Library Lines: Strong women have history of leading Worthington Libraries

Hillary Kline
Guest columnist

Just weeks after making the arduous trek from Granby, Connecticut, to Worthington in 1803, city founders established a subscription library for the community.

Although in its early days, there were no actual staff members, for nearly 125 years, Worthington Libraries has employed people who worked hard to make the library profession, the institution and the city better.

Hillary Kline

During Women’s History Month, learn more about just a few of the women who made Worthington Libraries the nationally recognized library system it is today. 

The Fortnightly Club, a women’s Shakespeare study club, assumed management of the Worthington Reading Room and Library in November 1903. The next month, Mrs. B.C. McCullough, a club member, became the library’s first paid employee. In 1906, she oversaw the library’s move from space it occupied on the south side of the Kilbourne Building into rooms over Leasure’s Drug Store. 

The Worthington Public Library Association took over operations from the Fortnightly Club in March 1908. Grace Robinson, who replaced McCullough later that year, looked after day-to-day operations when the library purchased its first card catalog system in 1912.

The library association was dissolved in 1925 so the library could be placed in control of the Worthington school board, securing much-needed financial support. This occurred during Rose O. Little’s tenure as librarian. She also saw the library get its first dedicated home at 752 High St., on the northeast corner of the Village Green, in 1927.

Little resigned at the end of 1937, at 78 years old, and was replaced by Worthington’s first trained librarian, Dorothy Grove Foutts. She streamlined library operations so staff members could spend more time working with patrons and visiting schools. Foutts encouraged the library board to hire specially trained staff, including children’s librarian Jean Darby in 1940 and young-adult librarian Marguerite Carder in 1945.

Elma Whitney, who became library director in 1943, stepped up the library’s community involvement and, in addition to maintaining the excellent youth programming started by Foutts, placed an emphasis on providing service to adults. Cramped conditions, which had long been an issue as the collection grew and circulation increased, came to a head during Whitney’s tenure. In 1956, the library’s north wing was finally expanded.

By the time Whitney retired in 1967, to be replaced by director Bernice E. Daniels, lack of space was again a problem. In 1979, she succeeded in moving the library from its longtime home on the Village Green to a brand-new building on Hartford Street, thanks to an innovative property swap with the Worthington school board. She also brought technology to the library, including computers, CDs and a computerized catalog. 

In less than 11 months, Meribah Mansfield, who took over for Daniels in 1991, managed to accomplish what no Worthington library director had been able to do before her. She passed a levy and won community approval for a second location to serve the northwest portion of the library’s service district. Northwest Library, 2280 Hard Road, opened in April 1996.

Committed to providing library service to residents in the northeast part of the service district, Mansfield oversaw the opening of Worthington Park Library, a storefront library in the Worthington Park Shopping Centre, in 2008. Mansfield retired in 2010. 

To learn more about these librarians or about Worthington Libraries, check out “The 200-Year History of Worthington Libraries: 1803-2003” by Lisa D. Fuller.

Hillary Kline is a communications specialist for Worthington Libraries.