STEUBENVILLE - Come Wednesday, Linda Stuller will be facing the realities of retirement.
After 26 years as Schiappa branch manager and childrens' coordinator for the Public Library of Steubenville and Jefferson County, Stuller is calling it quits: Tuesday is to be her last day on the job.
"The hardest part, for me, is probably going to be (saying goodbye to) the people I work with," she said. "Some of them I've worked with for more than 20 years. Librarians tend to stay in one place they get in, they like the job and they learn it. The hardest part will be not seeing the people I work with, and the public, you start to recognize them. I'll miss being able to do the little things, like finding a book for them they didn't know we had or getting it from another library."
RETIRING — Linda Stuller is retiring this week after 26 years at the helm of the Schiappa branch of the Public Library of Steubenville and Jefferson County. -- Linda Harris
A Steubenville native, Stuller remembers looking out her window back in 1986 and seeing the Schiappa branch go up, brick-by-brick. It was, she realized then, an opportunity to "get my foot in the door."
"It opened at the right time," she said.
Trained as a teacher and librarian, Stuller's 10-year hiatus from her job as librarian at a local elementary school to be a stay-at-home mom to her two sons was winding down. Her youngest was ready to go off to kindergarten, "and I was ready to go back to work," she said.
With a bachelor's degree from Kent State University, where she majored in elementary education and minored in library science, and a master's in education from the University of Dayton, she had the background library officials were looking for.
"They were looking for someone with a background working with children, hoping this library could cater to families," she said. "It was a perfect fit for me."
In those days the library was in its infancy. It was about half the size of the current facility, she said, and when they first opened they didn't have all that many books on the shelves. They started with a core collection, "artfully arranged" so that the open spaces weren't quite so obvious.
"But people were so good, donating books to us," she said. "They wanted the library, they wanted to use it, and what we had they picked over."
Stuller said in those days, Mall Drive looked nothing like it does now.
"There was no one here," she said. "No Kmart, no Lowe's or Applebee's. There was no Aldi's across the street. This was it, sitting out in the middle of a huge field, but the location is wonderful."
Nor did the building look anything like it does now. In 1993 they added a reference room, an Ohio Room, a conference room, two study rooms and a large children's area with its own restrooms and activities area. They also automated the library system, barcoding the entire collection as well as patron cards, and added laptops for patrons to use in-house. They've also added free Internet access, classes to help people use the Internet and even "tech help" for folks with electronic devices they're not quite sure how to use.
"It's changed drastically,' she said. "We have a study room for tutors, a conference room. The offices are new, and we have a huge childrens' area and story hour room."
Stuller said she's most proud of the way residents from throughout Jefferson County have responded to Schiappa throughout the years.
"Even though we're not in a neighborhood, we're still their library," she said. "That was the idea of putting it here, it's kind of a central location to the county. You know you're in the right place when you're accessible to this many people."
She said she's also "very proud to have worked for a public agency that is efficient, useful, thrifty, and forward-thinking," as well as it's adaptability, particularly in keeping step with changing technology, to ensure it remains "an asset and a vital part of the community."
And now, with retirement just hours away, she said she's grateful "for so many wonderful memories."
"They're like snapshots in a scrapbook in my head," she said. "The first patron who got the first card on the first day we opened, the lines of patient patrons waiting to get library cards as staff typed (on typewriters) as quickly as they could, the many books donated by people to help us fill our quickly-emptied shelves, and now, people sitting with their laptops in the cafe area, the lines of folks at the Internet terminals, the red line of the laser scanners reading barcodes, kids and tutors in the study rooms, people selecting DVD's and little one's playing games on the children's computers or sitting quietly listening to a story."
Stuller and her husband, Mark, have two sons and three grandchildren, with whom she plans to spend more time.