After 32 years at the Grandview Heights Public Library, Mary Ludlum says her rapidly approaching retirement date feels surreal.

After 32 years at the Grandview Heights Public Library, Mary Ludlum says her rapidly approaching retirement date feels surreal.

"I don't really know how it's going to feel not coming here every day," said Ludlum, who will step down Aug. 31 after five years as library director and more than 20 years as assistant director. "The Grandview Library has been so much a part of my life -- but a change will be good for the library and for me."

A reception in Ludlum's honor will be held from 4 to 7 p.m. next Thursday, Aug. 29, in the library's meeting room.

"The library foundation board is inviting people to make a donation to the foundation in my honor, which I would love," Ludlum said.

A display with donation cards can be found in the Basement, the teen activity center located on the first floor in the former audio-visual department space.

Ryan McDonnell will become the library's new director Sept. 1.

Ludlum said her library career was unexpected.

While earning a degree in sociology at Capital University, she participated in a work-study program at Capital's library and found she enjoyed the experience, she said.

After graduation, a job opportunity arose at the Otterbein University library, where she worked for five years, Ludlum said.

She said when she came to Grandview, she had no experience at public libraries, except for an internship at the Ann Arbor library, which she received while earning her master's degree in library science at the University of Michigan.

A hiring freeze at Ohio State University in 1981 led her to apply for the youth librarian position in Grandview.

"The director, Kathryn Hannon, hired me on the spot," Ludlum said. "I've always been grateful she took the risk of hiring someone without public-library experience. I love the public-library setting.

"I think that's because I love working with people," she said. "I couldn't have asked for a better community and a more-welcoming community to work in than Grandview."

While she enjoyed serving the students at Otterbein, "a public library is for all ages," Ludlum said. "It's for everybody, whether it's students who come here after school, someone using a computer, a businessperson making a business call, or someone enjoying a library concert or program.

"Especially in Grandview, the library is the place where the community connects," she said.

Libraries and the services they must provide patrons have changed much over the last three decades, Ludlum said.

"But that is one of the things I love about our field," she said. "It's the challenge of responding to the changing needs and desires of the community.

"In librarianship, you have to embrace change," Ludlum said.

The library's board of trustees always has been eager to make sure Grandview stays at the forefront of changing technology, she said.

For most of her time in Grandview, Ludlum served as assistant director under Carol Pelz.

"She's the one who appointed me assistant director," Ludlum said. "I am particularly grateful for her guidance and the vision she set for the library. She allowed and encouraged staff members to be active participants" in planning for the library's future.

As director herself, "I've been so fortunate to work with such a wonderful staff. They are so loyal to the library and the community," she said.

Helping to establish the Music on the Lawn concert series at the library is one of the most satisfying efforts of her tenure in Grandview, Ludlum said.

"It's become a beloved tradition of the community and part of the library's tradition, too," she said. "It's hard to believe we just finished our 28th season."

During her 32 years, the Grandview Library has successfully passed all seven of its levies -- all overwhelmingly.

"To me, that success reinforces that we are very involved with our community and know the community," Ludlum said. "People were saying, 'The library is important and we want it to continue.' "

After retirement, Ludlum said she plans to keep busy, volunteering more time at the Lutheran Social Services Food Pantry. She also has agreed to help lead a committee at her church, Atonement Lutheran Church, that will explore how the church can increase the services it provides to the community.

She and her husband, Dan, also plan to travel more, including trips to visit their son, who now lives and works in Louisville, Ky. -- not too far from the rural Indiana town where Ludlum was raised.