Stories from Our Community’s Member Libraries
Featured Member: Gayle Greuber of Dutton S. Peterson Library of Odessa
By Brian Hildreth, STLS Director
November 2, 2018
Gayle Greuber grew up on her family’s farm outside of Ithaca. Her parents were not farmers by trade. Her father was a carpenter and mother a bank employee. Gayle too worked for a bank when she left her studies at SUNY Cortland. Her banking career didn’t last long as she chose the invaluable path of full time motherhood. It was this decision that led Gayle to three decades at the Dutton S. Peterson Library.
Gayle is a veteran director. She got her start at Odessa’s library in 1989. It seemed like the natural place to be as she was visiting regularly with her young daughter and son. Library volunteer was her first job. However, this eventually changed when her predecessor Rose Cook became a full time school librarian.
Gayle was excited about the opportunity to serve as Odessa’s director because she recognized the many benefits her library provided. She admits though it wasn’t intended to be permanent.
The Information Revolution is something Gayle has witnessed up close. She notes automation, public computing and the internet have been the most significant changes in her time. She recalls the lone Macintosh computer that resided at the library when she started. She and volunteers used it for ordering materials through STLS as well as generating overdue notices. The library also purchased one public computer of some type that had a dial-up connection and several diskettes that allowed patrons to play video games.
Gayle credits the two rounds of Bill & Melinda Gates’ grants for making computers a core service of rural libraries. She believes computers are something most libraries could not afford or even think about until the Gates made them available.
It was 1997 when the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation began partnering with public libraries on digital access issues. However, Gayle has observed that broadband connectivity has become a priority for patrons. She believes public computer usage has decreased in recent years, but the reliance on internet has increased. Gayle mentions how patrons park outside the library after hours to feed off the library’s wireless connection. Technology has become more affordable for some patrons, but reliable internet is still an issue.
One of Gayle’s biggest eye openers as a new library director was the first week on the job. Her board had worked tirelessly to establish a public vote for the library’s budget encompassing school district boundaries. It passed by three votes. The opposition demanded a recount. However, the levy was set as passed. Gayle realized the importance of public perception from that day forward.
Library funding was challenged by a small number of community members since that time. But, never has the levy been overturned. In fact, the Dutton S. Peterson Library in partnership with the Montour Falls Memorial Library put forth a significant funding increase in 2016. The vote passed with strong support indicating the need for both libraries in the Odessa-Montour School District. Gayle Greuber was a leading advocate who helped make this initiative happen.
I asked Gayle what she is most proud of taking into account her years of service and experience. She indicated the library has always had a strong children’s program, which many young parents rely upon. Her board president Bonnie Schweizer was the children’s librarian for several years building something that was meaningful for many families. She notes her library might be small, but residents who use the library think it is something special. They are surprised by how much the library can provide for so little.
Gayle is one of ten library directors in our system who has more than 20 years of service. This is a tremendous success considering the turnover rate for new library directors and the challenge for library boards to hire solid performing leaders. Her experience, stories and understanding of rural public librarianship are invaluable. Any librarian who speaks with Gayle will walk away with a stronger understanding of how practical approaches within small libraries can have lasting impacts.
Thank you, Gayle for taking the time to meet with me, and for your commitment to a field we love so much.
Brian Hildreth has been the Executive Director of the Southern Tier Library System since 2013, and a previous member library director at Wellsville’s library from 2005 to 2013. His professional mission is to ensure Southern Tier libraries thrive in 100 years from today for the greater good of our community. Please contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.