Utica Public Library director retires

By: Kara Szymanski | Shelby - Utica News | Published July 12, 2021

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UTICA — After nearly 18 years on the job, the Utica Public Library director retired June 30.

Library Director Marsha Doege said she is happy, yet somewhat pensive, about retiring.

Similarly, she said that when she heard that she was going to be hired at the library 18 years ago, she was thrilled, though a little scared.

“I hoped that I could do a good job and live up to the standards set by the women before me. But I knew that I was blessed with a good staff, a responsive and dedicated Board of Trustees, and a supportive city. I always had help when I asked, and that includes the staff of the Suburban Library Cooperative, of which Utica is a member, and the directors of the member libraries. Anything I did right was definitely a cooperative effort; the mistakes were mine alone,” she said in an email interview.

After so many years, she said, she is ready for the retired life.

“The library has been a huge part of my life, and I have great memories, but I’m ready to sleep late,” she said.

The library was founded in 1933 but has only had four directors — five now that Katherine Francis has been named the interim director as of July 1.

“We love it so much we don’t want to leave. Before coming here, I worked at the Clinton-Macomb Public Library and the Roswell Public Library in Roswell, New Mexico,” Doege said.

Doege grew up in Tennessee and lived in small towns.

“I have a real appreciation for the charms of small towns and the sense of community they evoke. Utica is very special because it’s surrounded by the metro area, yet retains its unique identity and possesses the best small town qualities — people know and care about their neighbors. And as a small library, the Utica library considers so many of its patrons friends as well as patrons,” she said.

She said one of the great joys of her job was reader advisory.

“I love helping people find the right book or movie, and always sent folks home with armloads of materials because I wanted to be sure there was something in there they would like. To me, it’s a horror to look around and find nothing good to read, so I never wanted our patrons to be in that position. We have a great book discussion group that I lead (and will continue to do so even in retirement) that was always a joy,” she said.

She said the miracles of technology came about during her tenure and that they have given people so many options. Technology allowed Utica Public Library patrons to keep reading even during the early days of the pandemic when the library wasn’t allowed to do curbside service.

“And, of course, (I’ll remember) those less pleasant memories like basement flooding and clogged toilets,” she said.

She said she will miss the staff and the patrons.

“I am lucky to have had a job I loved and to work with outstanding people at the same time. How often does that happen? The women who staff the Utica Library are all remarkable; they care about their patrons and go that extra mile to meet their needs. They are kind and dedicated to the library. They graciously put up with me for 18 years. And our patrons are great; they share their lives with us, show us pictures of their grandchildren, help with fundraisers and so much more. They are a delight to serve,” she said.

She said she looks forward to reading for a solid month now that she is retired, and after that, she’ll take on whatever life brings her way.

Francis said Doege retiring is hard for everyone who works at the library. It’s bittersweet.

“We are happy for her and wish her the best, but we are losing a friend. Marsha was more than our boss; she genuinely cared about each one of us and the patrons that enter our building. Marsha has been a great mentor to me and has been my biggest cheerleader in encouraging me to be director,” Francis said in an email.

Francis said Doege’s support has been incredible, even going as far as being only a phone call away or available to come in if she needed her to.

“We know she will come back and visit, but we will miss seeing her on a daily basis. I’ve been at the Utica library for almost four years, and I love it; I love this city. The Francis family has a long history of working for this city; my husband, his father and grandfather, and I’m proud that I get to continue on serving the Utica community,” Francis said.

She said she is grateful for the opportunity and looks forward to the experience this next year will provide. Her plan is to preserve the hometown feel at the library while updating the quaint nook so it can continue to service the Utica residents for many years to come.

“I hope to be here along the way for as long as possible,” said Francis.

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