It is difficult to imagine the Kresge Memorial Library without a house art and AV gallery, senior carrels overlooking Chapel Lawn, and a warm, open atmosphere that coaxes students and faculty through its doors. It’s difficult to imagine conducting a research project without the aid of the library’s myriad book collection and cloud-based integrated operating system, WorldShare Management Services. In other words, it is impossible to imagine what the library would look like if it had not thrived under the leadership of director, musician, baseball guru, and family man, George “Tad” Mindeman for 13 and a half years.
“When we have eyes, ears, nose, mouth on our face, fingers, arms, and legs, we don’t recognize that we have them until we are sick,” says Dr. Lok Kim, director of the Chattanooga Clarinet Choir, of which Mindeman was a member, and Covenant Music professor. “When Tad was here, we didn’t recognize how important he was to us. Now, I think everybody knows how important he was.” Kim was present when Mindeman passed away from a heart attack shortly after the choir’s rehearsal on October 20.
“He really wanted to draw students and faculty into the library, and I think he really succeeded at that,” says Colleen Stevens, Cataloging Coordinator. “He worked tirelessly. He was a boss who expected much of his staff, but anything he expected from us, he expected far much more from himself.”
Indeed, the library did look quite different before Mindeman arrived in 2002. The upstairs contained classrooms, a periodical shelf, and often vacant office space. Foreboding wooden doors guarded the front entrance while the available research database was much more rudimentary and intimidating. The walls were a sterile grey.
However, being, in the words of Kim, “a nationally famous librarian” with at least 24 years of experience in the field after receiving a Masters from the University of Chicago and the University of Washington, Mindeman would not leave the library as it was.
“He was a man of vision, and was able to make some big transformations pretty quickly in the appearance of the building and the quality of the collection,” says Stevens.
In the late 2000s, Mindeman spearheaded the plan to open the partially vacant office space to students and create the Kresge Art gallery.
Art professor Jeff Morton says that before this decision, student artwork was displayed in the chapel vestibule or scattered in various places across campus, but this was often “inadequate for some of the things we were trying to do.” It with the opening of the art gallery that campus artwork had “found a place to call home.”
In 2011, Mindeman integrated in-house resources with those provided by WorldShare Management Services, further expanding the collection and reducing costs for the college. Kresge was the 11th library in the nation to adopt the system.
“We were on the cutting edge of moving our catalog and system into the cloud,” says Stevens.
“It was an exciting time.”
Aside expanding the amount of resources in the library, Mindeman also sought to bring quality and diversity to available media.
According to Stevens, he “honed the collection” to make sure that only the best books took up space on the shelves but also those that reflected a wider scope of topics.
“It was very important for him to make sure that the collection included a broad spectrum of ideas,” says Colleen. “Just because an idea was not something we agreed with and sometimes might be an anathema to us, that did not mean we didn’t need to be aware of it.”
“Tad never thought that a book was dangerous, just that what people do with books perhaps that can make them dangerous,” says Morton.
Mindeman’s desire to enrich the library’s resources was not bound up in books alone. He also helped create an extensive AV gallery, expanded the video selection, and, in the words of Morton, “was very welcoming to the role that art could play within the library.”
Austen Crim, a student and friend of Mindemans says, “I really like the fiction that he brought in. He was a pretty knowledgable movie watcher and fiction reader. I don’t know how much he had to do with this, but I know he personally selected some of the really enjoyable movies we have out there.”
“What Tad did was create a space for us to imagine as well as an ideological space,” says Morton. “I think he believed that artwork functions like books—that they are ideas that matter and are worth considering.”
Morton fondly remembers the last time he met with Mindeman to discuss the logistics of incoming art show, “Difficulties in Translation.” He was touched when Mindeman told him, “‘This is your space, you do with it what you want…keep doing the excellent work that you do.’” He says, “It was a sweet reminder of the support that Tad had for art programs and the art department.”
While Mindeman was a man who paved the way for lofty goals, he craved precision and efficiency in even the most minute details. Stevens and John Holberg, the Research, Instruction, & Special Collections Librarian, both recall when Mindeman switched the wood of the front doors with glass and altered the color scheme to warm reds, browns, and yellows after hefting carpet books and paint cards in and out of the library for staff inspection.
When the senior carrels were moved upstairs and replaced by books shelves, Holberg remembers how Mindeman and his sons moved each row of books by hand to ensure none were out of place. Mindeman then measured each row, verifying that it lined up with the other rows and was equally spaced from the sides.
“He was very intelligent and able to work quickly and accurately,” says Stevens. “He was really an amazing person.”
Mindeman was also an ever-accurate raconteur of baseball lore.
Morton remembers “how quick matters of business turned into conversations about baseball. Tad loved baseball, as you well know, and baseball is so prone to storytelling. He always had a story about baseball. When I needed clarification on a world-series game, he was always there.” According to his obituary in the local paper, Mindeman served as the umpire to local leagues for over 20 years.
“He knew everything about sports,” says Crim.
Despite the many talents and fastidiousness of this Renaissance man, many remember him around campus for his humility and kindness. Efficiency was paramount to his work, but people came first.
When Mindeman had planned to discontinue an unpopular music magazine, Kim, a fan of the publication, contacted him to explain how much he enjoyed the magazine. “Maybe two days later, he emailed me back and decided to continue to buy the journal just for me,” Kim says. “I respected him as the director of the library, and he respected me as a director of music. That shows good fellowship, his approval of good fellowship.”
A few years ago, senior composition major Kathrine Mullins composed a three-part piece and asked Mindeman if he could play the clarinet part for a recital. “He took a lot of time to practice only for the student,” says Kim, “and they did really well on recital day.”
“Tad had a reputation as a no-nonsense kind of guy, so I'm not sure everyone realizes what an incredibly tender heart he possessed,” says Political Science professor Dr. Cale Horne. “He was always, always a source of great wisdom and encouragement to me.”
“We spent many hours in one another's offices discussing books, plans for the library, theology, issues in Presbyterianism, and of course our families,” he says. “Family, his own and others, was always very important to Tad.”
Mindeman is survived by his wife, Barbara, their six children, Nathan, Liesl, Hannah, Andrew, Samuel and Matthew, as well as 12 grandchildren. He was also a dedicated member of Grace Presbyterian Church.
“His passing is an incredible loss to this institution,” says Horne. “The loss of the librarian, though, pales in comparison to the loss of his family, friends, and church.”