Patterson to Retire after 37 years as Library Directorby Bremen Public Library on August 15, 2014
BREMEN – Bremen Public Library’s director of 37 years, Marsha Patterson, has announced her plans to retire on Aug. 29.
Oddly enough, she never planned on becoming a library director.
In fact, when she got the job in October of 1977, she couldn’t have been more surprised.
“I think I was in shock,” she said. “I didn’t have much confidence in myself at that time. With pressure from my mother, Dorothy Baldwin, I went to the interview with no expectations. I’m not much of a talker but I think I talked continuously. I didn’t even remember what I said. So when I was hired I was surprised.”
While she did have some work experience at two different libraries – IUSB for four years and the Bedford Public Library for one year – along with a bachelor’s degree in sociology from Indiana University, she still felt unprepared for the director’s position.
“You take college and graduate classes but they don’t prepare you for being an administrator in the library until you have some experience on the job,” she said.
She quickly learned, with the guidance and support of four coworkers – Roberta Weiss, Marge Snyder, Gwen Hershberger and Miriam Mishler.
“Thank God for those four women. They helped me learn so many things. I had, I think, $30,000 to spend on books by Dec. 31, so I was busy reading reviews and ordering material. It was quite a learning experience. You get to a point when things come together and click. It took a while for that to happen to me.”
And happen it did. Throughout her 37 years as director, she has ushered the library through many positive changes. Topping her list of accomplishments was overseeing the $1.8 million, 7,000-square-foot addition in 1992.
“We built and renovated a beautiful building and it took a lot of hard work with staff, board members, leasing corporation members, the construction crew and architect to bring together something that has worked and lasted this long.”
Under her leadership, the library joined with a group of other local, larger libraries to better serve our community.
“This arrangement has made us one of the best small libraries in Indiana. We have access to so much that we couldn’t afford if we were on our own, like the circulation system, cataloguing, databases, e-book consortium and so much more. I’ve always been thankful that we were accepted into that group.”
In her list of achievements, she includes the launch of four book discussion groups.
“We now have four groups that meet and they are all very successful. I’ve met some wonderful ladies in my group and I appreciate them all.”
However, her most meaningful accomplishment in 37 years comes from the patrons and community members who support the library.
“The Bremen community loves the library and always has. Thanks to everyone who supported me and who told me ‘good job’ or ‘I love the library.’ These comments have made the years a wonderful experience.”
Currently, Patterson oversees a staff of 12 employees.
“I’m proud of the good service my staff has given over the years. No library can function if the staff isn’t good, service-oriented and excited about what they do. I’ve been lucky in that department.”
She manages an annual operating budget of $638,297.
“The most challenging aspect of being a director of any library is to keep up the high standards you set for the library. Every year libraries have to fight to maintain and increase their annual budgets. You never know what the state legislature will do,” she said.
Another big challenge has been leading the library into the digital age.
“When I started we were stamping books out with a pencil. Now everything changes so quickly and you need to keep on top of all these new innovations.”
She knows she will miss working at the library.
“I love my job very much and I will miss it. My favorite part probably was meeting patrons and other librarians all through the years. I have made some close friends this way. I’ll miss being around people, talking to patrons about books and life and having fun. We do laugh a lot at the library. We do work hard and that I’ll miss, too.”
While she’s going to miss her job, she does have something very special to look forward to in retirement.
“I have put my home on the market and if it sells, my plans are to move to Iowa to be closer to my son, Jason, my daughter-in-law, Aleesha and my two very special grandchildren, Griffin and Belle. I know I’ll be going to a lot of sports and dance events,” the proud Grandma said.
The library is hosting a public reception on Patterson’s last day, Friday, Aug. 29, from 1 to 4 p.m. Everyone is invited to stop by for refreshments and well-wishes.
“September 2, I’ll probably get up and get ready for work. It’s a scary thing not knowing what’s next. My friends say I’ll love being retired, hopefully they are right.”
Meanwhile, Shelli Kauffman, current head of adult services, will serve as interim director until a permanent director is hired.
Patterson encourages everyone to visit the library.
“If you haven’t used the library come in and see what all we have. Why buy books, magazines, CDs and e-books when they’re available to you at your library,” she said.