From left: Kathy Lundberg of the Heatherdowns branch and Colleen Lehmann of the Holland branch have plans to retire.
Both the Heatherdowns and Holland library branch managers are retiring from the Toledo-Lucas County Public Library.
Library trustees celebrated the careers of Kathy Lundberg, 60, and Colleen Lehmann, 59, by recognizing the pair with resolutions of appreciation at their Sept. 24 board meeting.
The women recently shared their fond reflections of their combined 73 years with the library system.
Still, their departures mark an unhappy time in the library's 171-year history as state budget cuts and waning property tax revenues force the library to tighten the purse strings.
The library is offering retirement incentives for those with 30 years' experience to claim all of their sick leave - rather than half usually given upon retirement. Ms. Lundberg and Mrs. Lehmann will be among the first to walk away with the incentives. The other 31 library employees eligible to retire have until Nov. 30 to decide.
Ms. Lundberg, manager of the Heatherdowns branch since 1978, will retire Oct. 10 after 36 years in the library system.
She said had been waiting for her sister, a librarian in Kalamazoo, Mich., to be eligible for retirement so the pair could move closer to the Great Smoky Mountains. She'll use her free time to volunteer for the parks there.
"Its been such a nice organization to work for, and the library staff have been kind of like a family," Ms. Lundberg said, reflecting on her career with the library. "That's kind of why I never had an urge to go anywhere else."
Mrs. Lehmann, manager of the Holland branch since 1990, retired Sept. 30 after 43 years with the library. She moved up the ranks from a page.
She said retirement will give her more time to take some fun classes and travel to spend time with her grandchildren in Port Clinton and Georgia.
Mrs. Lehmann said she didn't seriously consider retirement because her husband continues to work. But the incentive program made her think twice.
"I might as well," she said.
Mrs. Lehmann was 15 years old when she started her career as a page shelving books. She said the most dramatic change she's seen over the decades are the ever-rising numbers of patrons walking through the doors.
When Mrs. Lehmann's career began, the library system served 139,427 registered borrowers. The library now serves more than 314,000 borrowers.
"The overdue notices used to be hand-typed," Mrs. Lehmann said. "I can't imagine that could be done by just one person anymore."
Both careers began when the card catalog was the first place patrons turned to find books. Now that computers have all but gobbled up those yellowing cards, librarians find themselves helping patrons navigate the World Wide Web more often than the shelves, the retirees said.
"A lot of it is help with computers for resumes and helping people find jobs. You can tell that's the effect of the economy," Ms. Lundberg said.
Not that the avid readers ever went away, she added.
"I still enjoy the fact that we have good readers that come here all the time, Ms. Lundberg said. "There is something therapeutic about reading a good book and you still have that."
Perhaps the most worrisome change, both retirees said, is the financial outlook of the institution that offered them careers.
"At this branch, nobody lost their job. Some had to reduce hours or be relocated to different branches but we all have jobs," Mrs. Lehmann said.
Mrs. Lehmann tries to look on the bright side, and said that staff facing potential lay-offs were encouraged by patrons that would share letters they'd written to state officials asking them to bulk up library funding.
"Before, Ohio had always been tops in the nation for its dedicated fund to the library, but it's in question now," Ms. Lundberg said.
She added that her co-workers "are well-dedicated people who have done this for years and this is always about how to best serve the people. Within that shrunken funding and reduced schedule you try to do the best you can."