Library employees enjoy long overdue reunion

Posted: June 24, 2013

The Winchester Star

Winchester — Trish Ridgeway choked up as she spoke to a room full of people at a library staff reunion held Sunday at Handley Library.

It is amazing, said the director of the Handley Regional Library system, to have so much of the library’s history represented in one place.

Especially moving for her was sharing the stage in the auditorium with three of her predecessors.

“Every one of them has made a vital contribution to the library,” she said. “The rest of us have stood on their shoulders.”

The event brought back former and current staff members for an afternoon of reminiscing as part of the library’s 100th anniversary celebrations this year, said Pat Ritchie, event coordinator and the library’s executive assistant.

About 100 people attended, including staff and their families, she said. The former employees stretched all the way back to the 1940s.

The special guests of the day were the library’s four living librarians and directors. The library has been headed by six people since it opened in 1913.

David Rowland, who was librarian from July 1961 to June 1965, praised the library for what it has become and continues to offer the community.

He shared his memories of the “deplorable state” the library was in when he arrived. The building was dirty, dusty and cluttered, and the first floor stank, he said.

“All of this was covered by a leaky roof — and I mean leaky,” he said.

The main assets he had were a good staff and a good location, both of which he used to help clean the library and start reintroducing it to the community.

The speakers also shared some of their funnier moments working at the library.

Richard A. Miller, head librarian from July 1973 to August 1988, remembered being called by longtime staff member Johan Coates to her office during a thunderstorm. She could see out her window that a storm drain was backed up and causing flooding.

“I said Mrs. Coates, please turn your back,” Miller recalled. “Then I stripped to my underwear, got a bucket, and went outside and bailed water until the thunderstorm ended.”

Marianne Roos, director from August 1988 to March 1993, and Ridgeway, July 1993 to present, also spoke.

A jovial Ritchie kept the atmosphere upbeat with games designed to recognize the various staff members attending.

She handed out gifts for achievements such as working for the most directors, serving at all of the library’s locations, and farthest distance traveled.

She also recognized the current staff members for the years they have worked there.

Joyce Casey received special recognition for working 40 years as a circulation aide at the library. She was surprised and touched by the honor and the pink tiara and flashing scepter she received.

The entire reunion was a fun stroll down memory lane, she said. “It is so much fun to recognize people and talk about things that happened in the library or to us.”

Former employee Adolene Long of Winchester, who worked at the library form 1944 to 1948, didn’t have any contemporaries with whom to talk about old times, but she still enjoyed herself.

“They did a recording in the archives room about my experiences here at the library. I’ve had a wonderful time,” she said.

— Contact Laura McFarland at lmcfarland@winchesterstar.com