My “Library Lady” died last week. When I was in the Library and Information Science program at the University of Iowa, my professors told me about “the Library Lady.” They knew that the one thing you never wanted to do as a new director in a public library was to tick off “the Library Lady.” She could make or break your tenure, so you’d better make nice with her. My “Library Lady” was Fausta Ahrens at the Eagle Grove Memorial Library. She worked at the Circulation Desk and was the resident expert on just about everything. If she didn’t know the answer to something she’d dig into the Reference collection and come up with just the right information. You see, in 1986, there was no Internet, just books. Oh, the Library had just received their first computer. It had 32K of RAM and we splurged on a 10 MB hard drive, but we were using it for word processing and typing spine labels. Fausta knew that Reference collection better than anyone and had the patience and resolve to keep searching until she found the answer. She greeted everyone who came into the library by name, asked about their children or friends, and made everyone feel welcome. She was the best customer service representative I’ve ever known, and I learned the value of a smile and the art of conversation from her. When the Library started the process of automating, she decided to retire. The printed word and the love of knowledge remained important to her for many years, until Alzheimer’s consumed her.
My “Library Lady” died last week. I’m a better person for knowing her.