In 1972, a 14-year-old Mount Ethereal Excessive College scholar named Pat Johnston wanted to boost some cash for a category journey to Washington, D.C., so she walked into the Mount Ethereal Public Library and requested for a part-time job.
She received the job, which was way over a easy option to elevate just a few funds.
This weekend Pat — now Pat Gwyn — walks out of the library for the ultimate time as a staffer. In between was a greater than 49-year profession that Gwyn describes as her dream job.
“I’ve loved each minute of it. I’ve by no means wished to do anything.”
In the present day is her final official day as head librarian on the Mount Ethereal Public Library — her official title is department supervisor for the power, which is a part of the Northwest Regional Library System.
She’s seen loads of adjustments over time, from a time when getting a e book on the library meant asking the librarian to look by way of an enormous card catalog to find out if the e book was within the library’s assortment to as we speak, when almost each e book printed over the previous century, or two, is out there in some kind with a easy click on on a wise cellphone.
By means of all of it, Gwyn has by no means misplaced her love of two issues — books and folks.
“I don’t know wherever else you would put these two issues collectively, books and folks, like you would at a library,” she stated not too long ago, exuding an enthusiasm that reveals Gwyn is a type of uncommon people who finds her true calling early on in life, after which will get to spend that life pursuing her chosen profession.
When she was 5 years previous, Gwyn’s household moved to Pilot Mountain, the place she recollects making one in every of her first visits to a public atheneum.
“We walked all the way in which throughout Pilot Mountain, to the library,” she says of what appeared like an extended, and particular, journey to a 5-year-old. “We went within the door … I appeared straight throughout the room and I noticed Ruth Stone sitting there, surrounded by books,” she stated of the long-time librarian. “I believed, ‘That is the place to be.’”
And that was the place she typically frequented throughout her childhood and teenage years, calling herself a “common patron” of the library after that.
Alongside the way in which her household moved to Mount Ethereal, and she or he received to know the workers on the metropolis department of the library, which led to that first job.
“I went to (librarian) Frances Tharrington and requested if she might use any assist. … She did let me work there. I believe she even paid me out of her personal pocket for a couple of month,” Gwyn stated, nonetheless grateful in spite of everything these years for that sort gesture by a girl who would grow to be a mentor.
She remained on the workers previous the summer time job, working no matter odd duties wanted to be executed there, ultimately ending highschool, then going to Surry Neighborhood School.
Aside from one summer time job attempting her hand at a mill, she by no means left the town library, transferring up from one place to a different — in addition to transferring to the present location in 1982 — till she was named head librarian within the late ’90s.
Whereas many within the library area find yourself with levels in library science or associated disciplines, Gwyn stated her schooling got here by way of “on the job coaching.”
She credit three individuals specifically for her growth — Frances Tharrington, Mary Combs and Julia Sharp, her predecessors on the metropolis library.
“They had been all great. I realized various things from every of them. I hope I’ve carried on what they began, what they taught me.”
One of many issues she recollects from her days working for every of these libraries is the household ambiance all of them instilled among the many workers, one thing she’s labored arduous to proceed.
“We actually do work as a group,” she stated. “We’re actually household. That household has modified over time,” however, she says, the group all the time appears to work effectively collectively, genuinely wanting to assist each other and assist their patrons.
In reflecting on her profession, Gwyn doesn’t discuss simply about herself, as an alternative wanting the deal with her life’s calling — the library itself.
“I’ve all the time believed the library is for everybody,” she stated.
Dwelling as much as that ideally suited has offered challenges. First, the potential area of library patrons is wide-ranging, together with kids not but in a position to learn, teenagers, adults busy with jobs and household, and senior residents searching for success of their latter years.
Add to that the truth that the world has modified quickly, as has what’s obtainable on the library. When she began, people would are available in, ask the librarian for assist discovering a e book, which frequently meant spending a few minutes poring by way of the voluminous card catalog, which in flip would direct them to the shelf holding the e book in query.
Now? A fast Google search and people can have the collected data of the world on seemingly any topic.
And that, Gwyn says, results in one vital operate the library companies for some — entry to the digital world.
“Not everybody has entry to the Web,” she says, which is especially true in rural communities resembling Surry County. Thus, the library has computer systems obtainable without cost entry to the web for anybody with a library card.
Just a few years in the past, she stated when the textile corporations started closing, leaving 1000’s jobless, the library was able to play a task in serving to these people.
Many, she stated, had been now confronted with going to highschool for retraining, an intimidating activity since a lot of the work can be on laptop. “A lot of them got here to us, stated they don’t know learn how to use a pc.”
So, the library started holding primary laptop courses — one thing it nonetheless does now and again, or a minimum of did earlier than the COVID-19 pandemic,
The library additionally has a major emphasis on kids’s programming, together with story time for many who can’t but learn, youth actions, summer time studying applications, and different actions.
For adults, she stated along with the massive and ever-growing catalog of bodily books, patrons can borrow ebooks, and participate in a lot of actions — studying golf equipment, writer talks, laptop courses and the like. The library has additionally provided printing companies for sure gadgets, assist with resume writing, voter registration, tax preparation for decrease revenue people, and an enormous array of different companies.
The library, she stated, serves as a option to “degree the sector” for native residents who won’t have entry to, or be capable of afford, paid professionals providing these companies.
With all of these companies obtainable within the constantly-changing world, Gwyn nonetheless comes again to her first experiences within the library in describing what she hopes the library stays.
“After I was younger, regardless of the place we lived, we all the time went to the library. That’s what we wish individuals to understand now, the library generally is a common a part of their lives.”
Now that she’s handing the management over to another person, Gwyn stated she’s prepared for the subsequent chapter of her life, no matter that is perhaps.
“I’m sort of excited to see what I’m going to do,” she stated, with no concrete plans. Gwyn stated she and her husband, John, don’t have any explicit craving to journey lots, and whereas she enjoys a backyard, it’s her husband who does many of the precise gardening work.
“I’ve grandchildren, I do stay up for spending extra time with them, maybe serving to with their college. … I’ve two sisters who’ve retired, with the pandemic we haven’t been in a position to get collectively. I’m hopeful we will spend extra time collectively.”
It’s additionally a superb guess no matter path retirement takes, she’ll be strolling by way of a well-known door very often, turning into a “common patron” of the library as soon as once more.