Yes.

Chang:   None.  We didn’t really socialize.  We just came here to work, sometimes share lunch, and we had rather elaborate Christmas parties.

Kelsey:   Oh, describe the Christmas parties.

Chang:   Just like now, you still continue I hope.  Everybody brings our own dishes, and it was pot luck—always elaborate, lavish.

Kelsey:   Was this in the library?

Chang:   Yes.  And Mr. Bunnell, the director, normally contributed eggnog, and with a little bit of spirit.  In those days, I think it was a little more lax than now.  I don’t think Dr. Cohn would do that now.

Kelsey:   And where did you all eat lunch?

Chang:   Ooo, that’s something I cannot remember.

Kelsey:   Did you eat in the library?

Chang:   I don’t think so.  I must have eaten in some cafeteria, yeah.  I didn’t used to bring lunch to work until much, much later, when I was conscious of diet.

Kelsey:   So if you ate in the cafeteria, the students were eating there?

Chang:   Right.

Kelsey:   How did you dress when you went to work?

Chang:   Rather formally, I hoped.  We didn’t wear jeans or anything like that.  I wouldn’t say dressed up, but I dressed much more formally than I normally go around the town.

Kelsey:   Did you wear pants?

Chang:   No.

Kelsey:   And did the other staff in the library or on the campus dress in a similar way?

Chang:   Yes.  If they wore pants, it’s more like a pantsuit type, rather formal.

Kelsey:   And what about the students, what did the students wear?

Chang:   I don’t remember.  But they were still casual, I suppose—very casual, yeah.

Kelsey:   How did you get to work?

Chang:   What do you mean?

Kelsey:   How did you get here, by what means of transportation?

Chang:   Is there any other way but car?

Kelsey:   What kind of a car did you drive?

Chang:   Oh, I had a Volkswagen beetle.

Kelsey:   What color was it?

Chang:   Blue.  And I used to have the same Volkswagen, same color, so one day my director said, “I thought you had a new car.”  I said, “Yes.”  “Well, it’s still the same Volkswagen blue.”  “Yes.”  So nobody noticed whether I had a new car or not.

Kelsey:   Where did you live when you first started working here?

Chang:   Hopatcong.  Oh, when I first got here, I lived in Hopatcong- for one year.  Then I moved into Mt. Arlington apartment, where I lived until ’76.  So that’s about seven years.

Kelsey:   How does the drive from that area today, what you see along the side of the road as you drive, how does that differ from what you saw when you were driving in the late sixties?

Chang:   Nowadays, it’s much more developed.  For instance, where 46 and Route 10 meet, there was a big circle you had to go around.  And in the middle of that circle was a huge, beautiful tree.  And many years ago that tree was cut down, and now it’s a regular multi-intersection.  And at that corner there was a kind of junk/antique shop.  Now, actually only recently, I noticed that there is a Walgreen’s now, and Old Roxbury Shopping Center was not there.  So I would say it’s very much developed—very much.

Kelsey:   So the shopping centers that are in Roxbury now were not there then?

Chang:   No, I don’t think so.

Kelsey:   What was there?

Chang:   I don’t remember.

Kelsey:   Was it fields, farms?

Chang:   I don’t remember.

Kelsey:   Describe a typical day for you on campus, from the time you arrived in the morning, until you went home at night.

Chang:   I’m afraid it’s the same thing every day.  I arrive, 8:30, and my assistant, Mrs. Holl, would have instructed a student aide—we had a lot those days—and the student would bring me a truckload of books every morning for me to catalog.  And I cataloged all day.  And sometimes about one hour or two hours a week I served at the reference desk.  And even then, I used to catalog while I’m sitting at the ref desk, because it’s not that busy in the morning.

Kelsey:   Where was the reference desk?

Chang:   Well, over the years, it got moved around.  At first, when we moved into the new building, what is now the B.I. room was the reference.  Then it was moved to—I’m not talking in chronological order, because I don’t remember.  It was at one time under the staircase, and at one time in front of the—how should I say?—just outside of the gallery.  Those are the three locations I remember, and then we moved up.

Kelsey:   Up to the second floor?

Chang:   Yes.

Kelsey:   But originally, when you first moved into the building?

Chang:   B.I. room.

Kelsey:   It was in the room that’s now used as the bibliographic instruction classroom.

Chang:   Right.

Kelsey:   On the ground floor, just next to the circulation desk.

Chang:   Right.

Kelsey:   And how many hours a week did you spend on reference?

Chang:   Not many, about two hours at the maximum.  I mean, one slot, that’s two hours.

Kelsey:   And what kind of questions did the students ask?

Chang:   At that time we were not really heavily involved in teaching how to find the materials.  We would simply answer the questions and give out the answer.  Basically ready reference.  And if it involved some research, we did the research, instead of specifically telling them how to do, as we tend to do now.

Kelsey:   And what kinds of questions did they ask?  What subjects were they looking for information on?

Chang:   Oh, that was all different subjects.  I would say Information Please Almanac would be the best source for most source, that kind of questions.

