Area librarian closing book on career

MARTINSBURG – Joyce Paden and books just seem to go together.

“I’ve always loved books. From the time I was a little girl, I was a book reader. My mother said I read too much. She said, ‘You always have your nose in a book,'” Paden said. “I would hide behind a tree with a book. I always loved reading.”

Paden put her love of books to good use: On June 30, Paden, 75, will retire after 40 years at the Martinsburg Community Library, the last 35 years as library director.

Paden, a 1955 graduate of Roaring Spring High School, had planned to attend Indiana State Teachers College to become a teacher. However, before she enrolled, she was offered a job as personal secretary to Roaring Spring Elementary School Principal Nina Kramp.

She accepted the position and worked for Kramp for five years before getting married and being a stay-at-home mom for several years for her three daughters.

After her family built a home in Martinsburg in 1973, she said she found the library, which at that time was on the second floor of the municipal building on East Allegheny Street.

“One day I went in, and there was a sign that said ‘help wanted’ for eight hours a week,” Paden said. “On a whim I applied and got the job and have been at the library ever since.”

She became librarian – now known as library director – in 1978, the same year the library moved into the newly constructed Martinsburg Memorial Park building on Walnut Street.

“The state condemned the old library because there were two many books on the second floor and they were afraid it would collapse. We had nowhere to go. The park board asked the library board if it were interested. It worked out beautifully for us,” Paden said.

The new facility had better access for the public, she said. People had to walk up about 30 steps to reach the old location, which made it difficult for older people and impossible for those who were handicapped.

She said now everything is handicapped accessible.

In addition, the space doubled in size to about 6,000 square feet.

Paden said the work at the library has changed dramatically over the years. When she started, people put their name on a card in the back of a book to check it out. Now, library cards have bar codes on them.

Today’s library offers more than just books. She said there are CDs, DVDs and large print books.

As for challenges, she said budgeting is the biggest challenge facing libraries today.

“The biggest challenge is being able to raise enough money to stay open and meet the needs of the people. Even 10 years ago, the average book cost $18.95; now it is $28.95-plus. You try to keep within a budget,” Paden said. “We have to make a budget without knowing where the money is coming from, but we are supported by the borough and the townships surrounding Martinsburg.”

Library board members said Paden has played a key role in the library and will be difficult to replace.

“As long as we have been here, she has been the face of the library. I am not at all certain the library could have functioned at the level it is functioning at without her,” said Gary Nelson, board president. “She is very easy to get along with and is willing to do anything to help the library. Her lifetime has been the library, she is very dedicated to her work.”

“She started with what was a very plain library and made it into something that is very valuable,” board member Donna Kensinger said. “She has played a tremendous role in the library. She has really developed the library into what it is today.”

Paden is also a cancer survivor; she was diagnosed with stage three colon cancer in 1996. She said for six months to a year she was very sick and went in to the library a few hours a day when she could. She said part-timers and volunteers helped her out and the board was understanding about her situation.

In addition to her love of books, Paden also is a music lover. She’s been the organist at Martinsburg Memorial Church of the Brethren for 50 years and is in the bell choir.

With retirement on the horizon, she said she plans to spend more time with her family and do additional volunteer work.

“There are some other things I want to do and do them while I am able to do them. My children live away from here. When working it is hard to find time to visit them, I will do that more. I will do more volunteer work at The Village [at Morrisons Cove] than I do now,” Paden said. “It is time for change at the library. It is time for a younger person to give it a shot.”

Mirror Staff Writer Walt Frank is at 946-7467.