EAST DUNDEE – With six decades of combined service to the Dundee Library, two children’s librarians are closing the book on their careers.
Kathy Mitchell and Kathy Stensing have worked at the Dundee Library for 31 and 29 years, respectively. Both will be retired by Tuesday.
Mitchell’s last day was Friday and said the moment was bittersweet.
“I have mixed feelings,” she 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 into the library and began “dive bombing” the children. Then there was the time 2 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 ran continuously 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 gets done].”
They have been working at the library so long that children they read to years ago now have children of their own, and those kids are coming in for story time.
“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 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 and neither said she 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 said they plan to spend more time with grandchildren, volunteering and, of course, reading with their newfound free time.
“People have this misconception that we sit at 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.”