Office Ladies of the Indiana State Library

Monica_Katrice_Martha Jane_1_final_webI recently had a conversation with Monica Lang, Katrice Anders-Jordan, and Martha Jane Ringel – better known as the women who work in the business office at the Indiana State Library. These ladies are a lot of fun. If you have not had the pleasure of talking with them, you should. On this particular meeting, the four of us were all wearing purple – not planned, pure coincidence.

RB: I guess everyone got the memo, because we are all wearing purple.

ML: Uh, yeah. Katrice organized that [chuckling].

KAJ: Yeah. [Laughing] I sent out the memo.

RB: As you know these interviews are pretty informal. It is an opportunity for people to get to know the ISL staff. For the new people out there, how long have each of you been working here?

ML: Which time?

RB: You have worked here multiple times?

ML: I originally started in the Library Development Office as a secretary in August of 1999.

RB: Okay…and that lasted until when?

ML: Mmm…January 2004. Then I went to Family Social Services Administration (FSSA). In September of 2006, I was able to come back into the position that I currently have.

RB: And what is that title officially?

ML: Account Clerk Three. At least that’s what the state calls it officially.

RB: And what about you? [Focusing his eyes on Martha Jane]

MJR: I have been with the Indiana State Library since September 7, 1976.

RB: Really? Wow!

MJR: I’m on my fourth position, so I’ve had four different titles.

RB: Tell me about each of them.

MJR: Library Page, Clerk Typist…then I got upgraded to a whole Secretary Four, [Chuckling] and then Program Coordinator. Two different levels though.

KAJ: Well…overall are you looking at the library or state government in total?

RB: Tell me about the library first and then we can get into the other jobs you have had in state government. I know you have been in state government for a while.

KAJ: I have been at the library since January 6, 2014. I have worked approximately 18 years in state government.

RB: Where did you start?

KAJ: I started at the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) in their customer service area where they sold maps, licenses for fishing & hunting, etc. Then I went to the Department of Corrections (DOC) and I worked in payroll. Following DOC I worked at FSSA in financial management. I also worked at the Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT) in payroll & General Ledger for about eleven years before coming to ISL.

RB: What is the attraction to staying with state government for so long?

KAJ: When I first started, it was more so about the stability and the benefits. State government was known for having good benefits. The pay was always questionable, but I heard about the longevity and you knew that state government would never fold.

RB: What about you two? [Looking towards Martha Jane and Monica]

MJR: Pretty much the same thing. Yeah.

ML: It was a job. [Everyone starts laughing] It paid my bills.

RB: It does pay bills. Not a lot of bills, but it pays bills. Have any of you worked in the private sector?

KAJ: I have worked in the private sector, but it was just for a short time. It was in a daycare in their business office. I have worked at a couple other small places…this was prior to state government.

MJR: Same here. I worked in an ice cream candy store.

RB: Oh, that sounds fun!

MJR: As a teenager, because I did start as a teenager, I wasn’t quite in my twenties when I started here.

ML: Oh, I have a whole list. I worked for a stock brokerage firm, an insurance company, several different temp agencies [chuckling].

RB: You were talking about food. One of my favorite jobs when I was a kid was working at a place called the Cheese Gallery. It was owned by a friend of mine’s father and it used to be over at Clearwater Crossing before they did all the big remodeling. There was the Cheese Gallery and the Wine Gallery and my job was – besides working the counter – I made French baguettes. People would come from all over town to get the baguettes. One of the partners was from France and it was his mother’s recipe.

I don’t know…there is just something about working with dough and making the bread that is calming. It was pretty laid back until the business was sold and the new owner ran it into the ground. That was the only job I was ever fired from. I wanted a day off because I was in my high school’s musical and the guy refused and fired me right on the spot!

KAJ: Wow! I worked at a gas station in high school.

RB: I don’t know if I could do that, it seems pretty dangerous.

KAJ: It could be pretty stressful at times. People would pump and not want to pay for their gas. I liked it overall…

RB: How could you come in to get gas and not pay for it?

