By DAVID GREEN
When Mike Figgins looked around the table at the last Board of Trustees meeting for Fayette’s Normal Memorial Library, he knew someone was missing.
He did a quick check of the faces and discovered everyone was present. He also quickly realized his error. There was a person missing, but she was no longer part of the group.
For the first time since 1958, Ruth Hutchison was not seated at the table. For the first time since 1968, she wasn’t serving as president of the board.
“I’m 83 years old now and I have four more years on my term,” she said, “but I just assumed that I would let somebody else take it.”
Sarah Schrock agreed to take over the presidency and Jeanne Johnson was accepted as a new trustee. That sounded good to Ruth. She’s comfortable with the changes made and she feels good about her decision to retire.
Ruth was invited to join the board in 1958 by her neighbor, Lucille Violet, who taught English at the school.
“She knew I used the library and liked to read,” Ruth said.
At that time, the library was still part of the school and village residents were invited to check out books there. In the 1960s, state officials decided that schools needed to have their own libraries, leaving Normal Memorial in need of a new home.
Ruth, as vice president, went to a lot of meetings with the board president, Mr. Roberts, to explain the change and the need for a new facility. It was difficult for many people to understand, Ruth remembers.
They got the message across and voters approved a levy for a new library.
There were other tough decisions to follow, such as the creation of a children’s library in 1988. The south side of the library was originally designated a community center, but crowded conditions forced the board to consider a change.
Board member Kathy Fix remembers pushing hard for a children’s library, and when Ruth gave her support for the change, the remainder of the board followed, Kathy said.
More recently, Ruth recalls the difficulty of trimming hours and pay when state funding was cut in 2009.
“It was so hard to do that,” she said. “The staff has no idea how hard it was.”
Ruth speaks highly of the board members she’s worked with over the decades and feels blessed by the diversity of skills. A lawyer, a banker, teachers and a school administrator, etc., have all contributed their knowledge.
The current board returns the praise.
“Ruth has been an invaluable wealth of information to the library board,” said Deb Rupp. “Her knowledge of past library and staff history, familiarity with the people of the community and connections with the students at school have all contributed to making her one of our greatest resources.”
Mike Figgins describes Ruth as dependable, thorough, and always capable of getting business accomplished.
“She’s been fun to work with,” said Kathy Fix. “What a wonderful legacy of service. We’ll miss her tremendously.”
Sometimes when Ruth talks to a person associated with another library, she realizes how fortunate she’s been with her board colleagues.
“It’s been a pleasant, interesting journey,” she said.
When the second Wednesday of the month comes along, she just might automatically go outside and get in her car before realizing she doesn’t have to be there anymore.
It’s going to feel a little funny, she says.
• Ruth was honored with a retirement dinner Tuesday night at the Opera House.