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May 22, 2013

Bruni to step down after 30 years

By Denise Richardson Staff Writer
The Daily Star

---- — Children’s programs, a computerized card catalog and online access to a world of information are among changes ushered in at the Huntington Memorial Library in Oneonta by Marie Bruni since she became library director 30 years ago.

“It’s been great,’’ Bruni, who plans to retire, told the Oneonta Common Council during a meeting in City Hall on Tuesday night. Her tenure has felt more like 10 than 30 years, she said.

Bruni, who declined to divulge her age, said she began as director on May 23, 1983. The date of her retirement hasn’t been set, she said, but she plans to work until another director is hired.

In the past three decades, technology has changed formats of the printed word and access to information, but Bruni said books will continue to be in demand at libraries.

At the council meeting in City Hall, Ann Adamo, chairwoman of the library’s governing board of trustees, said sleeves will be rolled up in the search to find another director.

“We are very sad to be losing Marie — she has done an outstanding job,” Adamo said. “We wish her all the best.’’

Oneonta Mayor Dick Miller said the city would support trustees’ efforts. 

“We want a terrific librarian,” he told Adamo. “Obviously, Marie leaves enormous shoes.’’

Under the Oneonta City Charter, the mayor appoints five library board trustees, and the city collects taxes on behalf of the library. The trustees approve the library budget and appoint a librarian and other staff.

Bruni’s salary as of Jan. 1 was $78,000, according to Civil Service records, Kathy Wolverton, city personnel director, said. Wolverton said Bruni’s age wasn’t immediately accessible.

The library’s 2013 budget is $674,470, and the library’s collection includes 65,092 books and magazines. The library at 62 Chestnut St. is the largest in Otsego County and has more than 9,000 card-holders.

During an interview at the library Tuesday, Bruni said the budget in 1983 was $174,825. The collection had 79,890 items, including outdated items, she said, and records were unclear about the number of borrowers.

In 1983, the library had a librarian and three part-time employees, Bruni said. Today, the library has nine full-time staffers, including two librarians, and three part-timers.

Thirty years ago, the library used a card catalog with 135 drawers. The staff prepared five years for the system’s computer automation, which was completed in May 1989. 

“The entire staff rejoiced the day we dumped the card catalog,’’ she said. “We’re still using the cards as scrap paper.’’

The library had no science fiction section, local history room or children’s programs when she started, Bruni said.

“My fondest memories are of the children’s programs,’’ said Bruni, who recalled times providing those sessions in characters such as a train conductor or a flowering plant.

Bruni, who has two master’s degrees and is a former elementary school teacher, said her philosophy is that a child encouraged to use a library will grow up to use and support libraries.

In November 1983, after a death threat against President Reagan was found in a library book, Bruni refused to give investigating Secret Service agents the name of a borrower until they produced a subpoena. Bruni afterwards received national recognition and awards for championing intellectual freedoms and patrons’ privacy.

David Brenner, a former mayor, said Bruni has combined genius and compassion in her work advancing the library.

“The community has been very fortunate to have a someone of her caliber all these years,’’ said Brenner, a self-described “super fan.’’

Bruni said some highlights of library history in the past 30 years included:

• In the early days of computers, the library bought several 64K computers, which patrons borrowed and connected to their televisions, which served as monitors.

• In 1985, a one-way driveway was installed from Chestnut to Church streets to accommodate traffic.

• In 2005, an air conditioning system was installed, a major project because of the age and construction of the building. 

As part of the area’s Four County Library System, library patrons may download audiobooks and eBooks.

Bruni said the collection and services at the library are based on consumer requests and research. The library has to keep up with not only demands for items but also the most recent technological versions, she said.

“A day can’t go by without me learning something new,’’ Bruni said. “I love being a librarian.”