Last chapter: Library director set to retire

Posted: January 23, 2013

The Winchester Star

Handley Regional Library director Trish Ridgeway reads a story to (from left) Calin Smith, 4, Cassidy Smith, 6, Hailey Smith, 7, and Aidan Horton, 6, in the Handley Library children’s room. The children’s parents are Lindsey Runion and Craig Smith of Stephens City. (Photo by Ginger Perry/The Winchester Star)
Trish Ridgeway, director of Handley Regional Library, will retire in October. Here, she sits behind the frame that houses the portrait of Judge John Handley that is out for cleaning.
Trish Ridgeway, director of the Handley Regional Library, stands out in front of Handley Library on Tuesday. She plans to retire in October after 20 years. (Photo by Ginger Perry/The Winchester Star)

WINCHESTER — Handley Regional Library director Trish Ridgeway is making it official — she is retiring effective Oct. 1.

After 20 years at the helm of the three-library system, she felt it was time to move on.

“With the 100th anniversary of Handley Library this year, it seemed like a great coincidence of events,” she said. She is eligible for state retirement at age 65, which she reaches this October.

She will help celebrate the centennial of the library with various events planned this year.

The Handley Library opened its doors to the public on Aug. 21, 1913, and in honor of that event, a Grand Centennial Gala Celebration is set for Aug. 24.

In addition, a book has been published — coordinated by Ridgeway — that will highlight the history of the library.

Search committee

A search committee meets for the first time today to begin the process to hire a new director.

Members of the library board are taking on the task, with Bob Grogg of Frederick County leading the committee. A member of the board for eight years, he has served as vice-chairman for the past four.

“Trish has been an excellent director,” he said. “Her strong points have been getting the library before the public and bringing in more people to take part in programs.”

The committee will organize and prioritize its tasks at the first meeting, he said. They know that finances, due to the present situation of the economy, will continue to be a top priority in finding the best person for the position.

The job will be posted with library associations throughout the country, Grogg said. He envisions narrowing the candidates down to two or three for face-to-face interviews.

There are 91 public library systems in Virginia, and five have library positions open, Grogg said.

Kim Armentrout, public library consultant with the Library of Virginia, has been working with the local committee and met with them last month.

“She will help us begin the search, and she knows who is available,” Grogg said.

The new director should be in place by Sept. 15, Ridgeway said, and she will help acclimate the person for the two-week period before she retires.

Changes during tenure

Ridgeway was in charge of significant changes during her years as director — major renovation of the Handley Library in Winchester, building of the Bowman Library near Stephens City, and relocating the Clarke County Library from a house to a wing of the new government building in Berryville.

The library system now has about 320,000 items in its collection, compared to 150,987 in July 1993.

The library system has 16 full-time and 40 part-time employees, Ridgeway said.

Commemorating the 100 years of the library has also been a project as she has been in charge of the publication of “Handley Regional Library, The First Hundred Years,” which will be distributed for $35 beginning Feb. 1.

A lifelong librarian

Ridgeway’s lifelong ambition was to be a librarian.

“I loved to read and was one of those who used a flashlight under the covers,” she said.

A library major at Radford University, she continued her education, receiving a master’s degree in library science from Florida State University.

Ridgeway obtained her first library job at Winthrop College in Rock Hill, S.C., as head of public services.

When her husband, Harry, was transferred to Philadelphia, she became a reference librarian and coordinator of bibliographic instruction.

The couple moved to Winchester, Harry’s home, in 1990, following the death of his father.

She worked as the local library’s head of technical services until she was appointed director in 1993.

Ridgeway admits she will miss many aspects of her job, including the staff she calls “excellent people working for us.”

Seeing all the walks of life in a public library will be another part of her job she will miss. “I just like being in a public library,” she said.

She also helps teach classes at the library, including a database software class.

Future plans

Plans after retirement are up in the air for Ridgeway, but she said she definitely needs to paint a lot of the house she shares with her husband.

In addition, she plans to continue volunteering at the Old Court House Civil War Museum in Winchester. She and her husband are on the board and have loaned their collection permanently to the museum.

She would also like to volunteer in whatever way she could be useful to the new director.

“I look forward to someone doing things I didn’t finish, especially in the area of social media,” she said. “Libraries are changing so much.”

— Contact F.C. Lowe at flowe@winchesterstar.com