Katherine Taylor poses for her employee photograph at Thomas Cooper Library.
Courtesy of Katherine Taylor.
By Michael Bauldrick
The entrance to Katherine Taylor’s office brings a bit of color and excitement to the 1970s-era beige walls of the Thomas Cooper Library at the University of South Carolina. Early in the morning student employees eagerly file inside of the office located on the third basement floor to punch in their time cards and begin their day in the collection maintenance department.
One would imagine that working for a supervisor who has the responsibilities of being a wife and mother of two, while simultaneously enrolled in graduate school, and managing a wedding consulting venture would create stress in the office.
“I was a student here in the past, so I understand it all,” Taylor said. “Just because I moved on to a different phase in my life doesn’t mean I forgot what it meant to work as a student in this department.”
A former Gamecock undergraduate, Taylor, who grew up in the Greenville area, first set foot on campus in 2001. Like most, her heart raced about the possible experiences that college had to offer. Little did she know that her life was going to change forever in the coming years.
The pharmacy major made the decision to change her field of study twice. First she switched to criminal justice. Eventually she decided on anthropology. “It took an entire semester to decide what I wanted to study, but I wanted to make sure it was something I enjoyed.” Taylor said. As her undergraduate years moved on, she took a part-time job working in the Thomas Cooper Library.
During this period, Taylor met her husband, Chris, who was also working in the department. “When I first meet Chris I didn’t really like him. It was after he started going out of his way to check up on me after a breakup that I warmed up to him.” Taylor said. She finished her undergraduate degree in 2006.
Deciding to take the library studies graduate program at the University of South Carolina, Taylor also began working as supervisor of the collection maintenance department, the same department where she worked as an undergrad.
Comparing this new responsibility with managing a household with two young children, she said that the greatest amount of stress comes from keeping up with, and mobilizing 20 college-age student employees. “The first year as a supervisor was interesting because I found myself being the boss to my husband,” Taylor said, grinning from ear-to-ear.
Whether it’s managing student schedules to coincide with one another or developing a concise way to process the storage of over 1,000 books a week, Taylor’s hands are always full.
“A major reason I’m able to supervise so effectively is because of my fantastic student workers. If they didn’t have the work ethic that they show every day, things would be an absolute mess.”
USC senior, Shaniece Brown is not new to the workload to the department. As the internal affairs coordinator, she also has more responsibility than the average worker.
The title of internal affairs coordinator was created by Taylor to allow for a more comfortable and relaxed working environment. “The boss came up with seasonal celebrations as a way for us to form tighter relationships with one another. I see my co-workers more than I see my family, so I’m glad that I have the opportunity to get along with them,” said Brown.
In her free time, Taylor can be found assisting friends as a wedding consultant. The most recent wedding she did took 18 months to plan. “In the near future, I can see myself owning my very own wedding planning business,” she said. “I’m gaining experience by helping people free of charge. You do a good job and they will refer you to their friends. Sort of like a never ending cycle,” Taylor said.
As her long awaited graduation approaches, Taylor fondly remembers wonderful moments in Thomas Cooper. Whether it was the weekly departmental meetings or the four-floor library analysis days, every day features something memorable. “When you have 20 young employees to talk to every day, you begin to realize how much alike we really are,” said Taylor.
“I don’t think I’m that great of a boss, but those who work for me seem to think otherwise,” Taylor said. “When it comes to workplace morale, the best piece of advice I can offer is that having empathy for others will take you far.”
Bauldrick is a public relations senior