Over the course of the half-century he’s worked for the Penn Libraries, Frank Stamato has held three different job titles—but his outlook has remained the same.
“I never considered it leaving my house to go to a job, I always considered it leaving my family to go to my secondary family,” the Head of Reprographic Services says. “I enjoy it immensely. Every day is something new.”
A fortuitous encounter with Penn’s head of Human Resources landed Stamato a job in the library in 1958 as a photographer. In 1979, his title changed to Head of Photography Services, and in 2006 he took on his current moniker.
“Frank is a great example of the incredibly loyal and dedicated staff who provide the human face of the Penn Libraries,” says H. Carton Rogers III, vice provost and director of libraries. “He is a real gentleman, and it has been a privilege to work alongside of him.”
Stamato, 71, recently became a grandfather, a role he’s relishing. But even before his granddaughters were born, he considered himself to be a part of a large and loving brood.
“My coworkers are like family,” he says. “You celebrate the happy moments with them, like when someone is getting married. You go through the grief with them, like all families do. It never crossed my mind to leave.”
Q. First things first. What does your job as Head of Reprographic Services entail?
A. I’m in charge of all the public service book copies for the library. There are 17 copiers. First thing in the morning, I make sure they all have paper in them. They operate on coin mechanisms. It’s 10 cents a copy, or you can purchase a paid cash card. My responsibility is to make sure all 17 are working. Most are in the main library, but some are in the Fine Arts Library.
If they’re broken, or there is a paper jam, I’ll try to fix them. If I can’t, I’ll call a repairman to do it.
Q. Where did you grow up, and how did you come to land a job at Penn?
A. I was born in South Philadelphia. My father used to work for the University; he was a carpenter back in the ’50s. After high school, I went into the Army. When I was discharged from the service in 1958, my father told me they were hiring carpenters, and I should go to 30th and Walnut and apply for a job.
As I was entering the building, I noticed a woman was struggling carrying a package. I offered to help, and little did I know she was in charge of Human Resources. She asked me what my name was, and when I was called in for the interview, sure enough, it was by her. She noticed that I had some photographic skills, because I knew how to operate a 35 millimeter overhead projector. She called the Head of the Services Division at the Library, where they had a job opening for a photographer. While we were conducting the interview, Dr. Sutton [then the head of the Library] walked in, and he asked me a couple of questions. He turned around and said, ‘I think we found the gentleman who can fill the position.’
Q. How was the University different back when you first started?
A. Back then my title was Photographer in the Library. [My job] was operating the 35 millimeter camera, which I would use to make copies of rare books. Back then there were no book copiers at all. In ’65 we got our first Xerox copier. They decided that they were going to test it, to see if students would be interested. That took off like wildfire. We went from three copiers in the public service area, and at one time we were up to 22. Now with the advances of the computer, we’re down to 17. If we had any damages, we would copy the book and send it out to be bound, which we are still doing now.
Q. What was your role in the big move to the Van Pelt Library in 1962?
A. [My boss] Mr. Mills asked me if I had a [standard] 35 millimeter camera, and would I mind taking some pictures of the ground-breaking ceremonies. Then he asked me if I would go out every other week to take pictures of the construction.
Right after the building was completed, Mr. Mills called me in the office and showed me the floor plans of Van Pelt. He went over the plans with me. He told me he wanted me to make sure the furniture was all placed in its proper spots. I was the first one in Van Pelt Library when it was being built, and the first one when it opened.
Q. How have students changed over the years?
A. Back when I started, the students had a dress code. They were more reserved than students are today. I love the students—don’t get me wrong. I’m grateful that I could see the changes over the years.
Q. What’s been your proudest accomplishment in these 50 years?
A. Staying there 50 years and enjoying every day. When I go to the Library in the morning, I never know what I’m going to find. I might find all the copiers working, or some of them jammed. It’s a challenge every day because it’s different.
Originally published on April 9, 2009