Bio: Bobrofsky, Judy (Retires as Loyal Librarian
– Nov 2014)
Surnames: Bobrofsky, Siverling
----Source: Tribune/Record/Gleaner (Abbotsford, Wis.) 19 Nov 2014
Ellen Siverling (left) is succeeding Judy Bobrofsky as the Loyal public librarian. A recent UW-River Falls graduate, Siverling will be obtaining her librarian certiﬁcation. Bobrofsky has been the city librarian for 20 years and directed it through a move to new quarters several years ago as well as modernization of records and collections.
When Judy Bobrofsky was in her ﬁrst years as the Loyal Public Library librarian, she attended a conference where a speaker said traditional brick-and-mortar locations with shelves ﬁlled with books would be gone in 15or 20 years, replaced by technological advances. That was almost 20 years ago now and the prophecy hasn’t yet come true, but Bobrofsky has seen modern de-vices such as e-readers, books on CD and tablet computers change the way people use a library. In fact, rapidly changing technology is one of the reasons why Bobrofsky is retiring this month from the librarian job she’s held since May 1994.
Bobrofsky will be ofﬁcially done at the Loyal Library on Main Street as soon as she’s ﬁnished showing the ropes to her successor, Ellen Siverling. Under her direction, Loyal’s library circulation climbed from near the lowest in the county to third-highest, moved a few doors down Main Street to a building with three times more space, and more than doubled the collection of books, videos and other materials available to local patrons.
Bobrofsky was teaching at Trinity Lutheran School in Marshﬁeld in 1994when the librarian position opened. It was only a few years after the library had moved from the upstairs area of the old city hall building into the former Mills Clothing building. Helen Reineking, the director at the time, moved away, leaving the position open. Bobrofsky was serving on the library’s board of directors at the time, and its president, Gladys Olsen, made a suggestion. “Gladys said, ‘Well, why don’t you apply?’” Bobrofsky recalls. She did. She was hired.
Bobrofsky went through the process of becoming a state-certiﬁed head librarian, the ﬁrst one the Loyal library ever had. A few years before she was hired and before the old library’s move to the Mills Building, the city Council had become aware of operational deﬁciencies, such as a lack of a certiﬁed director. The city signiﬁcantly upped its budget for the library, and took another step forward in getting a certiﬁed director.
The library, in 1994, was open 20 or 24 hours a week. Working with the board of directors, Bobrofsky in-creased the hours, giving patrons more access in the evening and on Saturdays.
Another major push was to modernize and expand the collection. The library that moved from the old city hall quarters was stocked with old volumes, yellowed ,mostly-unread books that should’ve been weeded out of circulation years ago. The increased budget from the city, along with grants Bobrofsky sought and received, allowed the library to replace tired volumes with newer titles. In a short while, the Mills Building was full to the ceiling.
“We were very crowded in there. It was better than where we came from, but it was crowded,” Bobrofsky said. “At that time, it was the best scenario. We did a lot of weeding. We got rid of some musty things. People weren’t reading them.
”There was little room for tables for patrons to use, but Bobrofsky obtained the facility’s ﬁrst computers through Gates Foundation funding. Slow dial-up Internet made its debut at the library in the mid-1990s,with mixed reviews.
“The younger people would be using it to search for jobs,” Bobrofsky said. “The older people didn’t want to touch it because they thought it would break.”
A major project for the library was a conversion from a manual card catalog to an electronic system in 1999-2000. To keep current with Wisconsin Valley Library Service updates and to be able to access materials from other libraries, Loyal had to make the switch.
“It took a while to get all the books on the computer system,” Bobrofsky said. “It wasn’t an easy thing to do.”
The most signiﬁcant change for the library in Bobrofsky’s career was the move in 2004 from the Mills Building to the former Loyal Hardware Hank store. For years before that, the library was operating in extremely cramped quarters, with no room for children story hours, or to expand computer offerings. The board of directors looked at various options, including a new building, but cost was a prohibitive factor. When the Hardware Hank store became available, the city decided to purchase it. The library’s square foot-age jumped from less than 2,000 square feet to more than 6,500.
The move allowed the library to add tables for patrons to read and relax, to increase the public computer numbers, and to double the book/video collection. The library shelves now carry more than 24,000 books and hundreds of video items.
With the expanded materials came more patrons. The annual circulation was around 18,000 when Bobrofsky started, and was limited by a poor collection and little money to expand it.
“We did not have a good collection of material that our patrons wanted,” Bobrofsky said. “How could you replace it and buy new books?
”City funding for the library has steadily increased, to $52,000 for 2014. The library also receives about$37,000 per year in county funding to help cover the year’s budget of $94,500.
A signiﬁcant amount of that -- $15,300 in 2013 – still goes for material expansion and replacement. Older volumes continue to be weeded out if they’re not being checked out, even though there is more space to expand. Bobrofsky said each new book costs an average of $15-$20, and the popular new item -- books on CD-- can run from $25-$50 each. Part of Bobrofsky’s time each month has been spent paging through catalogs to select new items she thinks will ﬁt her patrons’ tastes.
“I look at them and I read what they’re about and I make the decision as to what my patrons will like,” she said.
Fiction is popular, with most of the hot authors’ works getting a quick waiting list as soon as they arrive. Books on the best-seller lists also get checked out often.
Local patrons also take advantage of inter-library loan services. Through interconnected electronic databases, libraries share their volumes with many others; if someone else has a book a patron at Loyal wants, Bobrofsky makes a request for it and it arrives by courier. Loyal patrons borrowed more than 2,500 items through the system in 2013. A testament to the quality of Loyal’s collection is the number of items sent from here to other libraries -- more than 5,500 in 2013.
Books on CD are among the most sought-after items at Loyal lately. The Loyal library has 740 of them avail-able, and they are checked out by walkers who want to listen to a book while they exercise, elderly patrons who can’t see as well anymore, and even truckers who listen over the road.
“They are very, very popular, " Bobrofksy said. “Ove r the years I have been ordering more."
”Bobrofsky has also seen a change in patron computer use. Many still come in to hook on to the Internet, pay bills and balance checkbooks, play games or take online courses. Nowadays, though, more people come into the library just to connect to its free Wi-Fi, on their own devices. Bobrofsky said she sees fewer young people using computers as more have home access now.
Bobrofsky obviously did not see the prediction come true about libraries being obsolete by now, but there are so many changes here already and more coming that she decided to retire now rather than try to keep up with so many advances.
“I just don’t feel like I’m keeping up with it like I should,” she said. “You can teach yourself just so much.”
She’s most proud of the library’s growth, with circulation peaking at more than 40,000 three years ago before falling back a bit. Also, the Loyal library, in 1996,was selected for the state library of the year award forits efforts to recover from years of stagnation.
Bobrofsky sees the local public library not only as a place for citizens to ﬁnd a book or magazine or video they want, but as a gathering point. A librarian is not just the person who processes the check-out or ﬁnds a volume on the inter-library loan system, but a friendly face.
“You’ll ﬁnd at times the library will become a social place,” Bobrofsky said. “We’re here to listen. These people will come in and they want to talk to someone. I’m going to miss my people.”
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