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Ramsey closes chapter as Crawford library director

Catherine Ramsey recently retired as director of the Crawford County Public Library. During her nine years as director, the number of library cardholders increased from about 1,000 to more than 5,000. Ramsey also focused on bringing several educational programs to the library. Above, Ramsey, during a visit by the Louisville Astronomical Society in March, looks at the sun through a special telescope. photo by File Photo.
June 23, 2010
Catherine Ramsey, longtime director of the Crawford County Public Library, has retired and has turned over the reins of both the main library at English and the Breeden Memorial Library in Leavenworth to the new director, Tracy Underhill.

Ramsey, who retired in May, took the job as director several years ago and has been credited with bringing new ideas and energy to the libraries.

As a reading specialist, Ramsey promoted reading for young children and made sure the libraries stocked hundreds, if not thousands, of books for children of all ages. She also scheduled many show-and-tell-type programs for young people and informational and art-based programs for adults.

"I do miss being at the library and still find myself thinking about it more than I'd care to admit," she said. "I had a wonderful time being director of Crawford County Public Library and am certainly proud of what was accomplished during my tenure. But, at the same time, I'm also proud that I sensed it was time for someone else's leadership."

When Ramsey began as director of the library in 2001, many in the community didn't know her, though she had lived in Crawford County for more than 20 years.

"It was through our son, Drew, who had attended Leavenworth Elementary and Crawford County Junior-Senior High School, that we made connections in Crawford County. Then, suddenly, I couldn't go anywhere without being known as 'the library lady'," she said.

Ramsey said many things have changed during the past several years. For instance, the state library now requires all library staff to be certified.

"And the state, county and even federal funding have all been disrupted in ways that affected the library," Ramsey said. "And technology has changed so quickly in the past nine years that the first computers we received from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in 2001 are already obsolete and gone. The old, wooden card catalogue was in the middle of the floor when I began, but, by the end of 2001, the entire collection and check-out process was computerized."

Ramsey said that "timing" and getting excellent advice from personal friends gave her a good start at the library.

"But the advice and support from the State Library Development Office was extremely important," she said. "They helped me sequence and plan what needed to be done to give Crawford County the very best access to information possible. Fortunately, several LSTA (Libraries and Schools Technology Act) grants became available just when we were almost ready for what was being offered. I had limited grant-writing experience, but I guess if you want something badly enough, donors and grantors can be convinced. The only grant I wrote that we weren't awarded was to the ALA (American Library Association) for funds for the library to partner with the Louisville Astronomical Society's observatory in Curby, something I would like to see happen."

During her time as director, Ramsey changed the patron cards from thick, blue paper to plastic cards with bar codes.

"When I began, there were fewer than 1,000 card-holding patrons," she said. "Now, there are around 5,000, or almost half the county's population, an increase the state library liked to see."

Ramsey said that before becoming director, she had not known about the continuous generosity within the county toward the library.

"Several groups, organizations and many individuals gave the library monetary gifts," Ramsey added. "Books and other materials were constantly being donated from within and outside the community. My husband, Jerry, and I established a Library Development Endowment Fund with the Community Foundation of Crawford County to make it easier for people to make tax-deductible financial gifts to the library. Doug Breeden was extremely generous to the library in Leavenworth and helped the main library purchase the lot next door."

Ramsey said the Crawford County libraries need to grow, develop and continue to offer summer reading and other programs.

"Personally, I hope Tracy Underhill stays library director for at least 10 years," Ramsey said. "She will bring her own ideas and energy to the county's libraries, and I look forward to following her progress. And I just hope the people will reach out to her the way they did to me."

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