Long term Susquehanna County Library director Susan Stone retired at the end of last month after over 40 years of devoting herself to people searching for a book, researching a project, or just looking for a quiet place to read.
Stone, a lifelong Susquehanna County resident, started her work with the library’s Bookmobile in December of 1974 after trying her hand at becoming a professional musician.
“When I got in the ranks but realized, ‘I’m not as talented as some of these people,’” Stone said last week.
Stone then set her eyes on becoming a school librarian. Stone went to Marywood University in Scranton for a degree in library science. She also remembers working locally at Bud’s Drive-In for 94 cents an hour.
Years later, after a stop at the University at Albany for her masters at the encouragement of the library board, Stone eventually became head of the $900,000 a year county library system, employing over 20 people at five locations, including one in Montrose.
“People say the library is just books. Not anymore, not since I’ve been there. It’s changed radically,” Stone said.
Nowadays, while you will certainly end up using the Dewey Decimal System to find a copy of Stone’s favorite book, To Kill A Mockingbird, you most likely won’t get its classification number from a card catalog, but from a computer screen. (By the way, yes, she believes Harper Lee wrote Mockingbird, but with a lot of help from her friend, Truman Capote.)
With that change came a shift in priorities and a refocus on two new primary challenges, said Stone.
“Keeping it up to date,” Stone said of the first. “Technology, as soon as you open the box, it’s old. The funding to keep the technology updated and the other part is keeping the staff so that they are able to help someone,” she said, referencing the second.
“A lot of people have turned to e-books. We have an e-book program, you check it out for two weeks and you don’t have to worry about it being overdue. We have a pretty sizeable readership for that, too,” Stone said.
Another change to the library was the opening in July 2017 of the new 21,000 square foot Montrose branch library complete with a community room capable of hosting up to 100 visitors.
Hardbound copy, e-book or smartphone screen, the one constant which has persevered throughout the years is that people will always look for something to read, she said.
“I think people will always read. It’s entertainment. I always make sure I have something to read,” Stone said.
Like others in the public service sectors, Stone bemoaned the state of funding for public libraries.
“Now it’s really tough,” she said.
One third of the library’s budget comes from the annual Montrose Blueberry Festival in August. Other monies come from contributions, the county library tax, the spring auction, lotteries and sales from the book room at the Montrose location.
“It’s very unusual for someone to start on the Bookmobile and end up director of the library,” said Carol Carpenter, the current president of the library’s board of trustees.
“Her favorite part of working at the library was doing the children’s story hours. She really did a lot for the library and the community, especially for the children,” Carpenter said.
In recognition of this, trustees presented Stone with a plaque dedicating the library’s children’s room in her name during a farewell get together on her retirement last month.
“She’s a very special person. Not too many people in the world we live in today have a job for that many years. She was dedicated. We need more people like her,” Carpenter said.
The Susquehanna County Historical Society & Free Library Association recognized Stone’s contribution to the local community with a formal announcement, the dedication of the Montrose branch’s children’s library in her name, memorialized with a commemorative plaque.
“The Children’s Room of the Montrose Library is now dedicated in Susan’s honor. On Monday, Dec. 21, Board members presented her with a plaque that will be hung by the entrance to the Children’s Room. Susan has served the Susquehanna County community for 46 years, starting her career at the library in 1974. The Board and the Susquehanna Historical Society & Free Library Association staff wish her all the best in her upcoming retirement,” the board and association said in a prepared release.
Stone’s interests of late have turned to mountains, she says.
“Recently I’ve become very fascinated with climbing Everest. I know I’ll never do it,” she said, laughing.
But that interest comes from books which, in her case anyway, come from libraries.
“I think the world keeps turning and I think libraries are going to stick around,” she said.
“It’s really a gathering place. You can come, bring two or three friends, bring a laptop,” Stone said.