Through hard times to highest peaks, Mansfield led libraries through it all
Meribah Mansfield has been like the Mary Tyler Moore of Worthington, only tougher.
Always good natured, always positive, always spunky, the diminutive dynamo has led the Worthington Libraries through some of its hardest times and to some of it highest peaks.
When she took over in 1991, a levy had just failed, and the roof was falling, literally.
She put it all back together, and was able to turn a shaky building into three bustling libraries, expand them and enhance them, bring on the era of technology, and - not incidentally - be named Ohio Librarian of the Year on the way to achieving the greatest honor a library can receive.
National library of the year.
Next Friday will be time for the group hug, as Mansfield will say good-bye with what will probably be one of the biggest send-offs in Worthington history.
From 3 to 6 p.m., friends and colleagues will gather at the Old Worthington Library to bid farewell as Mansfield closes one chapter of her life, and welcomes another.
She will be retiring after 19 years as director of the Worthington Libraries, and 38 years in the library field in central Ohio. Before coming to Worthington, she held positions in library systems in Columbus, Upper Arlington, Fairfield County and Bexley.
Already e-mails are popping up on Mansfield's online memory book. Everyone is invited to leave messages at worthingtonlibraries.org/meribah, or in books at any of the Libraries' three locations.
One message from former trustee Jeff Lyttle called Mansfield one of the great visionary leaders of the community.
"You not only made our libraries great, you helped to make our entire community great," he wrote.
Like others, Dorie-Ellen Eisenman wrote that Mansfield will be sorely missed.
"You made a difference, and in the final analysis, isn't that what we all want to be able to say?" she wrote.
The differences have been huge. Under her leadership, the Old Worthington Library was closed and rebuilt under a new roof, and greatly enlarged.
The Northwest Library was built and opened in 1996, the first in Ohio to be operated as a joint venture with another system, in this case the Columbus Public Library.
Both were expanded and renovated more recently.
In 2008, the Worthington Park branch opened it doors, and today provides much-needed services to families in the Far North area of the community.
The libraries' first Web site debuted in 1997, and was redesigned in 2001 and 2008.
Mansfield made numerous contributions to libraries statewide, and received more honors than can be listed here. Tops was Librarian of the Year, an honor bestowed by the Ohio Library Council in 2003.
And, of course, the great honor for the whole community was receiving the National Library of the Year award from the Gale/Library Journal in 2007.
Not incidentally to her, the library has also been honored extensively for its excellence in financial reporting.
"Of all my accomplishments, I am proudest we are being good stewards of the taxpayers' dollars," she said. "That's very important to me."
It is the relationships she has built with staff, trustees, volunteers and the public that mean the most to her.
The staff at the library is the best, she said. They are bright, innovative, and always eager to serve the community.
"We have a great time together," she said. "I still look forward to coming to work, so it is hard to retire."
The community has been a partner with the library all along. Changes have been made based on the public's input, and the public is always there to support with tax dollars and with directions.
And with business. Lots of library business.
"They value lifelong learning. They have since 1803," Mansfield said of the library's beginnings with Worthington's founding families.
"There is no better place to be a librarian than Worthington, Ohio," she said. "People use the library in droves."
She is looking forward to retirement, to spending time with husband Bruce; son Matthew, a student at Elon University in North Carolina; and daughter Jessica Mead and her husband, Doug, and their two young sons, Owen, 3, and Connor, 2.
She and Bruce may even get to travel to Japan to visit grandson Sho, who is one.
Mansfield is also taking on a new challenge. She is entering the second year of a three-year program to prepare her to be ordained as a deacon in the Episcopal Church. Deacons volunteer to represent the church as a servant to those in need, and help out with church services.
She will begin field work next fall.
"I am really looking forward to that," she said. "It feels like an extension of my library career."