It was about 22 years ago at the former Grace Smith's Cafeteria downtown when someone walked up to Margaret Callahan at lunch and offered congratulations.
“I didn't know what they were talking about, but then they said I'd been appointed to the library board,” Mrs. Callahan recalled.
“I had no idea. I hadn't even applied,” she said at a reception last week after attending her last meeting of the trustees of the Toledo-Lucas County Public Library.
During her years on the board she has been president, vice president, and secretary and has served on many of its committees. She never learned why she was appointed by Lucas County's common pleas judges, “but I had gone to law school with all of them.”
Mrs. Callahan said she had no specific reason to step down. "The time is right for me to go,” she said, quoting Vice President Gore in his concession speech.
Though she has seen a number of positive developments in the local library system, Mrs. Callahan said the most impressive is the expansion of the downtown branch and the ongoing renovation of the historic library building on Michigan Street. “It's something we've been thinking about for 10 years. It's a jewel,” she said. “It's a most exciting time.”
The renovation should be finished in late April, when it will open and operate as one facility with the addition.
Clyde Scoles, library director, said he valued the commitment Mrs. Callahan continued to have in the library's book collection.
Though the library has embraced computers, the Internet, and other high-tech systems, Mrs. Callahan has kept an eye on the core of a library - its books.
She said she was interested in both the depth and the breadth of the collection and watched to be sure that an apparent emphasis in one area did not shortchange another area of interest.
Mrs. Callahan came to Toledo from Lexington, Ky., in 1945 because her sister lived here.
“I'd already been a teacher for seven years, and I was looking for a career change,” she said.
She began work as a secretary at the Marshal & Melhorn law firm and started organizing papers involving a major lawsuit. The filings eventually reached about 6,000 she said.
The work led her to the University of Toledo's college of law, from which she graduated in 1952. The next year she joined the first in-house legal department at Libbey-Owens-Ford Co.
“I retired from there about 20 years ago, but I've kept so busy, and I'm not sure what year that was,” she said.
Mrs. Callahan was among the first women to graduate from the college of law and, in 1979, became the first female referee in Toledo Municipal Court. She heard cases involving traffic, small claims, and housing complaints. In addition she taught business law at the law college at UT and at Owens Community College. She said she stopped teaching three or four years ago.
Although she's leaving the library board of trustees, she said she will continue on the governing board of the college of law and will remain busy with other activities and friends.
Seven trustees oversee operation of the library and serve six-year terms. The Lucas County commissioners appoint four members; the others are picked by the Lucas County common pleas judges. They are not paid but are reimbursed for expenses.
Unlike the days when one could be appointed to the library board of trustees without even showing an interest, the common pleas judges soon will take applications before deciding on a replacement.