Delta library director stepping down

‘Libraries are about people’

By David J. Coehrs - [email protected]



You could say Patricia Grover has the ink of thousands, if not millions, of books running through her veins.

Since she was a 16-year-old student at Gibsonburg High School, Grover has worked most of her life among library stacks. She began by stamping, cataloging, and compiling statistics through a tedious card system, and will end with the smooth efficiency of digitization and 3-D printing.

Grover, 68, will step down as director of the Delta Public Library on Dec. 31, after 22 1/2 years. Her retirement will mark the end of an on-and-off 52-year library career in both Ohio and Michigan, in both large bastions of education and small, friendly communities.

“I’m seeing people who were kids now bringing their kids in,” she said.

But Grover will leave her legacy behind at Delta’s library. When she began there in 1994 the facility wasn’t automated, leaving her the task of bringing it into the computer age.

“We did everything by hand, stamped all the books, and had to make all the catalog cards and filed them,” she said. “Automating everything was really a big project.”

It was a different world when Grover started in 1964 as a page at the Birchard branch of the Gibsonburg Public Library. She put away books and helped at the main desk. Employees labored with a traditional card catalog system, meaning four or five cards were created for every item. Information was stored on filmstrips, and clients listened to vinyl records.

After high school, Grover worked by day at the library and attended classes by night at the Fremont satellite campus of Bowling Green State University. She left school in 1969, got married, and moved to Columbus. She found work in the Ohio State University library converting the card catalog into computer records.

From there, she worked at Columbus State Hospital for four years as head of library services for patients. Then she returned to BGSU, attending full-time while her husband Gregory, who would become a Fulton County prosecutor, pursued his law degree.

Ten years after beginning her studies, Grover earned a Bachelor of Education degree as a media specialist.

Her husband, who died in 2010, moved his ensuing Fayette law practice to Morenci, Mich. There, Grover served as both school librarian and teacher at both the Pittsford, Mich., and Waldron, Mich., high schools. She returned to Ohio to work at Normal Memorial Public Library in Fayette and as a Realtor at Joe Newlove Real Estate in Wauseon.

In 1994, the directorship at Delta Public Library became available.

“I was doing four part-time jobs, and I decided that I needed just to have one full-time job,” Grover said.

The library wasn’t yet automated, so Grover rolled up her sleeves and taught herself the computer system. She started out making signs, and eventually brought the library into the computer era.

“It was a long, gradual process. It’s been 20 years of learning how to do it,” she said.

Highlights of Grover’s career in Delta include introducing the public to CDs, DVDs, Blu-ray, 3-D printing, 12 public computers, and computer classes for the uninitiated. The staff has also digitized back issues of the village newspaper, Delta Atlas.

“Those kinds of things have made it so much simpler,” she said. “Just getting the information is so much quicker now.”

Now the library is offering a wider array of culture, such as painting and quilting.

“Libraries aren’t about books and DVDs. Libraries are about people, and connecting people with the media they want,” Grover said.

There have been struggles. Delta residents support the facility with a continuing five-year operational levy, but state funding cuts totaling $100,000 annually between 2008-13 took a large toll. Hours and staff were cut, and without the one-mill levy the library would have closed.

“That is the great part of Delta. The community has always supported the library. It saw us through the hard times,” Grover said.

A boost in the levy millage allowed for upgrading the library’s aging equipment, buying new materials, and reinstating staff and hours.

Grover said one notable change through the years has been in children. “They’re so intuitive about computers,” she said. “Kids appear smarter, largely because of exposure to the information they have.”

Assistant Director Candy Baird said working alongside Grover on various library projects has been an adventure.

“She is always willing to explore your ideas, to take advice, to better the library,” Baird said. “She’s easy to work for. She’ll be missed.”

Louise Gilson, a library’s Board of Trustees member, said Grover has been an asset to the library and the community.

“She has made it one of the leading libraries in the county,” she said. “Her ideas promoted great things for the library, and we wish her the very best in her future endeavors.”

She won’t miss rising early for work or the paperwork grind, but Grover will miss talking with the public. “I will miss seeing them and watching their kids grow up,” she said.

She’ll spend her newfound leisure “reading all the books and watching all the movies I checked out for people,” and she looks forward to staying active with simple pleasures, such as walking, biking, and traveling to visit relatives.

Grover credits her career longevity to understanding what library patrons think and want, and to making both acquaintances and strangers feel welcome. She said, however, it’s time to step aside.

“I’ve put my stamp on it, I’ve done everything I can do,” she said. “It’s the right time to go for me.”

‘Libraries are about people’

By David J. Coehrs

[email protected]

David J. Coehrs can be reached at 419-335-2010.

David J. Coehrs can be reached at 419-335-2010.