300: Project specialist Frank Meaker catalogs PCL whiteboard doodles

Katie Walsh

Editor’s note: In 300 words or fewer, this series spotlights people in our community whose stories typically go untold. 

A hand-drawn image of a girl sleeping at a desk, drool dripping down her chin, hides in the corner of a PCL whiteboard. Rather than erasing it during his morning rounds straightening up the PCL, library project specialist Frank Meaker whips out his flip phone and snaps a photo.

For the past 10 years, Meaker has captured thousands of photos of PCL whiteboard doodles — from generic uplifting messages to reoccurring mermaid characters. At the end of each semester, he sends his collection to the library’s communications officer, Travis Willmann, who uploads them to the library’s Flickr page.

“[The doodles are] a snapshot of what these kids are living every day,” Meaker said. “They’re almost like a historical archive of what goes on in college at UT.”

The informal project began as a joke between friends. Meager said he would send photos of funny doodles to Willmann, and the two would share a laugh. When Willmann first posted one to the Flickr page, he received an overwhelmingly positive response and asked Meaker to keep sending them his way.

During periods when the library is less populated, Meaker may find only a single doodle per day. Other times, during finals for instance, he takes between five and 10 shots a day. Meaker said his personal favorites are the ones from late-night study sessions where students sandwich funny characters and stupid sayings between equations and diagrams.

“I’m a big doodler myself,” Meaker said. “I seldom walk past a whiteboard without putting my own mark on it.”

For Meaker, almost anything is worthy of a photograph — even a stick figure. 

“Some of the most simple, basic ones are the most entertaining,” Meaker said. “It’s not about the artwork, it’s about the joke behind it.”