Susan Pieper will retire after 22 years of service to the Paulding County Carnegie Library and its patrons. Photo courtesy of the library.
Susan Pieper will retire after 22 years of service to the Paulding County Carnegie Library and its patrons. Photo courtesy of the library.
By ANDREA AGLER

Correspondent

PAULDING – After 22 years as the director of the Paulding County Carnegie Library, Susan Hill Pieper is retiring.  However, her legacy both at the library and in the community is well-cemented into the future.

During her lengthy tenure, Pieper was able to implement and administer many services at the library. In 2000, she oversaw the opening of the Oakwood branch, which has been a great resource for that community. 2001 saw the library receive a Computer Lab grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The library was awarded several computers for a training lab, along with an instructor computer and projector.

Also awarded during Pieper’s stint was a Library Services Technology Act funding, helping the library migrate to Polaris online automation.

“These new technologies opened a world of information to citizens, providing them with workforce development opportunities as well as ways to engage in social media and the online world,” said Pieper.

Other accomplishments include a Bookmobile created in 2011, which provides library service to isolated county locations, including nursing homes, Head Start programs and preschools.

Also, in 2016 the library system received a $50,000 grant from the Ann Sherry Foundation to add a 3-D printer, sewing machines, microscopes, robotics, textile arts resources, and building sets to all locations.

As with anyone who has worked at one location for many years, Pieper has a few favorite career highlights.

Certainly, a high point was in 2009, when she was hired by the United States Department of States to travel to Romania and commence the rebuilding of a rural library system. Pieper expressed, “Citizens in the United States have no clue what it is like to live in a society with no public libraries. When a communist regime overthrows a democratic government, one of the first institutions they close are the public libraries. They can control the curriculum at schools, but they cannot control the free flow of information that free public libraries offer, so they are closed.”

Pieper’s work in Romania was eye-opening. “In Romania, their revolution was in 1989 and it took them 20 years to begin rebuilding their libraries. Their citizenry is hungry for books and information. The stories of books smuggled on photocopied sheets being read with a flashlight under the covers was true prior to 1989.”

Pieper also enjoyed traveling throughout Ohio, training other library staffs throughout the state to work with the Ohio Public Library Information Network (OPLIN), a computer database.

Technology is one area in which Pieper has seen the most change in her years at the library.

“Basically, we started evolving from a book-based research to computer research. Instead of referring to the big green indexed Guide to Periodicals, we could access the full-text magazine article online. Research capabilities exploded along with the Information Age.”

In addition, she has seen changes in the way public libraries are utilized by the general public. “We have more people using public computers working on school, resumes, and government information, than ever before. We are a resource for citizens looking to hone their skills for the workplace and actually finding jobs via library resources.”

With all the technological advances in society, some individuals may think libraries are becoming obsolete. Pieper however, feels there are some areas in which technology cannot replace the role of a library.

“Yes, a person can access an unlimited amount of data from online resources. But is that data credible? Is it authoritative? Libraries and trained staff are the conduit between the researcher and the information patrons need.”

The library staff also assists Paulding County citizens in finding jobs. Literacy development resources are offered, as is homework help for children. The county libraries also distribute “Diaper Chapters” to new parents, which address the importance of reading aloud to infants and young children.

Perhaps the most vital reason for the library is the one-on-one, personal connection. According to Pieper, “Human interaction is not just about connecting people with information. It is also the intangibles like rejoicing with patrons over good news and feeling their pain when they share challenges. In small communities we get to know our patrons and look forward to each interaction. We are happy to see you walk through the doors of your public library.”

It seems Paulding County understands the value of its libraries. Over 85,900 people visited Paulding County’s libraries and borrowed over 200,000 items in 2018. There are over 15,500 active card-holders, and the public library computers were used over 12,200 times, with over 14,100 eMaterials borrowed.

Although Pieper is retiring, she still has many future goals she would like to see come to fruition for the library. One such goal is to expand the main library to include a community meeting room, so the library has the capability to host educational opportunities, public forums, author visits, and other events. Another goal is to open a branch in Grover Hill, and eventually one in Cecil.

Pieper credits the dedicated teams of library professionals she worked with over the past several years with helping her realize so many of her goals.

“The library team throughout the past two decades were dedicated, passionate individuals who believed in providing the best possible library service to the citizens of Paulding County.”

She has many plans for retirement, including spending time on her small farm working with her horse, gardening, and expanding her butterfly station, traveling with her husband, and just seeing what each day brings.

Pieper offered advice to anyone considering a career in library science. The first step is to pursue an undergraduate degree, then obtain a master’s in library science.

“My generation of librarians are retiring. There will be openings for youth librarians, teen librarians, academic, school, special, computer specialists, maker space specialists, the list goes on and on. Whatever you love doing, you will be able to find a niche in librarianship. It’s a very diverse profession, very open and welcoming for all backgrounds.”