Dynamic duo's lives linked to Main Library

by Susan Stern
Staff writer

The lives of Suzanne and Earl Dodson have been uniquely connected to UBC Libraries, and the Main Library in particular, for more than three decades.

It started in the 1950s when the two UBC students met at the Biology Club. Then Suzanne Cates, she was initially uncertain about her suitor and used to hide behind the dictionary stand in Main Library's Ridington Room to avoid his determined pursuit.

After getting her degree in librarianship from UBC, Dodson was hired by the Library but only intended to work for a couple of years to gain experience.

Tomorrow, after holding numerous positions, Dodson is reluctantly saying goodbye after a 36-year career in UBC libraries.

Dodson says she and her husband had always been attached to the Main Library. When she took on her most recent position as Facilities and Preservations manager her responsibilities included the libraries' physical plant.

"I was always seeing things that needed doing," says Dodson. "We both wanted to give something back to UBC."

Their contributions have been considerable and include many behind-the-scenes improvements -- a second elevator in the Koerner Library for people with disabilities and air conditioning to protect rare materials held in the Special Collections and University Archives vault. They also supported microfilming B.C. government sessional papers as a first step toward an ongoing preservation program for the Library.

"I was always coming home to Earl and saying we need this and we need that and he always forked over the money," Dodson says.

She was especially pleased with replicas they had made of the only two remaining classic wrought iron and glass lamps hanging in Main Library's front hall. Adolf Becker, Werner Mueller and Paul Rogan from Plant Operations created them.

"Take a look sometime -- the restorations are beautiful," she says.

Her last major assignment has been the restoration of Main Library's Room 502 from office space to some semblance of its original 1925 splendour as a reading room.

University Librarian Catherine Quinlan wanted to make the restoration a surprise for the couple in honour of their support, but it was impossible because the workers naturally went to Dodson for direction.

"Catherine told me it was like giving me a Christmas present and asking me to wrap it up myself," says Dodson, "but I wouldn't have missed the fun of being involved for anything."

The room's huge wooden roof beams have been refinished. The centre beams are decorated with plaster ribbons and stylized flower plaques. UBC artisan Paul Rogan and Constantine Pardalis handpainted a tricky decorative frieze of Celtic design around the top of the room.

The room, officially dedicated today in a ceremony led by UBC President Martha Piper, has been renamed The Suzanne Cates Dodson and Earl D. Dodson Reading Room in their honour. It will be used not only for reading, but also for concerts, meetings, lectures, and other events.

"Given their interest in the refurbishment of Main Library and their many efforts as benefactors and great friends of the university, it was particularly fitting that Room 502 be named in their honour," Quinlan says.

For Dodson, the arrival of her retirement is a bit overwhelming. Main Library has been her second home for so long she says it will take her a while to adjust. She admits she will miss all the colleagues she has worked with for so long, and whom she considers part of her UBC family.

"Earl compares my retirement to jumping off a speeding train," she says. "But really, it's been a wonderful ride."