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Miller set to retire from Roberts library

Kathy Miller (left) is retiring after 24 years as Hazel Mackin Community Library assistant director. She and her husband Wayne (right), also retired, plan to travel and spend more time with their grandchildren.

Kathy Miller has enjoyed libraries since her preschool days, when she would walk to the Racine Public Library with her mother and baby brother.

"Mom would head upstairs to the adult department and I'd go downstairs to the children's area," Miller said.

In sixth grade, Miller had some of her earliest experience working at a library, helping to process books and fill empty shelves at her elementary school library.

Miller's love of libraries eventually led her to become assistant director of the Hazel Mackin Community Library in Roberts.

Miller has held the position since 1989. She will retire effective July 1, after 24 years at the library.

"I've grown in many ways since July 1, 1989," Miller said, "and the experience has been very enjoyable."

Miller's early interest in libraries led her to consider a library career as a ninth-grader. When given an assignment to write a paper on the career she hoped to enter, Miller said she wrote about becoming a librarian. However, while researching that paper Miller decided not to pursue a college degree in library science.

"At that time, if you wanted to study library science, it meant going to UW-Madison and taking French," Miller said. "I didn't want to go to that big a school, and I didn't want to take French."

Miller ended up in fashion merchandising at Stout State University (now the University of Wisconsin-Stout).

"Of course, in fashion merchandising, I was required to take French. I just couldn't get away from it," Miller said. "Don't ask me to speak it. I can't."

After college, Miller was a stay-at-home mom to two sons. In 1986, she began working at Grannie's, a craft store that existed in Roberts at the time. When Grannie's closed in 1988, Miller did sewing alterations and repairs from home until the Roberts Library began looking for an assistant director in the summer of 1989.

"It was a nice place to work with someone I knew, former Director Bev Jacobson, doing something I enjoyed (working with books) and it was close to home," Miller said. "I never thought about it being a 24-year position."

Miller has seen many changes in her 24 years at the Hazel Mackin Community Library, from switching from the card catalogue system to the computerized system used today, to the construction of the "new" library building on Warren Street.

Miller said moving into the new library three years ago is her favorite memory from her 24 years as assistant director.

"It's something the library board and the community worked long and hard to make happen," Miller said.

Now, Miller said, she enjoys seeing the way the number of library patrons has grown since the new library was opened, especially the number of men, both single and with families, using the library.

Miller first became involved with the Hazel Mackin Community Library in the early 1970s, through her involvement in a local women's organization that existed at that time, called Community Women in Action. The group started the Hazel Mackin Community Library in 1975. At that time, the library was located on Main Street, across from the Roberts Grocery Store.

Miller, who served as secretary and publicity chair of Community Women in Action at various times, also volunteered at the library, helping out with its summer reading programs.

When Mary Torres retired as Hazel Mackin Community Library director in 1989, the then-Assistant Director Bev Johnson became the director, and Miller was hired to fill the open assistant director position.

Miller said she would like to thank the library board and her library coworkers, including Director Brenda Hackman, Youth Services Director Krissa Coleman, Youth Services assistant Melissa Schulte and library aides Linda Esch and Gayle Liverett, Nathan Bringgold and Phyllis Hoel. She also had a special thank you for those who use the library.

"To all those patrons I have watched grow up and now bring your own children, thanks for letting me be part of your family's life," Miller said. "To all the people who have moved in, and sometimes out, of the Good Neighbor Community over the past 24 years, thank you for using the library. Without you coming in the front door and me working here, I would not have had the privilege to meet so many of you."

Not seeing the library's patrons on a regular basis will be one of the biggest adjustments of retirement for Miller.

However, Miller said she looks forward to using the library as a patron, and participate in some of the library's many programs. She and her husband Wayne also plan to travel and to spend more time with their grandchildren.

Miller said she will miss her position at the library, but she is looking forward to meeting the people she has gotten to know during her time as assistant director at the library and around town.

"It's been a wonderful position to have," Miller said, "and one that few people have the privilege of enjoying."

Jeff Holmquist
Jeff Holmquist has been managing editor of the New Richmond News since 2004. He holds a bachelor's degree in journalism and business administration from the University of Wisconsin-River Falls. He has previously worked as editor in Wadena, Minn.; Detroit Lakes, Minn.; Hutchinson, Minn.; and Bloomington, Minn. He also was previously owner of the Osceola Sun, Stillwater Courier and Scandia Messenger along with his wife. Together they previously founded and published The Old Times newspaper for antiques and collectibles collectors; and Up!, a Christian magazine of hope and encouragement.
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