Today, in celebration of her birthday, Eckhart Public Library would like to recognize a very special woman, who has played a very important part in the history of EPL.
From 1968 to 1992, Sirleine Smith served as a member of the Eckhart Public Library staff, first working as a part-time clerk, and eventually becoming the library director—a position she held from 1975 until the day she retired.
Though she had not originally planned to be a librarian, Sirleine had always been a lover of libraries, and a library user herself. The job was a perfect fit.
“When you work at something that you really enjoy and love, it really isn’t a difficult job,” Sirleine said in a 1992 Evening Star article upon her retirement. “I’ve always enjoyed what I’m doing and I’ve enjoyed all the people I’ve worked with.”
During her time at Eckhart Public Library, the library grew with its community, going from a “small” library serving 8,000 patrons to a “mid-size” facility serving 16,000 or more patrons.
Sirleine was there to help the library through many other changes as well, the biggest of which was in 1984, when staff switched over from a card catalogue to a computer system.
“[The Eckhart Public Library] became the first public library in the state to independently convert to the modern world of computers,” wrote Sirleine, in a Star essay celebrating the library’s 100th birthday. “Every book was inventoried against the card catalogue, which became obsolete. Shoe boxes filled with hundreds of cards were shipped to Library Services for programming. Bar-coded library cards were introduced, and checkout for books and materials was changed from librarians’ memory to automation.”
It was a major shift—the library had previously been linked to a computer system in Syracuse, New York—but by deciding to go it alone, EPL could keep all its information on its own computer system.
“It was a very exciting time,” Sirleine recalled in her 1992 interview.
Though often modest about her efforts, in 1987 Sirleine was named the Outstanding Librarian of the Year by the state of Indiana.
Even at retirement, Sirleine was always looking towards growth, at how patrons could best be reached and served. Her biggest regret upon leaving was that the library was not larger.
“There are so many more services that we could offer,” she said in her 1992 interview, adding that she thought the library was providing the finest service possible within the limits it faced at the time.
Since then, the Eckhart Public Library has gone through many more changes, from physical additions (such as the 1996 expansion and the additions of the Teen, Genealogy, and Annex buildings to the campus) to the addition of new services, such as access to NIDL, an online photo archive, and IT Services.
“Sirleine is a dedicated leader who set a high standard for professionalism and progressive library services for the community,” said current EPL director, Janelle Graber. “We’re just so grateful for her vision of the importance of the library and its role in the community.”
Thank-you, Sirleine, for your years of effort and service for the library and the community we serve. We would not be who we are today without you.