The Daily Star, Oneonta, NY - otsego county news, delaware county news, oneonta news, oneonta sports

March 13, 2014

Librarian looks back on 30-year career

By Cheryl Petersen Contributing Writer
The Daily Star

---- — When Linda Burkhart began volunteering at the Franklin Free Library more than 30 years ago, things were a little different. 

For the first two decades of Burkhart’s career as library director, a cabinet containing the library card catalog stood near the entrance door. 

“Now that everything is automated, the cabinet is gone and we use the back of the library cards as scratch paper,” said Burkhart.

Burkhart started her career as director in 1984 and oversaw the library’s transformation into a modern facility. Just over 10 years ago, Burkhart and the library’s board of directors brought the library into compliance with the state’s standards for a public library. 

“Patrons can find a copy machine, a fax machine, and computers at the library,” said Burkhart.

The computer equipment also allowed Franklin Library to partner with the Four County Library System. Bar codes were placed on each book for automated check-out and return. Books move from library to library. “The automation was funded in part by the O’Connor Foundation,” said Burkhart.

At times, Burkhart and her staff have had to be creative to accommodate modern changes within an older building. The walls of the 1929 building are crowded with windows, leaving little room for floor-to-ceiling bookshelves. 

“The natural light is wonderful but requires strategy as to where to position shelves within the library to hold its 10,000 volumes,” Burkhart said.

The volume of other materials has increased over the decades.

“When I first started working here, the library subscribed to the traditional magazines — Ladies Home Journal, Time, and Better Homes and Gardens,” said Burkhart. “Now, we have 48 subscriptions with titles, Wired, Hot Car, Traveler, O, and Consumer Report, which is really popular.”

As director, Burkhart honed a fruitful ability to secure grants for equipment and activities such as children’s programs and history afternoons, totaling about a quarter of a million dollars during her tenure.

“The library also has a Friends Group that fundraises,” Burkhart said. “They hold an annual book sale in August and sell more than 1,000 books. The money is used to benefit the library.” The Friends Group recently purchased a 10-foot screen for film showing.

Members of the Friends Group also volunteer to work at the library. “I was the only paid employee, but the community helped immensely,” Burkhart said. “It feels as though the library is the heart of the community.”

Children’s activities were designed to show the diversity of the world. “The performances nurture the arts and reflect cultures around the world,” Burkhart said. “It’s a thrill to see a child watch a performance and be inspired to take up an instrument or learn to dance.”

Many of the library’s resources now come in digital format. “Every year, I used to order a new set of 22 volumes of World Book Encyclopedia,” Burkhart said. “The last year I did that was 2004. Now they update encyclopedias, daily, online.”

Raised as a child in a suburb of Philadelphia and after graduating college, Linda Burkhart lived in Denmark for two years. “I developed a taste for rural living in Denmark,” Burkhart said.

She returned to New York and moved to Treadwell, to marry Elliot Cohen and raise their daughter, Brianna Cohen. “Brianna came to all the children’s activities in the library and Elliot faithfully set up chairs or did repairs in the library,” Burkhart said.

Reynolds Price is one of her favorite authors.

When asked about the future, Burkhart said: “After retirement, I’ll be a patron of the library. I’m not retiring to sunny Florida.”