KAJ: You know back in the day you didn’t have to pay for it up front. You could pump first and then…

RB: And then run off? I guess there are still gas stations today that you could do that at, but it would be more difficult to get away with it with the cameras and everything.

ML: I grew up in a restaurant. My parents had a restaurant and a bar in Sunman, Indiana.

RB: Where is Sunman at? [Looking confused]

ML: Do you know where Batesville is?

RB: Yes.

ML: It is about five miles southeast of there.

RB: Coffin country.

ML: Basically. The middle of nowhere is how I refer to it.

RB: Describe collectively how you work together and what services you provide to the librarians and the library in general.

KAJ: Well, I’m the Chief Financial Officer, so my job is to make sure that all of the finances are intact for ISL. I look at the overall big picture, which includes forecasting our budget for future fiscal years, making sure everything is aligned accordingly, not only with financials, but with personnel and payroll as well. I problem solve a lot of our issues to configure the best results for ISL. I make sure our policy and procedures falls within the guidelines set in place by other agencies such as Budget agency, State Personnel, the Department of Administration, State Board of Accounts and the Attorney General’s Office. I advise our executive staff of any changes or issues as it relates to the budget. I also supervise the Program Coordinator (responsibilities: grants, payroll, accounts receivable, general ledger and assets) and Account Clerk (responsibilities: head of procurement and accounts payable).

RB: At the end of the day, you can show clearly where all of the money went. There is no question about it.

KAJ: Transparency, yes.

MJR: And the public trust.

RB: How is it working at the ISL compared to other agencies you have worked at? Would you say that it is different to work with librarians?

MJR: I can’t answer that because I have only worked at the library.

KAJ: I would say there is a major difference compared to other agencies. Every agency is different that I have worked for, but the library world is not what I imagined or thought of as a kid when I would go. I thought it would be more conservative as far as the staff, but as you hear, the tattooed librarian is really well known and the stigma behind an actual conservative librarian is not true at all.

RB: So it’s not a woman with a long skirt, fancy blouse, and horn rimmed glasses shushing you every two seconds?

KAJ: Right. No, none of that. No hair in a bun.

RB: Okay, let’s stop talking about libraries. Let’s talk about what you like to do outside of the library when you are not working. Let’s start with Monica…

ML: Let’s not start with me. [Long pause] I like to read…

KAJ: I can think of a few things. You like baking!

ML: Yeah, but that is annually.

RB: It’s just annually?

ML: Well, I bake occasionally, but not on the scale that I do during the holidays.

RB: I like baking too, but it’s tough to bake in the summer because it is so hot.

ML: That’s why you need a convection oven.

RB: I don’t know if I can afford that.

ML: If you want to do things bad enough you can figure out ways to do it.

RB: That’s true. My mom has a convection oven. Have you ever competed at the State Fair?

ML: No, I don’t compete. It’s just a hobby that I have. It’s not a money-making project of any kind or striving for awards.

RB: My mom has become obsessed with competing at the State Fair. She started about three years ago and won grand champion in the chocolate contest and it has been crazy ever since. She has placed many times.

KAJ: That is really good! Are you following in her footsteps?

RB: I don’t know. I love to cook and I like to bake. I am probably a better cook than I am a baker because you don’t have to be as precise, but I like it. If I could make money doing it, I would probably do that, but it is really hard to make it in the restaurant business. How about you, Martha Jane?

MJR: I ballroom dance.

RB: Really?

MJR: I have been doing it for four years now.

RB: Where do you dance?

MJR: At a dance studio in Fishers. I take lessons and twice a year we have showcases where you get to show off what you have learned during the year. I have done one already this year and will be participating again in November.

RB: My mom is also an avid ballroom dancer. She was involved pretty heavily with USABDA, which was the United States Amateur Ballroom Dancer’s Association, they since have changed their name to USA Dance or something like that. They go and watch a lot of those competitions and they are usually dancing most weekends. They go to Riollo on Capital Avenue and they also dance at Starlight at 62nd and Guion Road.

