Striving for excellence has been the guiding force behind the 20-year tenure of Hussey-Mayfield Memorial Public Library Director Martha Catt.
Looking back as she plans her retirement, Catt said her accomplishments were possible because of the support and cooperation of those around her.
“It’s taken a lot of people to get to where we are today,” Catt said. “I think it’s a good time to retire, because I think it’s time to turn the reigns over to someone else with new ideas.”
Catt’s last day is Friday, May 14 — the same day she started 20 years ago.
In 1988, two years before Catt joined the library staff, the library board voted to become a public library. In 1989, the library decided to reorganize their location in a house at 255 Hawthorne St. In 1990, the library received its first property tax check and hired Catt to orchestrate the planning for a new facility and growth of the library, she said.
Catt said that vision meshed well with her personal motto: “To make everything I touch as good as I can humanly make it.” It also allowed her to work hand-in-hand with the board and foundation to grow and improve the library.
“We wanted everything we offered to be the very best,” she said.
Today, the library houses more than 135,000 items and serves about 16,000 residents in this ever-growing community, she said. The building went from a 1,400 square foot house to a 50,000 square foot building at 250 N. First St.
co-workers praise Catt
As top leaders often do, Catt does not hesitate to credit those she works with for the library’s successes. Yet Library Board of Trustees President LeeAnn Biggs said Catt has earned the respect and admiration of those same people.
“Martha Catt has enriched our community, and libraries throughout Indiana, through her gracious and strong leadership,” Biggs said. “Not only does she have a heart for service, but she has a skill set that places her at the top of her field. Many look at the building she so meticulously guided at every stage as one of her greatest accomplishments. But more importantly, she built a team of staff that is outstanding.”
Virginia Hilbert, assistant department head, said she has mixed emotions.
“I am sad for the staff, library and community, but I am happy for her to pursue other interests,” she said. “She has done a great job.”
Leaving the position behind
Catt announced her retirement to the staff and public in February 2009.
“When someone has filled a position for 20 years, it seems unwise to think they can be replaced,” Biggs said.
Catt will continue to share her accumulated wisdom after her retirement as a library consultant. The rest of her time will be spent completing craft projects and visiting with family and friends.
“I hope the library continues to work hard, have excellent programs and put the community’s money to good use,” Catt said. “I hope the library will continue to be creative and innovative, continue to be trusted with the taxpayers’ money, be fresh, new and relevant and what people want and need them to be.”
She added, “It’s been a truly gratifying experience in this journey and I have tried to make this an excellent community and a great library. It’s been such a rewarding experience and one that I will always cherish. I will miss the people I’ve grown to know, friends, library board and colleagues.”