Kelsey:   And what did you think about the students that you were working with?  What were they like, how old were they?

Chang:   Well, there were two kinds—as there are now, I presume—regular students from eighteen on, fresh from high school; and then evening classes, mature people, men and women.  And those people I sometimes….  We worked one night a week, regularly, so I got to know those evening class students, mostly women coming back to school.  And I found that even now, about a couple of years until I retire, those people seem to be a lot more eager to learn, highly motivated.

Kelsey:   What would you say was the distribution in terms of numbers?  Were there more eighteen-year-olds, were there more older students?

Chang:   I may be wrong, Ann, but I tend to remember somehow there were more evening students than day students.  As I said, I could be wrong.

Kelsey:   So there were more older studentsthen, you think.

Chang:   Right.  And evening, part-time students, yes.

Kelsey:   And were some of those part-time students also younger, like eighteen-year-olds?

Chang:   Mostly older.  I remember a few people I particularly got to know.  I never met any Armenians before, and there was a woman who introduced herself as Armenian.  Never heard of it, so I kind of researched it.

Kelsey:   Did you notice any other different ethnic groups?

Chang:   No.  There were not that many different ethnic students here at that time, I think.  As I said, I mostly worked in the back—I wasn’t really heavily involved with the students, but that was my impression.

Kelsey:   And the student aides.  You mentioned that there were….

Chang:   A lot more than now.

Kelsey:   A lot more student aides.  Did you get to know any of those students?

Chang:   Personally?

Kelsey:   Yes.

Chang:   Yes, I tended to get very friendly with the students.

Kelsey:   Did they talk to you about why they came to CCM?

Chang:   No.

Kelsey:   Or what they were studying?

Chang:   Yes, that kind of thing we talked, but I didn’t particularly ask them why they came.  It was kind of understood.

Kelsey:   And what was the understanding?

Chang:   Well, the understanding was it’s easier to come to college from home, until they are ready to go to four-year college.

Kelsey:   What kinds of subjects were they studying?

Chang:   One student aide in my room, Kevin Van Pelt, was studying art.  There was one student, John Freeman, who used to come from Verona, and I never knew where Verona was, until recently I went there.  It’s quite a distance, and he came from there.  And there was my first student aide, who filed cards for us—Anita—a very quiet young woman, from high school.  And I think she was business or something.

Kelsey:   So were most of these students straight out of high school, you think?

Chang:   Yes.

Kelsey:   They weren’t older?

Chang:   No, they were just eighteen.  Kevin Van Pelt, he was seventeen in September, although he turned eighteen in December.  That much we knew each other quite well.

Kelsey:   How many hours a week did they work?

Chang:   They seemed to be there all the time, a lot.  As I said, we had a lot more student aides those days, and they worked a lot more hours.

Kelsey:   So they were allowed to work more hours then, than in later years.

Chang:   Yeah.  If you didn’t ask me, I was going to volunteer this information, but you may have a plan to ask anyway—money.  It was the early days, I would say the golden years.  Money wasn’t any object, so we could buy a lot of books.  I still see a lot of books I cataloged in those days, and student aides were there, probably a lot of them getting State money.  So money was no object.  We never heard of cutting this and that.

Kelsey:   So they were being paid by grants?

Chang:   I think so.

Kelsey:   Or student aid [i.e., financial aid/work study] funding.

Chang:   Right.

Kelsey:   And it was plentiful enough that they could work.

Chang:   Right.  They seemed to have worked a long time, and we had a lot of students.

Kelsey:   Were most of these students carrying a full load of credits, as well as working?

Chang:   Yes.  I think that may have been the requirement, fifteen.

Kelsey:   Fifteen credits?

Chang:   Yes.

Kelsey:   Did the students then tend to go straight through for two years and graduate, or did they take longer?

Chang:   The studentsI knew who worked in my room, they tended to graduate in two years.  So I remember those three particularly well, because they were my first student aides.  As we got more and more students later, even the names are vague now.

Kelsey:   How many student aides, by count, did you have?

Chang:   Over the years?

Kelsey:   No, just that first semester.

Chang:   Probably Anita, who was a filer—I can still see her in my mind’s eye, quietly sitting seven hours, filing.  Kevin Van Pelt who made our labels.  And John Freeman may have come a year later.  But anyway, those are the names I remember.

Kelsey:   And these students all worked with you when you had moved into the library building?

Chang:   Right.

Kelsey:   Did you have student aides when you were in the one room in Henderson Hall?

Chang:   Yes.  There were two I remember:  somebody named Neumann, and Sharon White.  Those are the first two, actually, I should have said—first two.  And they graduated right away.

Kelsey:   So they were part of the first class.

Chang:   Years later, it seems to me recently I met somebody who worked at the library as a part-timer.  He said something about Sharon White, my first student aide.  She’s his wife, or something like that.

Kelsey:   Do you still keep in touch with people you worked with during that time period?

Chang:   No.

Kelsey:   Not just the students, but other people?

Chang:   No.  They were like waves—they came and went—came into my life, went out of my life, that’s it.

