The pages of her life

In her element at Newton Public Library, director Marianne Eichelberger has been director for more than 25 years. Photo by Wendy Nugent

On any given day, Newton Public Library is bustling with patrons working on computers, searching for that special book that might help them learn to cook or use a camera, or sitting quietly reading a magazine.

Staff members sit behind glass windows near the check-out counter, laughing, enjoying themselves and working hard. One staff member, director Marianne Eichelberger, also is behind the scenes, making sure things run smoothly at the library, and through the library, she lives out her philosophy on life.

?To serve others, to help others,? Eichelberger said about her viewpoint, sitting at a table in her office.

One of the favorite things about her job, she said, is working with the community, such as with businesses and organizations, to see how the library can help them.

?(We want to) provide quality library services for everyone,? Eichelberger said. ?We?re always interested in seeing ways we can help the community.?

And help the community they do. The library provides not only books, magazines, DVDs and many other items for checkout, but a variety of services. These include ENLITE homebound delivery, talking books, meeting rooms, tax preparation assistance, computer access, interlibrary loans and genealogy programs.

The library offers activities and programs for all ages, such as the summer reading program for youth, teens and adults; book discussions; story times during the school year; smart phone workshops; teen craft times and movies times; art displays; and programs for senior citizens presented by the Kansas Learning Center for Health. The Teen Video Group creates video clips that promote the library and reading.

Other parts of Eichelberger?s job she enjoys are new resources and programming.

Through the State Library of Kansas, Newton Public Library was the beta site for a pilot project where people check out mobile Wi-Fi routers and mini iPads. The library extended the Wi-Fi project through January, and they?re hoping to continue it. There have been nine of each available for the public, and people can check out the mini iPads through the end of 2015.

?We?ve had positive response from people who have used it,? Eichelberger said, adding there?s always been a long waiting list for those items.

People use them for a variety of purposes, such as job searches, homework, emails and video chats.

Before she ever became director of NPL, which Eichelberger has been for more than 25 years, she had an interest in reading as a child when she grew up on a farm in rural Whitewater. She read a great deal as a youth.

Eichelberger didn?t visit libraries very often, but school librarians let her take books home for the summer.

When the budding librarian was a student at Remington High School in Whitewater, she was hired to work with books.

?That?s when I started in libraries,? she said. ?It was my senior year in high school.?

There, she worked under the tutelage of a professional librarian.

?Some of the stuff she taught me, I still use today,? Eichelberger said.

Some of that included processing/ordering books and maintenance of the collection.

While initially working in libraries, she had a good time.

?I enjoyed it, and I had good librarians I worked under,? Eichelberger said, adding she also worked with great staff who encouraged her to go into that field.

?Especially at Bethel (College), they encouraged me to go on,? she said.

Marianne Eichelberger shares a laugh with NPL employee Susan Bartel. Photo by Wendy Nugent

At that North Newton school, Eichelberger was a history major, as she was interested in historical books. When she received her master?s degree at Emporia State University, her emphasis was in academic librarianship. While at Bethel, she worked in the library her senior year, and at ESU, she was a student library assistant.

Eichelberger?s employment resume includes being a librarian at the Mennonite Library and Archives at Bethel for three years and at Hesston Public Library for 11 years. When she worked at Hesston, it was the first time the library had employed a professional librarian.

When Eichelberger was employed at Bethel College, she did so under a three-year grant in a full-time position. Her job was to catch up the Mennonite Library and Archives on its collection.

?They had a backlog of materials that weren?t catalogued and processed,? she said.

After the three years, the position wasn?t going to be full time anymore.

?So I started looking for other options,? the librarian said.

That?s when she landed at Hesston Public Library.

During her years as a librarian, Eichelberger has seen changes. When she worked at Bethel doing cataloguing, she typed old catalogue cards on a typewriter. Later, there were carbon copy cards.

?So that was a big advancement,? Eichelberger said, smiling.

Her career has gone from using typewritten card catalogues to online checkout and materials that are available through the Web.

?People can check out what we have (from) anywhere in the world,? she said.

Back in the day, most things were on paper, and now the big change is most things are online, which allows easier access for everybody, Eichelberger said. However, people still check out books. Some people just like the feel and smell of a book, as opposed to using a Kindle-type of machine. Books still are popular.

?You bet and (people) do (check them out),? Eichel?berger said. ?Still very popular.?

Eichelberger continues to enjoy reading, which is one of her hobbies, along with cooking, collecting recipes, working in the yard and travel. She used to like antiquing, too.

?I enjoy being out in my yard in the summer,? she said, adding she?s done some landscaping.

Eichelberger likes gardens and landscaping so much she came up with the idea for the almost annual garden tour that benefits the library collection for adults. She suggested it to the Second Century Library Foundation-Newton, which is under the Central Kansas Community Foundation. Second Century hosts the event.

The tour has been annual except for one year when there was an extreme drought, according to the NPL website, so it?s been done 19 times. This year, the tour will be June 13-14 in Newton/North Newton.

In her travels, there?s one particular trip Eichelberger noted, which was going to the Soviet Union as a Bethel student in 1972. Cornelius Krahn, faculty member from Bethel College, and Clarence Hiebert, faculty member from Tabor College in Hillsboro, led the tour of the western Soviet Union and Ukraine.

?It was a very interesting time,? Eichelberger said. ?That, or course, was communist Russia, but it was neat to see it in winter.?

At one point, she recalled someone said it was -30 in Moscow.

Eichelberger, a Menno?nite, has a personal interest in Russia, as her ancestors are from near Kiev, but they didn?t visit that area.

When Hiebert put together a book for the 1974 celebration of Mennonites coming to the area, Eichel?berger was his assistant. The book included ship lists, photos and other things related to their immigration. Eichelberger said she?s mentioned in the book.

Eichelberger said she also enjoyed doing research for Krahn?s 75th birthday; Krahn was from Russia, and she put together a bibliography of all his works. Krahn was the founding editor of Mennonite Life magazine and was involved with setting up the Mennonite Library and Archives.

by Wendy Nugent