Kathy Mitchell’s 40-year career at the Clintonville Public Library will come to an end on Monday, July 1, when she officially retires. Mitchell has served at the library since 1972. She has been the director since 2001.
Mitchell earned her Bachelor’s degree in English from the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh and went on to earn her Master’s degree in library science from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She came to Clintonville right after graduating.
“When I came here, I was really impressed with the size of the library, considering the size of the town,” she recalls. “I was also impressed that they had a full-time children’s librarian.”
Harriet McCauley was the director of the library, which was located in the Finney Building at that time.
“Harriet was my mentor,” said Mitchell. “I learned so much from her. She welcomed me to the community. Because of her kindness, I never felt like a stranger.
“She taught me that this job is all about serving people and helping them however you can,” added Mitchell.
For the next 28 years, Mitchell served as children’s librarian and assistant library director.
The library moved to its current facility in 1992, opening its doors for the first time on Jan. 6.
“We had children lined up from the Finney Building to the current library building,” said Mitchell. “We filled plastic bags with three or four books, and the kids just passed them along the line from the old building to the new one. The National Guard helped move the bulk of the library collection after those items were boxed up.”
With the move, the library was automating. This meant that Mitchell spent a considerable amount of time entering books into the library computer system so that a computer check-out system could be used. This was the continuation of a project that began at the Finney Building.
Mitchell’s next milestone came in February 2001, when she was named library director after McCauley retired.
“I wasn’t sure how much I would miss being the children’s librarian,” said Mitchell as she recalled the transition. “I really enjoyed reading stories to the kids and dressing up in different costumes, but I was also ready for a change.”
Mitchell said that in her 12 years as director, the automation has grown and new technology has become prominent.
“Harriet always taught me that this job never ends, it just continues,” said Mitchell with a laugh. “She was right – the automation system has grown; we now have five tablets and e-readers; and patrons can enjoy e-book downloads. We are just working to keep up with the technology.”
When asked which achievements she is most proud of, she points to the ones that have impacted hundreds of children throughout the years.
“The summer programs that help kids keep their reading skills up are so important,” said Mitchell. “I also feel that the story time program is very valuable because kids identified with the books as well as the reader. Kids would see me at the grocery store and say, ‘Look, mom! There’s the lady who lives in the library!'”
Mitchell said she has worked to keep the high standards set by McCauley in order to serve people.
“The library is about people, not just books,” said Mitchell. “I’ve worked with some wonderful people here at the library, and the city department heads have been great. People often don’t recognize their talent and hard work. Our library is also very fortunate to be part of the Outagamie Waupaca Library System (OWLS).”
When asked to reflect on the longevity of her career, Mitchell recalled the plans she had after earning her Master’s degree.
“I thought I would be here five years, and then would move on,” said Mitchell. “Harriet used to always tease me about that, because I never moved on. The community here was perfect; it became home. I married and raised my family here, and I plan to stay in Clintonville in my retirement.”
Mitchell had special thanks for McCauley, Gale Hoffman, Diane Raschke, Jamie Hein, each library board member, Dr. Jerald Schoenike, and Rick Krumwiede of OWLS.
Hein has been hired to take the reins as library director, and Mitchell is very confident in his abilities.
“I know people will treat Jamie well,” she said. “He’ll do a great job leading the library into the future.”
In her retirement, Mitchell plans to stay busy.
“There’s a family business I can help with, and I plan to be more active in the community groups I’m a part of,” said Mitchell. “And of course, I will enjoy finding time to do more reading.”
Mitchell’s last day will be July 1. The Library Board is hosting a retirement open house in Mitchell’s honor from 3-6 p.m. Tuesday, June 25, with speeches and presentations at 5:15 p.m.