By Michael Buhler
Charlotte Dawson saw many things change in her 14-plus years working at the Clearwater Library.
Dawson – who started working at the library in October 1998 – recently retired from working as a librarian at the city’s library after serving as part of one of its biggest eras of transition.
During her tenure there, Dawson saw the library transition from card catalogs and paper checkout cards to being much more automated and computerized.
“Computers have been a very significant change at the library,” Dawson said. “The card catalog is on computer, and materials are checked out with a computer keeping track of transactions, reading lists, fines, etc. The present library is using the second of two automation systems which is called Polaris.
“A patron can now access his account from his computer at home and request holds on materials and renew materials. The computer sends out a reminder three days before materials are due. All materials now have a bar-code that is scanned and then a print-out is given the patron.”
Card catalogs are not the only things that have changed during Dawson’s tenure at the library. Even audiobooks and movies are more digitized now.
“The materials we check out have changed over the years,” Dawson said. “Books on tape and VHS movies have been phased out and have been replaced with books on CDs, Playaways, and most recently e-books. Encyclopedias are not as big a part of the bookshelves now since updated versions can be accessed on computer.”
Another aspect that has changed during Dawson’s tenure is the amount of access that the library has to materials from other facilities.
“With the program “Agent” on the computer, I had quick access to view the Kansas State Library catalog and order materials that the Clearwater Library did not own,” Dawson said. “Several years ago, the Clearwater Public Library began using a courier system to send materials back and forth to other libraries. This has made sending materials faster and easier.”
Before joining the library, Dawson worked at Brady Nursery full time, but had quit working because of her mother’s ill health. Dawson had served on the library board when Clearwater was looking for a location for a new library and also belonged to Friends of the Library – so when a small part-time position at the new library was mentioned, she decided to apply.
“Books have always been important to me and the enjoyment of reading,” Dawson said.
After she started working at the library, Dawson organized a Junior Gardener’s group, which worked in the library’s garden area (located behind the building), did crafts and had snacks that were related to gardening. She also was involved with the Summer Reading program over the years.
“I worked with the children in kindergarten through second grade,” Dawson said. “We had stories, games, crafts and snacks once a week as well as special programs on a separate day that featured magic, ‘The Bubble Man,’ puppet shows and other fun presentations.”
However, as Dawson reflects on her time at the library, one thing stands out the most.
“Probably what I have enjoyed the most about working as a librarian is being around people that I would not have met otherwise,” Dawson said. “I have met some great people and have enjoyed working with a great bunch of co-workers and volunteers.”