Johnson County’s head librarian is retiring after almost 30 years of leading the public library system.
Beverly Martin was hired in 1987 with the duty of opening new branches and overseeing the growth of the system.
The county now has four branches and a library services center that opened under her guidance. Her accomplishments are a fitting tribute to a career that began with a love of books and storytelling.
Her passion for libraries and reading was passed down from her mother who always took Martin and her three siblings to libraries as they moved around the country. Martin’s father was a career military man, so the town libraries served as an anchoring force in Martin’s young life – one that would shape her professional destiny starting at a young age.
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“I was in junior high school when my dad was on a tour of duty in Korea. We came to a little town that had no library. They only had a bookmobile that brought a collection from the state library. I helped arrange those books in a room in the town hall — it was my first library job,” she said.
Later, as the president of her high school’s library club, Martin got to be in charge of the library when the school’s librarian went on a leave of absence.
So it wasn’t a huge decision after getting her degree at Indiana University that she should continue her education with a master’s of library science.
Before coming to Johnson County, Martin was a children’s librarian and branch manager in the Indianapolis Marion County Public Library system. She was also a school media specialist and academic librarian.
In more than 40 years, she’s seen many changes to the library system, with technology being the biggest one, she said.
Public discussion focuses on the place of libraries in modern communities. The biggest change is how more media is getting “checked out” or transmitted, but Martin said the essential role of the library remains the same.
“The biggest change has been moving away from using the card catalog to help people to find materials to basically using handheld electronic devices to do the same thing,” she said.
“Our collections have exponentially grown, and we have databases we never could have afforded available for staff and patrons to use,” she said.
Despite technology making information access and book checkouts more instantaneous and efficient than ever before, usage in the library system remains very strong.
Her feelings are summed up by a favorite quote of hers by Dale Carnegie: “A library outranks any one thing a community can do to benefit its people.”
“When you ask people what they think about libraries, it’s books and community space; one–on-one service and dedication -– that’s a thing that will never change about libraries,” she said.
“It’s never been just about books. It’s a sense of cultural space. It’s the institution that people take pride in and something their communities believe in,” she said.
When people are looking for places to be collaborative, do lifelong learning or research, the library is still the first place people go, no matter how many sources they may find online, she said.
“As wonderful as the internet is, it’s not without its foibles. Librarians will always be teachers and will always adapt to change,” she said.
“I know a lot of people have said we’re not going to need libraries, but they’re not being visionary enough when they make a statement like that,” she added.
Among Martin’s proudest achievements are the opening of the four branches that now serve the county.
When she first began, the Franklin library was at Home Avenue and Madison Street in a Carnegie building that still stands.
The White River branch was in a leased space on State Road 135 not far from where the branch is now. Before the branches were open, the library had “stations,” which were small satellite locations of the libraries open a few hours a day in Bargersville and Trafalgar.
The Clark Pleasant branch began as a partnership with the school district and was housed at Sawmill Woods Elementary school before moving to its new building.
An effort to build a new Franklin branch and a downtown parking garage failed at a referendum vote in recent years.
Martin said one thing she’s always taken pride in throughout her tenure is listening to public input – whether it was for the construction of a new building or listening to input about new databases or tools. She’s had many people tell her about how they take advantage of the branch’s broadband services. One woman said she uses Wi-Fi as she’s on her way to work every morning. She checks her email on her phone before getting out of the wireless range. Others have said they use the library Internet when they have large files to move online.
And for some patrons, the library is the only place they can use the Internet for free – about 25 percent of the library system’s patrons don’t have Internet at home, she said.
“We go by our parking lots,” Martin said. “Thirty percent of our wireless (internet traffic) is during the hours when we’re closed.”
Martin said she’ll miss her colleagues the most.
“I will truly miss the people I work with and the interaction I have with the community,” she said.
Martin will continue to serve on area boards and volunteer groups she’s been involved with for many years, including Storytelling Arts of Indiana. She was a charter board member of the group in 1988.
“Right now, I’m planning on getting caught up on reading, sleep and housecleaning,” she said laughing, but added that she plans to travel and visit colleagues she’s met and kept in touch with throughout her career who live in various places across the country.
She will also spend time with her family – including her eight nieces and nephews, many of whom live in the Indianapolis area.
Name: Beverly Martin
Position: Outgoing director of Johnson County Public Library
Hometown: Dale, Indiana
Family: Includes eight nieces and nephews, four of whom she helped raise.
Education: Indiana University, Bachelor of Arts, 1969; Indiana University, Master of Library Science, 1970
Some favorite books as an adult reader: “To Kill a Mockingbird;” books by writer Elizabeth Peters; mysteries; books about World War II; the work of John Steinbeck
Two favorite books as a former children’s librarian: “Frog and Toad” series by Arnold Lobel; “The Relatives Came,” by Cynthia Rylant, a book that brings back many of her happy childhood memories.
Honors: 2015 recipient of the Indiana Library Federation’s Lifetime Achievement Award, an accolade that honors her whole career. She’ll receive the award in November at the federation’s annual conference in Indianapolis; she’s also won many awards and honors throughout her career from the Indiana Library Federation; her work has also included helping to establish the Indiana Public Library Association when she was president of the Indiana Library Association; the Johnson County Public Library was named Library of the Year in 1989 by the Indiana Library Association.
She also served on the Caldecott Committee that awarded the medal in 1986 to “The Polar Express” by Chris Van Allsburg
Other community groups and involvements: United Way board, Franklin Rotary, Franklin Symphonic Council, Franklin Women’s Study club, Indiana Library Federation, Storytelling Arts of Indiana; American Library Association.
The Johnson County Public Library is celebrating Beverly Martin’s career and honoring her retirement with a reception on Aug. 29 at the Trafalgar library.
The party will begin at 6 p.m.
Refreshments will be provided and entertainment with storyteller Bob Sanders starting at 7 p.m.
If you would like to attend, RSVP at 346-1504.