Kelsey:   The student aides?

Chang:   Students, and also people I worked with.  I really don’t keep in touch as a friend.

Kelsey:   But you have some contact with some of them, because you contacted….

Chang:   Joan Holl.  Yes, I meet her once in a while.  And she’s the only one who lives around here.  And the first staff member, Mrs. Dottie Reifsnyder who was a secretary to the director.  She went out to Williamsport, Pennsylvania.  And that acquisitions person, Jo DeFelice, who used to live in Netcong, she died in 1975.  About five years ago, this man, Mr. Len Davis, who was the first media person, he came by from West Virginia where he is retired to.  He stopped by and we chatted.  That’s it.

Kelsey:   So you have run into some people …

Chang:   Yes.

Kelsey:   … here and there.

Chang:   Literally ran into—I didn’t really meet.

Kelsey:   What do you remember most about your first semester at CCM?

Chang:   Nothing really stands out in my mind now.  As I said, it’s almost forty years ago.

Kelsey:   Not even working in a building with no windows in November?

Chang:   Obviously that I remember, I just told you.  But as I said, my life was so absorbed in my work, that’s all I seem to remember.  And, there were times in the middle of the night when I’d awake, I couldn’t wait to get back to work.  In those days, I read a lot, because we were cataloging a lot of books.  Whenever I encountered interesting books, I’d take it home and read.  So I read a lot more than now when I’m retired, when I’m supposed to have all this free time!

Kelsey:   How would you say that CCM has changed from when you first started to work here, until now?

Chang:   Well, first of all, campus-wide, it got much bigger, a lot more buildings—not to mention all this electronic technological equipment, even in the library.  Those days, we were heavily focused on book collection.  Now book collection is on the back burner, and everything is electronic, technological.  And I didn’t think I would ever say this, but now I truly believe that book collection is becoming obsolete.  Even I myself, I bought at the auction, 1969 Britannica Encyclopedia.  And that was my dream.  And people used to say, “Why do you buy an encyclopedia?  You are working in the library.”  What if I have a question in the middle of the night?!  But finally, even I dragged all those twenty-four volumes, and it sat in my garage for a year.  I didn’t have the heart to throw them out.  Finally, out to the curb.  And I use a lot of computer myself.  That’s how it got changed.

Kelsey:   What changes have you noticed, like the classes that are offered, or the students, between when it first started, and now?

Chang:   I really don’t know, Ann, but I have a feeling that now we tend to offer a lot more kind of practical kind of classes.  Also, very specialized classes, rather than general history of western civilization, which was a requirement—as opposed to very specific women’s history of dates, or history of Jewish people.  That’s a very specialized area.  Those subjects are offered now, whereas in the past, more general classes, like German I, II, history, that kind of thing.

Kelsey:   Looking back over when you first started working, and your career here, what stands out for you in terms of working at CCM and being part of pretty much the original group of people who started the college?

Chang:   That significance of the so-called original group became a lot more talked about later.  When I was actually one of that original group, I didn’t think much of it.  Looking back, it was a good time, I’m grateful that I had a career here.  I read a lot of books then, because I was a cataloger, and I took quite a few courses here, free.  That was nice.  It enriched my life.

Kelsey:   Okay.  Is there anything else you’d like to add?

Chang:   Yeah.  I already mentioned in those days, golden years, we didn’t have any so-called budget problems, Ann.  Sometimes I hear my last years, you are kind of worried about budget.  In those days, whatever we thought we should have, we bought—mostly art collection.  Now everything’s gone, but a great deal of record collection, music, that kind of thing we bought, we built a collection.

Kelsey:   From scratch.

Chang:   Yes.  And the first reference librarian, Mr. Wessels, was a jazz expert.  So it was a good time.

Kelsey:   Okay!




Anita, 13, 14

Bunnell, William 3, 4, 7

Book collection, 16, 17

Budget, 13, 18

Campus, 5, 8, 9, 16

Catalog cards, 5

Cataloging, 1, 3, 4, 18

Classes, 11, 17

Davis, Len, 4, 16

DeFelice, Jo, 15

Development, 9

Dress, 8

Ethnic groups, 12

Freeman, John, 13

Henderson Hall, 3, 4, 15

Holl, Joan, 4, 9, 15

Kennedy, Robert, 6

King, Martin Luther Jr., 6

Korea, 1

Library school, 2

Mankato State College, 2

Neumann, William, 15

Oklahoma, University of, 2

Reference desk, 10

Reifsnyder, Dottie, 15

Smoking, 5

Social life, 7

Students, 5, 7, 8, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 17

Transportation, 8

Tuttle, James, 4

Typical day, 9

Undergraduate major, 2

Van Pelt, Kevin, 13, 14

Verona, 13

Wessels, Robert, 4, 18

White, Sharon, 15



County College of Morris opened its doors in September of 1968. Join us in celebrating 40 years of connecting learning and life. Read about THE EVENTS that shaped the times, remember THE CULTURE, and join the founding CCM students, staff, and faculty as they share with us THE MEMORIES of those early days.