Dorothy Spidell


Dorothy Spidell

(Note: The following is a written response rather than an oral interview.)

In 1968 when Dr. Fred Bremer interviewed prospective faculty for the brand-new community college, he looked for mature individuals who held graduate degrees; who had experience in college teaching, especially in a community college; and who were credentialed to teach in California.

Although I had been a librarian for 17 years with a master's degree in librarianship and served in two private colleges, Nyack College in New York and Westmont College in Santa Barbara, I had done two things to qualify for teaching in a California community college. I took extra credits at Fullerton State College to qualify for a California state credential, and I worked part-time for a year in the library at Fullerton Junior College. Thus, I met Dr. Bremer's qualifications.

I think that Dr. Bremer was also impressed by the fact that immediately after the interview, I left from the L.A. International Airport for a month in Peru and Ecuador to visit college friends. He was looking for adventuresome people for his new faculty. I became one of 41 faculty and administrators.

The interview for the position of assistant librarian took place in a rented building at the corner of La Paz and Chrisanta in Mission Viejo where a medical complex now stands. An interim campus began operation in September 1968 in 13 structural steel modules on a 15-acre site now occupied by Mission Hospital at the intersection of the San Diego Freeway and Crown Valley Parkway. This early campus had such a rural environment that a Basque shepherd was hired to have his flock of sheep crop the campus fields of grass.

The college library began with a borrowed typewriter, a sheaf of order forms for books and other media, and lists of books recommended for college libraries. The library staff consisted of the library director, Arlene C. Moore, and an assistant librarian (me) with three secretarial staff, one of whom was Ellie Hodge, who became a longtime staff member as head of the Circulation Department. Mrs. Moore and I also visited book jobbers to select books in the disciplines to be taught at the college. The library collection grew rapidly with this Collection Development Program with the cooperation of the first faculty members submitting requests for books, periodicals, videos and other media.

The first permanent building on the permanent campus was the James B. Utt Memorial Library, dedicated to Congressman Utt, June 22, 1973, six years after the college was founded. This beautiful, three-story building began entirely for library use, but gradually many parts of the building were assigned for administrative use and classrooms, cutting down on library space.

There were challenges of staffing a large library. More librarians were hired so that there were seven professional librarians to man the two reference desks, oversee the Serials Department and the Audio-Visual Desk, supervise the Circulation Department, direct the Instructional Media Department, and teach courses in Library Media Technology.

I have two favorite memories. One was the dedication of the interim campus on October 15, 1968 by (then) Governor Ronald Reagan. This event was attended by all faculty and staff, as well as by many students and county officials.

Secondly, an incident that made a lasting impression on many of us occurred when off-campus dissidents came to the campus with the intent of pulling down the American flag. This was during the period following the Vietnam Conflict and of student unrest across the nation, evidenced by riots on campuses across the country. One of our Vietnam veterans stood at the base of the flagpole, ready to defend the flag for which he had served in Vietnam. This GI was influenced by his recent memories of seeing comrades die in an unpopular war because they believed in the American values represented by the "stars and stripes." If necessary, I think he would have physically protected the American flag. Fortunately, some of the campus security, backed by a number of the administration, persuaded the troublemakers to leave campus. We were so proud of our student. His actions embodied his patriotism.

During my 15 years' tenure at Saddleback College, there were noticeable changes in faculty, student attitudes, and in the physical plant. In 1968, we knew everyone and enjoyed a camaraderie that made working at the college a pleasure. A family atmosphere prevailed. As the years went by and the numbers of faculty increased -especially with the hiring of hundreds of part-time faculty -there seemed to be less loyalty to the college and increased demands for faculty rights and privileges. This resulted in a palpable change that affected us all.

When the student body was smaller, students seemed more appreciative of help at the Reference Desk. Older students demonstrated a friendlier attitude. When attendance reached 20,000 to 30,000, students seemed more demanding, more rushed, and more likely to complain.

New buildings on campus and full accreditation by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges have contributed to an attractive campus and an excellent program of courses.

Assisting students at the Reference Desk to use library resources in preparing papers and other class assignments fulfilled a desire to be helpful. I found it profitable to use my training and experience to assist young people make the best use of library materials. Often my work became a one-on-one teaching experience as well as a learning experience for both teacher and student. I miss this student contact in the 17 years that I've been retired.

I would hope future faculty members could recapture the rapport we knew when the college began. Perhaps now this affinity is reserved for departments where individual faculty share a common subject, understand each other's problems, and thus develop loyalty to one segment of the college.

Saddleback College provided a professional environment that enabled me to develop in my chosen vocation. Summer vacation time gave me the opportunity to give volunteer library service in overseas libraries in 10 countries. This international experience afforded cultural, professional and spiritual values that in turn made me a better librarian. Lasting friendships made with other librarians on the staff are a definite bonus to being a Saddleback College faculty member. I've always been proud of my association with Saddleback College.