Bill Parton, Library Director for Arkansas Tech University, will be retiring after 24 years of being with the Arkansas Tech family. Friday, October 31st, marks Parton’s last day as Director for the Ross Pendergraft Library and Technology Center, and fellow library staff will host a small reception honoring Parton and his retirement.
“When I started at Tech, I felt like it would be a good place to retire,” Parton says.
The Parton family originally hails from Texas, where Parton’s oldest daughter now lives. Parton himself grew up in the Houston area, playing trumpet for his rock band, teaching others how the play the trumpet, and playing in the bands at Astroworld amusement park during the summers. “I was dependent upon performing and teaching to earn money through college and after college,” Parton said. In 1977, an economic bust hit Houston, temporarily halting Parton’s musical career. “There were no jobs for live musicians.”
Looking for work, Parton applied for a job at the Houston Public Library. Upon getting hired, he shelved books for about a month before learning about a music reference position. He applied for the position and was hired with little experience, primarily due to his music education. The position mainly involved answering and solving music-related questions and puzzles, and he found that he loved it. He knew he wanted to further himself in this career path.
The job eventually took him to graduate school at the University of Washington in Seattle where he went on to earn his master’s degree in librarianship.
“When I graduated, I needed to find full time work,” Parton said. “Waco, Texas, had the best job offer, with a full time reference position and benefits, so we packed up from Seattle and moved to Texas.”
There, Parton and his wife welcomed their two daughters and began their careers, he working as reference librarian at the public library and she as a graphic designer for the local community college. However, the benefits, pay, and lifestyle weren’t suitable for a growing family of four. While looking for work suitable for the family, Parton stumbled upon an open position at Howard Payne University in Brownwood, Texas, and became university librarian there in 1986.
After four years in Brownwood, Parton saw the library director position at Arkansas Tech University opened; he applied, was selected, and he and his family made the move to Arkansas.
The family moved during the winter of 1990. “We packed up and left the day after Christmas,” Parton said. “We drove through twelve to fourteen inches of snow, I believe. It was the most snow I have seen while being in Arkansas.”
Parton’s family not only grew up in Arkansas, but grew up through Arkansas Tech.
“Both my daughters hold degrees from Arkansas Tech, and my wife was an adjunct professor here for about five to six years.” Parton said. His wife, Ellen, also holds a master’s degree from Arkansas Tech.
Parton has not only weathered the elements of Arkansas, but he has weathered many seasons of change during his 24 years here at Tech. “The change has been really remarkable,” Parton commented. “The physical plant with its new buildings – it’s almost unrecognizable.” Parton went on to mention the growth in faculty, student size, and accredited academic programs. “We had around 4,000 students when I started, and now we have 12,000. That’s three times bigger than when I came to Tech.”
Upon leaving Tech and its continuing change and growth, Parton looks forward to spending more time with his two grandchildren, traveling, and breathing a little life back into his music career. “I want to get a jazz jam going downtown …maybe invite some Tech students.”
The drop-in reception for Bill Parton will be held Friday, October 31, from 1:30-3:30 pm in the library on the first floor, room 102.
[This interview was conducted and submitted by special guest writer, Sierra Murphy, news editor of the Arka Tech. Thank you, Sierra!]