MJR: Well, where I go they have three different studios in the Indianapolis area and I can go to any of those and dance my heart out.

RB: It is fun. It is a lot harder than people think.

MJR: Yes it is, my favorite dance is the Rumba. Another thing I like to do is cook and bake and read and crochet. I’m a very crafty lady.

RB: I’m not very good at arts and crafts. I draw stick figures and I may be able to put some Popsicle sticks together in some type of formation. That is the extent of my arts and crafts. I’m a musician, I play things.

MJR: I also enjoy music. I used to play violin and sing a lot, but not so much anymore.

KAJ: Shopping is my favorite hobby. [Laughing] I shop a lot. I like to travel. My husband and I…one of our bucket list goals is to travel to all 50 states. He really likes road tripping, but eight hours road tripping is enough for me…but I do enjoy the scenery. We have traveled the east coast in its entirety. We have also traveled abroad. We are now going to work on the west coast. In September we will be going to LA. It is our gift to ourselves since our youngest son graduated from high school this past June and we are now empty nesters. I know it might sound crazy but my kids sporting events and other activities also used to be my hobby. They kept me busy so now I have to look for new hobbies to do in my spare time now.

RB: Well, while you are in LA you will have to get some In and Out Burger.

KAJ: Really? Okay! In and Out Burger, I have heard of it.

RB: A lot people say it is the best, but I would argue we have stuff here just as good. It is pretty good though.

KAJ: Okay, well that’s great because I like to go to local, hole-in-the-wall places.  You know to get the experience of the city instead of going to all of the chains that we already have.

RB: It is a chain, but you can only get it out there.

KAJ: Yeah, and I have also heard of Pink’s.

RB: Yeah, the hot dog place. I think there is only one of those, so that is a unique place. Ok, next question. What is your favorite item in the Indiana State Library’s collection?

KAJ: I haven’t even seen the collections. Is that shocking? I am so stuck in my financial world that I haven’t even had time to see the collections.

RB: Really?

KAJ: Really!

RB: You don’t get a gold star.

KAJ: I know! No one has actually shown me. I admit I haven’t taken the initiative either.

RB: That’s a shame. I’ll tell you…either Marcia or Justin are good to take a tour with. I know Justin is new here, but he is really passionate about it. Just do it. Take an hour and walk around, because there are some amazing things in here.

KAJ: I’ve been in the stacks, but I have never actually looked at a collection.

RB: Did you know we have the original state flag here?

KAJ: I’ve heard that, but I have never seen it.

RB: We have cuneiform tablets from the B.C. era.

KAJ: I’ve heard about all of that, but I haven’t actually seen it.

RB: Ask Bethany to show you that stuff. How about you? [Addressing Martha Jane]

MJR: My favorite thing about the library is the building, the old part of the building. The limestone, the stained glass, and all that…I have been here so long that I have seen many changes. When I first started here, the limestone was all gray. I didn’t know how beautiful it was until they had the restoration project and they actually cleaned the limestone. You can see all the beautiful striations in the stone. I just love that.

RB: That is cool. Did you get here before or after they added the new part?

MJR: I got here just after they added to the library. The 1976 addition is what they called it, and I started in 1976. It was September, so they had pretty much completed everything by the time I started.

RB: By the time you started, they had gotten rid of the revolving door on Senate Street…

MJR: No, that was still here.

ML: That was here until they did the renovation in 2000.

MJR: The other thing that I really like about the building, and you don’t see them, is the wooden doors on Senate Street that are hidden because of the new entrance that they put up. Those wooden doors are beautiful.

RB: Yeah, and there are some cool carvings on there you can barely see when you walk in that entrance. You look up and there is some cool stuff on there. You wouldn’t know unless you looked up while you are going through that door.

KAJ: I remember the revolving doors. Wow…

RB: Yeah, I’m learning all kinds of stuff. We are about to release an architecture brochure, so I have had to do a lot of research about the building. There’s a lot of interesting history on this building.

