New Mexico State Library

Brent Watson retires after 30 years of cataloging at NMSL

Man sitting in an office
Brent Watson sitting in his office

written by Bradley Carrington

After 30 years of service to the New Mexico State Library Brent Watson will retire at the end of March. Oh my, what all Brent has seen! All the coworkers and governors — the Don Gaspar building and the move to the current building — from Office of Cultural Affairs to Department of Cultural Affairs — from Dynix Marquis to SirsiDynix Symphony — from AACR2 to RDA — from an OCLC M300 workstation to any old PC with a browser. Oh my!

Brent at Elephant Butte Lake in 1993
During the internship Brent at Elephant Butte on a Development site visit

Brent’s employment with the State Library began with a 6-month internship in 1993. The internship was sponsored by the New Mexico Commission for the Blind. Brent learned the ropes in Talking Books, Reference, Southwest Room and Development. See the New Mexican article for details. He was then hired to work in Talking Books and then Books-By-Mail.

In 1996 Susan Sheldon, Program Manager for Cataloging, hired Brent as cataloger. Brent took the Dewey cataloging responsibilities from Phyllis Hamm who retired; Ms.

Brent among supporters at the signing of the 1993 New Mexico Braille Literacy Act, a new law that could lead to more sight-impaired students learning Braille and getting textbooks written in that tactile format.

Hamm was also legally blind. After Susan left in 1998 the cataloging Program Manager was Patricia Hewitt. In 2023 Joseph Angelo was promoted as Librarian Supervisor for cataloging.

Over the years Brent has worked with many NMSL catalogers: Katherine Higgins, Ellie Voutselas, Faith Yoman, Brigitte Schimek, Aubrey Iglesias, Joseph Angelo, Margaret Van Dyk and Sarah Obenauf. The Bureau chiefs during Brent’s tenure were Harold “Bogie” Bogart, Gary Harris, and Bradley Carrington.

Bobby Knight

Born and raised in Indiana Brent was a Hoosier on the front row during the Bobby Knight era. Brent is crazy for Indiana basketball! In 1971 Knight was offered the Big Ten coaching job he always wanted, at Indiana University. He achieved success during his early years there, leading the Hoosiers to the Final Four in 1973. After a Coach of the Year award in 1975, Knight led the Hoosiers to an undefeated season, a National Championship and a Coach of the Year award for himself in 1976. Knight won another national Championship in 1981, then again in 1987 with yet another Coach of the Year award. He led a talented team to earning the 1979 Pan American Games Gold Medal and coached the Olympic Gold Medal winners in the 1984 summer games in Los Angeles. Basketball in many parts of the country is like religion, and Hoosiers, a 1986 film, is a clear homage to that sentiment.

At his school in Charlestown, Indiana, Brent was the 4th grade May Queen. Brent has a twin sister! His sister has worked for over 40 years at the Census Bureau in Jeffersonville, Indiana, a factory with a long, interesting history.

Brent graduated from Indiana University Southeast in 1976 with a bachelor’s in education, then in 1978 with a master’s from the library school at IU Bloomington. He was a teacher in Clark County, Indiana. Then he joined the Sisters of St. Francis, Oldenburg Indiana and worked as cataloger at the library at Marian College in Indianapolis.

Brent “climbed the wall” and left the convent. He moved to San Diego to live near his brother. There Brent’s landlord had a family emergency (detached retina) and asked Brent to move to Albuquerque to help. In addition to working as apartment manager and tax preparer Brent also taught for a few years at St. Mary’s in Belen and St. Therese’s in Albuquerque. Then off to the State Library!

Brent in the staff parties singing group circa 1997

What are Brent’s memories of the Don Gaspar building? Parking problems, lunch at the Bataan Building cafeteria (“Chez Bataan”), lunch at Woolworth’s (Frito pies!).  There was a Dewey backlog– we were purchasing so many books that there was always cataloging to do.

Brent at the OCLC M300 workstation in 1997

In 1998 Brent and company moved to our new building. The parking is much easier here now!

