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Toledo, Ohio & Lake Erie

The Press Newspaper

The Press Newspaper

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After voters strongly supported a 1.1-mill levy last November for the Harris-Elmore Public Library, Georgiana Huizenga, the library director, expressed her gratitude for their support.

It was the first time in the library’s history it had gone to voters for local millage and cuts in state funding had forced the library to enact reductions in service.

“I am very proud of the communities of Elmore and Genoa coming together to pass the first ever library levy,” she said at the time. “Two communities: one library system. We are very grateful to all of our supporters and to the levy committee that worked so hard. We are very excited that we will be better able to serve our patrons.”

The communities will take time April 3 to express their gratitude to Huizenga, who is retiring after 41 years of working in the field – 18 of which were at the Harris-Elmore library and 23 with the Great Eastern and Walbridge branches of the Wood County Public Library.

An open house will be held at the Elmore library from 1-4 p.m.

Amy Laity, who heads the Genoa Branch Library and will assume the director’s post, said Huizenga’s efforts during the levy campaign represent a career dedicated to improving the library.

“She was always helpful in trying to move the library forward,” Laity said. “She made all the improvements possible.”

Reflecting on a career that started in April 1970 at the Great Eastern Branch Library, Huizenga last week said technology has been the biggest change agent.

The earliest computers were capable of word processing only and a link to the Internet was unheard of.

Now a patron can request materials from all over the state through the Serving Every Ohioan Consortium.

“Our materials go out all over the state too,” Huizenga said.

If there is a crown jewel of the Harris-Elmore Library it is the Grace Luebke Local History Room, which has drawn researchers from throughout the country, and transferring much of the material to digital format has been a major goal of Huizenga.

“That’s one of the things I hoped to do before I retired was to have some of the things digitized. Our local history librarian has been able to do this so now we have several thousand of the items available through our website. It’s pretty cool,” she said.

A grant from the Ottawa County Community Foundation and donations were used for the project.

The levy will generate about $250,000 annually and allow the library to get back on a more sound financial footing.

“In 2009, we had our materials budget slashed by about 50 percent,” Huizenga said. “We cut hours for staff and didn’t replace our youth services person when she left to start a business with her husband. As a result our circulation figures went down because we weren’t offering as much as we used to. And we weren’t open as much. So we were ecstatic when the levy passed.”

The library, she said, has become a cornerstone of the community, hosting guest speakers, holiday parties, and other events and with the downturn in the economy more area residents have come to rely on it for assistance in job searches and related services.

“The only way you can apply for unemployment assistance is on-line,” Huizenga said. “Some people still don’t have access to computers and the library is their only source. Plus we have materials about mortgage foreclosures and other information that can help you if you’re going through a rough time.”

Huizenga has been a staunch supporter of the public’s right to read books some groups have sought to ban. For years, she’s had displays of banned books and led adult discussion groups on censorship.

“You should monitor what your children read, but I don’t feel I have the right to tell somebody else what their children should or should not read,” she told The Press last year during Banned Books Week.

Her immediate retirement plans are to enjoy the birth of her first grandchild in April. Later, she may help form a Friends of the Library chapter – something she couldn’t do as an administrator of the library but can as a volunteer or patron.

“We’ve never had one here in Elmore,” she said. “They do some fundraising, host receptions and things like that. I’ve had a couple people mention they’d be interested if we started a Friends of the Library.”

The public is invited to the open house. Refreshments will be served.

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