After 45 years working at UQ, library administration officer Fiona Marshall is finally calling it a day. But not before a little reminiscing...
You began working at UQ in 1973. What attracted you to UQ?
My dad was a technical officer in UQ’s Physiology and Pharmacology Department at the time and told me about a lab attendant job in the Department of Mining and Metallurgical Engineering. I applied for it and got it.
Did you expect to stay at UQ for the next 45 years?
No, never. In fact, I resigned after a couple of years to travel through Europe but I just couldn’t stand the cold. When I came back within a year, Mum told me about a library assistant job at UQ (by then she was also working here, as a cashier in the Library’s Lending Services), and the rest is history. My sister also worked at UQ, first in the Physics Department and then as a nurse in the Health Service, so it’s been a real family affair.
Any memories of that first year?
Yes, on my first day at UQ I wore a lime-green, full-skirted dress, teamed with navy-blue cork shoes, and had long, straight hair parted down the middle (just like it is now!). I also read Lord of the Rings after hearing about ‘Mordor’ in a Led Zeppelin song and looking it up in an encyclopedia to find out what it meant. I spent every weekend at the Gold Coast working on my tan.
What is your current role?
Since 1999, I have worked as an admin officer (Facilities) in Library Corporate Services, responsible for maintaining our general library interiors. But my chief role is as Workplace Health and Safety Coordinator (WHSC). I got into facilities work after completing an Associate Diploma of Interior Design at Queensland College of Art in 1992, and my role expanded to WHSC when the University became self-insured and we were required to undertake risk assessments and prepare for internal and external audits.
What other positions have you held?
Before 1999, I mostly worked as a library assistant – in the Law, Clinical Sciences, and Architecture and Music library branches, as well as in Library Technical Services.
What have been your biggest challenges?
UQ was very politically active back in the ’70s – protests were held about the Springboks’ visit, Joh Bjelke-Petersen’s banning of street marches and the Vietnam War, for example, and I was very worried about how I would control students in the Library if they started a riot. I also remember having to deal with Roneo machines (the precursor to photocopiers) that regularly burst into flames, and with students trying to avoid copying charges by making extra keys for the machines from casting the originals in soap.
What have been the highlights of your time at UQ?
Winning a UQ Staff Excellence Award for my role in our self-insurance audit in 2015 was pretty special, as was receiving a ‘Miracle Worker’ award (nominated by my peers) in 2004, and meeting and interviewing Professor Ian Frazer during one of the internal audits. I have also really enjoyed the caring, ‘family’ atmosphere of the workplace and the many social events I have attended over the years, plus meeting charismatic students who have gone on to achieve great success in the broader community.
How has the University changed in 45 years?
It’s a lot bigger and busier, with many more students and so many more buildings. The traffic is much heavier – no free parking now – but the food and shops are much better these days. I particularly like the weekly markets that first came to campus in the ’80s. We also don’t seem to have as many ‘characters’ either – staff and students are a lot more serious and focused now. From a Library perspective, we introduced the first computers (called ‘terminals’) in 1986 and then got rid of the card catalogue system.
Speaking of the Library, do you think it is still as relevant for students today with all the focus on the internet and free online resources?
Yes, absolutely. We provide a lot more services now to help staff and students conduct their research, and we offer extensive IT support (the Library has always been quick to embrace technology to keep ahead). Our online resources are excellent.
What’s something a student of today would not have to worry about compared with when you first started at UQ?
Accessing library materials is not the problem it once was. With so much more information available electronically, the issue of other students hiding books (or throwing them out the window) is not such a concern. We also have air-conditioning in most buildings, and people can’t smoke here anymore.
And what’s something a student in 1973 would be unconcerned about that could be an issue today?
Having fun on campus. The students had an official week called WOUF (week of university fun), when they would do things like set up witty mannequin displays on Sir Fred Schonell Drive’s traffic island. Students were very socially active back then. Mind you, we also had hitchhiking posts near the current multistorey carpark during that period.
To sum up?
I’ve really enjoyed my time at UQ in such a nice, ‘genteel’ atmosphere. I will miss the many friends I have made, but I look forward to more travel (not in winter!) and the art history study I plan to do in my retirement.