TSB posing in 2017:  Monica, Juan, Brigitte, Aubrey, Brent, Brad
three people working in the technical services room of a library
TSB posing in 2008: Denise Dixon, Monica Villaire-Garcia, Juan Romero; Brent’s office is behind the rainbow flag!

 

What does Brent like about cataloging? Finding good cataloging copy. Hate? Doing original!! Brent has been with all of our automated library systems. We implemented Dynix Marquis in 1993, when Brent was on his internship. Then Marquis became Horizon, then in 2005 Dynix merged with Sirsi. For a decade we were on Polaris, then we went back to SirsiDynix (Symphony) in 2021. Brent also cataloged on Koha, when our Rural Services libraries needed backlog help. Marquis was Brent’s least favorite. He had to use floppy discs to import the OCLC records. Symphony is Brent’s favorite system.

Beehive Model 105 computer terminal
The first Beehive Model 105 cathode ray tube terminals came off the production line in March 1978 at a cost of $3,700.

The equipment used to access OCLC’s cataloging system has evolved from terminals, to micro-computers, to web-based interfaces. The original network was accessed via data terminals, with attached keyboards and built-in monochrome monitors. The M100 was issued as standard equipment beginning in 1973, replaced by the M105 in 1978. To access the system, each library would install a multi-drop line to the OCLC data center. A communications controller would then enable up to eight terminals to be connected in a daisy chain configuration. Brent placed the telephone into the modem to crank up his OCLC terminal when he was at Marian College.

The microcomputer age began in the business arena by the early 1980s. OCLC introduced its M300 workstation in 1983, based on the IBM PC/AT with a synchronous communications adapter and its custom Passport terminal emulation software that enabled it to connect to the OCLC network. Once operating on a microcomputer instead of a data terminal, new functionality could be created in software as well as new communications methods. OCLC redeployed its system to a new computing and telecommunications infrastructure called PRISM in 1990. The technical underpinnings of the OCLC telecommunications network went through multiple technologies and was eventually phased out entirely as libraries became part of the internet. While each of these telecomm configurations were essential at the time, they eventually were no longer needed once libraries had reliable internet connections. Today, libraries and patrons access all of OCLC’s services through the internet, primarily using web-based interfaces. Its Windows-based Connexion cataloging client remains in use in many libraries as the fully web-based WorldShare Cataloging service continues to be refined. (from Smart Libraries Newsletter, March 2017)

Throughout his career Brent was a proud union member. As a teacher he belonged to NEA. At NMSL he was in the original group that picked AFSCME for representation; the rest of DCA stayed with CWA. Brent served as union steward and organized many “Lunch & Learn” sessions. Brent has been such a longtime member of ALA that he no longer has to pay dues! He is a member of the Friends of the New Mexico Library for the Blind & Print Disabled, and has served as its secretary.  An active member in the community, Brent is a 25-year member of the Santa Fe Capital City Lions Club, a 50-year member of the Order of the Eastern Star, and a member of St. Bede’s Episcopal Church.  In 2001 Brent was named for a Governor’s Award as one of the Outstanding Women of New Mexico. These people are chosen as role models for women and girls and selected by a panel of judges. Brent was acknowledged for his lifetime accomplishments.

Brent’s spouse, Owen Laurion, passed away in October, 2023.

Thank you to Brent and Susan and Liana Morales and Jonathan Pringle for sharing photos, and to Joseph for digitizing them. Thank you to Sarah and Joseph for installing the party exhibit.  Thank you to Jeremy Zeilik and Sarah for designing our 1990s Jeopardy trivia show!  Thank you to Brent for sharing his story!  It has been an honor to work with him.

A cake decorated with the numbers 641.303
The Dewey Decimal call number on this cake reveals the type of cake
Cake that reads: 306.38 Watson, Brent, Retirement
Brent’s retirement cake was decorated like an old card catalog card complete with a Dewey Decimal number.
A group of people posing for a photograph
TSB posing in 2024: from left to right, Eli Guinnee (honorary cataloger), Joseph Angelo, Brent Watson, Susan Sheldon (honorary Bureau Chief), Brad Carrington, Sarah Edwards Obenauf, Joseph Valdez.