MJR: Yeah, the little plates that are in the floor tell stories. All that stuff. I just love our building.

RB: I agree. I even worked at the statehouse, which everybody thinks that is a cool building, and it is. I think that there are more unique items in the architecture of this building. Of course, we don’t have a big dome of glass…

MJR: No…but we do have some pretty awesome stained glass windows.

RB: Yes. How about you? [Looking towards Monica]

ML: Well, I don’t know if I have anything that is a favorite. I’m just gonna be honest with you. I am kinda between the two of them. A long time ago when I first started in 1999, I had a tour of the building and had seen some things. But, I haven’t been through it recently, and I couldn’t remember what I had seen in 1999.

RB: So you are like people that live by the beach, but never go to it?

KAJ: Oh no. If I’m at the beach, I’m going to it.

RB: But you don’t live by the beach.

KAJ: I used to. I’m from Gary originally so…actually, I have taken a tour of the building. But, to actually view collections…no, I think that’s a whole different level of experiencing the library. Looking and touching our collections gives you the true meaning of what the library is all about. I haven’t experience it yet, but I will definitely make time to do it. Again, like Martha Jane said, the building is beautiful. Before I even worked over here, I used to come over and just be in awe. We would have meetings in here and just to look down from the fourth floor to the great hall is a site to see.

RB: So the three of you would agree that the building itself is enough of a tourist attraction?

All together: Oh definitely!

ML: I think so. The great hall itself and the rooms where a lot of the meetings take place have a lot of history, and I’m sure a lot of people would be interested in that.

MJR: And the Indiana materials that have been used to construct the building are just so cool.

RB: Yes, limestone, sandstone, and walnut. [Pause] So, what would you say to people to encourage them to visit?

KAJ: Even more so than just to see the building, I would be incline to tell people about the events and recommend the public to book events since I do not know much about the collection. Then they may dig deeper to see what other services are available.

MJR: When I talk about the library, I always talk about genealogy and family history to get people to come in. If you want to learn about your family history, we have all kinds of resources and such. When people ask me where I work, and I explain that I am not part of the public library, but part of the state library, I say that we have a wonderful genealogy collection that people should come in and see.

ML: I agree with that. I always mention the genealogy division, but also because I have had some personal people that have used the talking books and Braille division, I also mention that and try to communicate about the Vision Expo event that we have every year.

RB: That’s right. A lot of people don’t know that we have a huge collection of talking books and Braille, as well as large print books.

ML: Right, my grandmother reads the large print books. There was an elderly lady that I was very close to that really liked the audio books.

RB: That is something else that people don’t know about. If you are an Indiana resident and you have a physical or visual disability, you can receive free talking books from the Indiana State Library. You don’t necessarily have to have a doctor approve it, you can come to the library and a librarian can fill out the paperwork for you to be eligible for the service.

ML: And I know people that have seen a doctor, and it was no problem to have the doctor sign-off on the paperwork. It is a free service and it really does benefit a lot of people.

MJR: It is your federal and state tax dollars at work.

RB: It is probably one of the most unknown and coolest services that they provide here.

KAJ: It is like a hidden treasure. Like I said, I have been in state government for a long time and I would come over and see the building, but to actually know what services they provided, I had no clue. I think that a lot of people are unaware in state government. I think they believe it is just a public library and do not know all the details because it hasn’t been advertised or we just ignore it. They are more interested in if they can book a room to host an event.

RB: Hopefully, with our presence at the State Fair and our efforts to reach out to other agencies, and getting press out there…hopefully we can get more people coming through the doors. Personally, that is my goal. I want to see people coming in, or at least getting online and using our services like INSPIRE.in.gov.

KAJ: And having tours is an eye-opener. It is something that they didn’t do before. To actually see this building is something totally different than viewing things online or just hearing about it.

RB: Right. It is something you definitely need to come in and experience.

This blog post was written by Ryan Brown, Director of Communications at the Indiana State Library. For more information about the library, please visit www.in.gov/library.