By Allison Campbell-Jensen
Bernadette Corley Troge started in the photocopy service of Magrath Library on Nov. 24, 1980. Now she prepares to retire from the position of Director of Libraries Facilities & Operations Management, with a staff of nine. Her path upward has been punctuated by major projects and events, always marked by her dedication as a hard worker.
“One boss called me tenacious — that no matter what, I was not going to let it go until I got it done.”
Success with big projects
After Corley Troge had been promoted to head facilities at Magrath, she tackled her first big project — recarpeting the whole library. To accomplish it, every book stack (shelf) and piece of furniture in Magrath would have to be moved. In addition to that challenge, the carpet was paid for by the University but the rest of the project would be paid for by the Libraries.
The moving company she contacted would have charged $150,000 to move stacks, but she had just $50,000 available from the University Librarian. Corley Troge heard of a stack mover that she could buy for $11,000 that would move the stacks fully loaded with books, so the carpet layers could work, then the shelving would be moved back. “Then six students and I, armed with the stack mover, moved it all,” she says. “We got it done for $25,000, including the cost of the stack mover — in six weeks because of the hard work of the carpet layers, my staff, and a desire to go to my family reunion.”
“My favorite thing to do is trash to treasure. … It’s a challenge. I was recycling before it ever became popular.”
—Bernadette Corley Troge
She adds: “I think when they saw that I could do that, they decided I could do other things.”
More recently, Corley Troge has orchestrated construction projects and moves in Wilson and Andersen Libraries, with the support of her staff and other library units. To make room for the construction of the Wallin Center in the Elmer L. Andersen Library, the Minitex office would need to be moved to Wilson.
This produced a domino effect in Wilson: periodicals were to be moved from the basement to the fourth floor — and the Dewey decimal numbered books were to be moved to off-site storage. The project required the support and coordination of many Libraries units, University Services, and external vendors. In the end, a major push to remove basement shelving brought people from all over the Libraries to help so the construction projects could begin.
“Without the support of my staff and other library units I would not have made the deadline Capital Planning put forth,” she says. “You need the help of people to be successful with projects.”
Finally, she has led the Libraries side of the construction effort for the Wangensteen Historical Library’s collection storage project, which included conceiving how much space was needed to store the artifacts in the new space.
“Most people in the library world do a building, or a renovation, but most of them don’t do a rare book vault — and most don’t do two of them,” Corley Troge says. “I’m going to be sad not to see the Wangensteen final installation of all the shelving because I have spent I don’t know how many hours on that project.”
Saving the University money
Corley Troge has kept an eye on costs. When she was heading up Magrath’s facilities, she found out that a library service desk manager wouldn’t allow University facilities people to enter through the emergency exit doors with building materials. Instead they had to enter via a loading dock three buildings over.
“I thought that was just ridiculous — and then started thinking, we’re paying these people,” Corley Troge says. “We want to make it as easy as possible for them to get in the building and get out — it’s money in our pocket. Sometimes you just have to show people the benefits of changing their thinking.”
With some exaggeration, she says: “The Libraries have always had to use bubble gum and wire to hold things together.” She has learned to make do, moving furniture from one library to another to make things more attractive. “Moving chairs from Bio-Med to the Math Library, from the Math Library to Magrath,” she says. “Everyone who has worked for me seemed to start by moving chairs and would ask their co-worker, ‘Have you had a chair swap lately?’”
Magrath’s chairs were repaired so often that the carpenters finally told her she needed new ones. When the Office of Classroom Management was getting rid of tablet chairs, Corley Troge asked then-Dean Wendy Pradt Lougee for $6,000 in funding to cut off and move chairs with tablet arms, which resulted in 500 “new” chairs for Magrath. “We replaced all the chairs in the study spaces with OCM’s castoffs. We told that story over and over, and eventually the Libraries received funding for facilities improvements.
“My favorite thing to do is trash to treasure,” she says, “when you have nothing and have to make into something. It’s a challenge. I was recycling before it ever became popular.”
Looking back, looking ahead
For her retirement, she plans to do some delayed painting and floor refinishing, tasks a bit close to her regular job that haven’t gotten done. She’s a gardener but has been rushing through that work; in the future, she’d like her garden to be a place of peace and spiritual experience. When the pandemic subsides, she looks forward to seeing her grandchildren, mother-in-law, brothers and sisters, and friends and volunteering to work with kids.
She will miss her wonderful team and all the Libraries staff who care so much about people. “And I’m going to miss the University atmosphere. It’s been a privilege to work at the University. I think it’s a very open and democratic place, where people’s voices are heard.”
And where people’s talents are recognized.