News Flash

Library - Highlights

Posted on: December 31, 2020

Retiring Abilene Librarian Janis Test Loves Books, News, People

Janis Test

As published by Greg Jacklewicz, Editor of the Abilene Reporter-News, on Thursday, December 30, 2020

Janis Test is retiring.

Hippo, hippo, hooray!

Janis, who still is known around town as Janis Cochran from back in her newshound days, is ending a 23-year career with the Abilene Public Library. She recently was preparing for her departure, which meant packing her collection of hippos.

Library work is what she wanted to do way back when. But, if life happens, then so do careers.

For years, at one local radio or TV station or another, she was one of city's go-to newspeople. She was good, a formidable presence at events who had a good news sense. 

speaking on kacuBut she found a home at the downtown branch of the Abilene Public Library in late 1997 and stayed. The information services manager, she previously worked at the library, then left because her job as acquisitions librarian was not exciting. Adventure can be found at the library, if you know where to look.

With her research skills, Janis knew where to look.

She was married for 27 years to Bob Test, another local radio giant and later BBB boss. If you knew Bob, you knew he was a straight-forward guy.

That rubbed some folks the wrong way, Janis said.

"He did not suffer fools," she said.

Neither does she. That's a good trait in newspeople. Sometimes, you have to call it what it is.

But some of her other traits are dependability, accuracy and enthusiasm. She loves libraries. So much that she was spending her final days making sure all was in order and that whoever followed her had a good place to start.

Not everyone does that. 

You wonder what kind of Oval Office shenanigans Donald Trump has planned for Joe Biden.

Janis in 1973 graduated from Odessa High School and Odessa College before going to then-North Texas State University intending get a degree in library science. When you graduated with that degree, you were certified as a librarian.

Well, the program was changed and she got only a minor, majoring in history. She did stick around Denton, though, to get a Master of Library Sciences degree in 1979.

But there were no library jobs to be had. Folks with years of experience, she said, could not find good jobs.

And so, she took a technical services job in Abilene in July 1980. A behind-the-scenes job that included entering the title, author and number of books the APL acquired.

Low person on the totem pole, she said.

The work was fairly interesting but, well, she did not work with the public.

She hung tough until March 1983. That's when, through a friend of a friend, she was hired at radio station KORQ FM/KWKC AM to do the news. She had been told she had a voice for radio but dismissed that observation.

But she did, and she could read "cold copy." That's a no-no in radio for obvious reasons. You didn't say "Martina Navratilova" without practice.

"But I could do it," she said.

She took a pay cut but was energized.

"I thought, 'Let's give it a try,'" she said. 

She excelled, and has the awards to prove it.

It was in 1983 that she met Bob Test, who was at KRBC's radio station.

"All I heard about the infamous Bob was what a jerk he was," she said.

They met at a press conference for a reboot of the former Kiva Inn, with its atrium and indoor pool. Abilene's five-star hotel that never was.

"He didn't seem like a jerk to me," she said of her first impression. But that was it.

Until she saw him again in the pews of Pioneer Drive Baptist Church, where she sang in the choir. He had two children with him, near the end of his first marriage.

One Sunday, nursing a sore throat, she attended church as a worshiper and Bob was there. They shared a hymnal and she noted his fine singing voice.

Maybe the hymn was "Shall We Gather at the River" because Bob asked if they could gather at ... Steak and Ale, the go-to restaurant of that day.

She found him not to be a jerk. Instead, she found him to be her husband. They married in June 1984. He died in October 2011.

News of their pending marriage did not sit well with her boss, Terry Bettis. You could say he got testy, according to Janis.

KORQ and KRBC were competitors, and he could not have a Test on his staff!

Chill, Terry, she might have said. I'll stay Janis Cochran professionally, she told him.

She laughed at the memory.

When she returned to the Abilene public library, many still referred to her as Janis Cochran. Someone, in fact, did so before Christmas.

"They told me, 'Boy, I miss you on the air!'" she said, smiling. "I hadn't been on the air in 23 years."

In 1987, she again veered off the path to take a job as assignments editor at KTXS-TV.

That lasted all of eight months, she said. Not naming names, she said her boss was "the biggest jerk. Life's too short."

So she returned to radio at KBCY as news director. That lasted until the job went away to save money.

Janis said the only cost really was The Associated Press wire service. Certainly not her salary. She was told, she said, local news could be read from a certain local newspaper. 

That did it.

Talk about veering off again. Her next job was at Dillard's, the half-year leading to Christmas.

"I about lost my mind," she said. She liked the store but when 10 Christmas trees went up and 10 different carols and songs played at once near her linen department, the ho-ho-ho made her go-go-go to ... KTAB-TV.

She was there from 1993-97, when a new owner was named. A woman. Hooray!

The excitement was brief because her job was to cut staff. It was an Everyone Must Go Sale!

"Except for Bob Bartlett," Janis said. Durable Bob is still there today.

She had been hired by Joel Fox, and soon both were called to meet the new boss.

He asked if they still had jobs.

"Oh yeah, you don't make enough money to be worth firing," the boss said.

Fox stayed two more months. Janis lasted three.

In December 1997, she was back at the library.

Her most recent library job back in the day was referred to as reference.

But like many people today, she wore many hats. She became the media person, relying on her journalism skills, and was a key person in the annual Friends of the Library sale.

She became head of reference in 1998 and held her present job since 2006. One of her goals has been to ensure the public enjoys "the sheer joy of reading."

"I've done a little bit of everything," she said. 

The library will be losing someone with great depth of knowledge about Abilene, on top of her library skills.

Those, she said, came from a great-great aunt, Elizabeth Howard West, who was state librarian and the first woman to head a department in Texas state government.

Is Janis an avid reader?

"I love to read," she said but on her own time. At the library, she was busy helping people find what they were looking for.

"I liked digging into things ... yeah, I'm nosy," she said, smiling. "That's one of the things I'll miss. I like to know it all."

She has far too many books at home. She loves history. While points of view on history change, history, itself, doesn't, she said. 

She also enjoys biographies and, confession time, she has turned to "brain candy" during the pandemic. That is, historical romances. 

"But they have to be accurate," she said. The history part, at least.

Two go-to authors are Nora Roberts and the late Beatrice Small.

"Harry Potter, of course. I like some science-fiction," she said. "I'll read anything that holds still."

One retirement chore may be weeding out her books.

It's her observation that people returned to reading during COVID-19, whatever way they chose. She is OK with e-books, which have been popular with APL users. Her husband, she said, was big into audiobooks. She, not so much.

"It was a good year to slow down" and read, she said.

Janis has other interests, including work with the Taylor County Historical Commission and serving as a deacon at First Central Presbyterian Church. She is hoping 2021 brings a return to placing historical markers.

"We did none in 2020," she said.

"And I'll certainly be involved in Friends of the Abilene Public Library," she said.

And seeing family. Son Kelly Test is the drummer for the Texas band Cooder Graw. Daughter Connie lives in the Dallas area. There are two grandchildren.

For now, it's packing up her stuff, including her hippos.

She also is a fan of the Texas Rangers and at home has a hippo wearing a Rangers cap.

Any crazy library stories?

She rolled her eyes. Does she have library stories? Are there some she cannot share?

Oh, the things people do at the library, she hinted.

"Highly personal letters" found in returned books, she said.

Money, too.

Books missing pages signed by authors, in hopes of selling on eBay.

And?

"Well," she said, "there were unusual bookmarks."

Pray tell. 

A condom. Thrown away by staff not knowing if it had been used.

She did not name the book. Perhaps Bill Clinton's "My Life?"

Sounds like research material for Janis's own historical romance novel.

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