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Two Dundee librarians retire after combined 60 years of service

(Jim Dallke -
Kathy Stensing (left) and Kathy Mitchell (right) have worked at the Dundee Library for 29 and 31 years respectively. Mitchell retired Friday and Stensing's last day will be January 4.

EAST DUNDEE – With six decades of combined service to the Dundee Library, two children's librarians are calling it quits.

Kathy Mitchell and Kathy Stensing have worked at the Dundee Library for 31 and 29 years respectively, and will both be retiring by January 4. Mitchell's last day was Friday and said the moment was bittersweet.

“I have mixed feelings,” Mitchell said. “It's been a good 31 years. There have been a lot of wonderful memories. But I'm not very good at saying goodbye.”

Mitchell and Stensing sat together Friday and reflected on some of those memories, including the time bees got in to the library and started “dive bombing” the kids. And the time two inches of water leaked into the bottom floor of the library and flooded the reading pit. And neither could forget the time the children's toilet continually ran until it overflowed.

“We thought, 'I wonder how long a toilet can run before something really bad happens,'” Mitchell said smiling. “And one night we found out.”

Mitchell and Stensing's specialty is story time. The two often read books to the children together, and that's where their experience really comes into play.

“I think we can actually do mental telepathy,” Mitchell said. “If we're up there doing story time, and you're thinking something needs to be altered a little bit, it's to the point you sort of give the look [and it get's done].”

They have been working at the library so long that children they once read to years ago now have children of their own, and those kids are now coming in for story time themselves.

“We both love kids,” Stensing said. “I never thought of this as a job. You get to come to work every day and you get to be with kids. It's fun.”

Mitchell and Stensing have seen the library evolve over the past 30 years into a much more technological operation. Computers and eBooks have given the library extra resources and increased access to information, but children's love for hard-copy books hasn't wavered, Stensing said.

“Twenty-nine years ago kids were excited when you would find a book for them on the shelves,” she said. “I think today they're just as excited when you go to that shelf and find that book for them.”

Both Mitchell and Stensing believe in the power of libraries. Neither expects computers to eliminate the need for libraries.

“With the programs we offer … where can you get that for free anywhere else?” Stensing said.

“You might have NOOKs or Kindles,” Mitchelll said. “We just bought one for Christmas. But I will not sit in front of the computer to read a book.”

Roxane Bennett is the director of the Dundee Library and said she has seen the benefits of Mitchell and Stensing's story time with children.

“Everyone wants their child to have that magic experience of coming to story time at the library,” Bennett said. “They've been that basis here for 30 years together.”

“They just have a wonderful rapport with the children,” said Mary Povilonis, a business assistant at the library who took her daughter to story time with Mitchell and Stensing 20 years ago. “They are the children's department. They will be dearly missed.”

Both Mitchell and Stensing plan on spending more time with grand kids, volunteering, and of course, reading with their new-found free time.

“People have this misconception that we sit a desk all day and read,” Mitchell said. “I wish. This will free us up to do the things we've always wanted to do.”

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