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The Etiquette-Dispensing, Patience-Praying Comedian of Special Collections

With retirement on the horizon, this Classified Employee of the Year winner is considering trying her hand at comedy on YouTube.

People  |  Jul 26, 2018  |  By Diane Russell
portrait of woman with hands folded

Delores Brownlee-Conn is this year's second-place recipient of Classified Employee of the Year. She is a library technician II in Special Collections & Archives at University Libraries

You may miss Delores Brownlee-Conn in the Special Collections & Archives Division of University Libraries come next spring, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you won’t be seeing her at all.

This second-place winner of the President’s Classified Employee of the Year award keeps hearing from family and friends that she’s so funny that she should do stand-up comedy. She said she might just take them up on that suggestion and try to become a social media comedy star.

How you came to UNLV

When I moved to Las Vegas I already had many years of university work experience — at Johns Hopkins, Morgan State University (also in Maryland), and the University of Arizona. In my 20s, I had worked at the third- and fourth-largest law firms in New York City. So it made sense for me to apply to UNLV’s law school, which was just getting started. I came in as a clerical trainee.

At that time, a little over 20 years ago, it was just (founding) Dean Richard Morgan, his assistant, Dianne Redsull, and me. We were in Bigelow Health Sciences and then at what had been Paradise Elementary School. I processed applications and deposited the money. Later I moved to University Libraries.

What you do

My first position at the library was in inter-library loans. About 11 years ago I moved to Special Collections & Archives. I’m a library technician II working as a photo and public service specialist. I provide access to iconic images of Las Vegas and supervise students. I also sit at the reference desk and help the public.

Your favorite part

I love working with the student workers. I feel I am mentoring them. I am teaching them the basics of being in a work environment. Some of them haven’t been in a work environment before. I teach them things like saying “hello” to your coworkers when you walk in instead of just looking at your cellphone — the basic etiquette of the workplace. Show up on time. Communicate with people. Show others respect. We have some great students.

Also, I have the most amazing director you could possibly have — Michelle Light. She is brilliant. She is a nice lady with good people skills. If I were staying (rather than retiring) it would be because of her, but I have a husband who is retired and waiting for me. (Husband Douglas Conn retired from UNLV after many years working in facilities as a heating, ventilation, and air conditioning specialist.)

Advice

Osra O’Neal (of enrollment management) always is giving me advice. It’s good advice, too. I just don’t remember anything specific!

Advice I would give a new employee? Just hang in there. PERS is a wonderful retirement plan. (Said with a smile from someone who is less than a year from retirement.)

Where you are from

I am from New York City — Harlem. It was amazing. We never even locked our doors at night. That saying that “it takes a village” is so true. It was just a very large community of families that got along together. We used to have block parties where we would shut down the street and everybody would bring food. We would have cookouts, talent shows. There was just such a sense of community.

Your first job

I was about 13. I worked as a camp counselor. What I learned was that I didn’t want to have any kids. They are expensive and time-consuming! I do have two stepsons, though, and I’m a grandmother.

Something you can’t make it through the day without

Prayer. I pray for patience.

A book, movie, or TV show to recommend

The book Enemies in Love by Alexis Clark. It’s about an African-American nurse who fell in love with a German prisoner of war here in America during World War II. It’s a true story. I wasn’t aware of a lot of this history.

Retirement plans

I used to mentor junior high school students at Orr Middle School. I really enjoyed it. I would like to do that again.

Trying stand-up comedy is on my bucket list. I may try YouTube for that. Also, my Aunt Yvonne feels like (my husband) Douglas and I should do movie reviews on YouTube. We’re always talking about movies and making her laugh. I am going to try to have social media work for me when I retire.

What Her Nominator Says

Osra O'Neal, budget coordinator in enrollment management

She describes Brownlee-Conn as someone who goes above and beyond both at work and in the community. "She started a 12-step meeting at the Women's Center for students whose lives are affected by drugs and alcohol. Delores volunteered as a 'Gear Up' mentor at William Orr Middle School. She also volunteered to help pass out clothes and toiletries for the 'Street Kids' organization, Delores is also an AskMe! volunteer.

"Delores' department recently went through a reorganization and as part of this process, a public service department was created in Special Collections. Delores became the public services assistant and was given primary responsibility for fulfilling reproduction requests for historic photos. It is a demanding and deadline-oriented job, including numerous hours of research...Numerous publishers, filmmakers, historians, and genealogy researchers reach out to Delores on a daily basis requesting images. She is consistently polite with even the gruffest patron. She goes out of her way to provide help and assistance for those patrons who are unsure of the process...Delores walks them through every step of the process with a smile on her face and words of encouragement.

"Delores Brownlee embodies what a UNLV classified staff employee represents. She cares about the students, engages (in) positive communication with staff, and knows how to handle difficult situations with ease and diplomacy."