Wishing John Spencer a Happy Retirement!


August 18, 2021
Stephanie Plowman

How and when did you get started as a librarian? And what made you want to be a librarian?
My first experience working in a library was during my undergraduate education at Wheaton College where I worked in the library’s special collections.  As an English major, I was excited about working with a collection which included the papers, letters and memorabilia of C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien, as well as Dorothy Sayers and 4 other British writers.   The collection also included a wonderful carved wardrobe from the Lewis home, which inspired the Chronicles of Narnia. For me, this experience was instrumental in my choice of profession as a librarian and my interest in helping to preserve things that matter to many generations. 

Tell us about the library at Gonzaga when you started?
When I started as Reference Coordinator at Foley in 2001, the library had a substantial reference collection and a busy service desk on the main floor.  Books were shelved on all floors and our collection of books on religion, and particularly the section on Catholicism was definitely comprehensive.  Periodicals were shelved on the lower level and available for browsing. Since Foley is located in the center of campus, it was, and continues to be a place for students to study and work collaboratively.  

How has Gonzaga changed while you have been here?
In 2001, the campus had many resident Jesuits on campus, both those in University administration but also a significant number of Jesuits teaching in the classroom.  In the library, the biggest changes are related to the expansion of library resources into the online environment. Today our students can ago online and access the library’s electronic resources at any time of day or night.  

When you look back, do you ever think of a certain moment that made you think ‘this, this is why I became a librarian’?
Not sure I’ve had just one moment but really many moments, especially when I have helped a student or someone who needed something very specific from a very particular source.  Sometimes it was fun to open a book to the right page as if I had never had that question before.  

What will you miss most about Foley?
Mostly, I will miss the library as place, as I have always enjoyed working in libraries and being in the middle of a rich intellectual enterprise. And I’ll definitely miss the folks who like to visit the library on a regular basis.   And of course, our uniquely talented library staff.  

What are your plans for retirement?
I plan to read all the writers I have missed reading. If I find an author I like, I enjoy reading their complete works.  Right now I am reading all of Maeve Binchy’s books, and I’m learning a lot about life in Dublin, Ireland and the Catholic experience.   I’m also looking forward to traveling more in the Pacific Northwest and more extensively in Canada, my birthplace.