Library's 'mother hen' steps down after nearly 40 years

By Shelby Harrell Staff Writer | Jan 25, 2014
Photo by: Shelby Harrell Lane Messer puts a book away while working at the Haywood County Public Library. Messer retired today after working in the library system for nearly 40 years.

Lane Messer spent her last week working at the Haywood County Public Library doing the same things she has done for nearly 40 years — cataloging books and making sure everything runs smoothly.

Messer’s last day working for the library was Friday. At only 59, she is retiring early and hopes to spend more time with her husband Donald and her grandchildren.

Messer first joined the library system in 1975 as a secretary. Over the years, she has touched every book that has come through the library as the cataloger and has been regarded as the “mother hen” of library operations for decades.

"I take care of people," Messer said. "It has been fun and interesting."

Though Messer’s professional title has been library technician, she wore a number of hats while working, and became a jack-of-all-trades. In addition to labeling and cataloging books, she has performed maintenance, cleaned, handled security and has been a part of projects and taking inventory at all the library branches in Haywood County

“I have done probably every job in the library,” Messer said with a laugh. “I’ve been here so long, I can walk in and know if someone has touched something or bothered it.”

Messer was always the person library staff members called when they had questions — whether it was about daily operations, resources or even fixing the elevator.

Sharon Woodrow has been the library director for 13 years and has worked with Lane each year. She referred to Messer as one of the “original employees.”

“Lane has been a major contributing factor to the library system,” Woodrow said. “Lane is the person we go to get all the historical facts. She’s a loyal person and employee, and a dedicated hard worker. There there’s not anything she can’t do. It will be a major loss to our system. It will take two people to do the job that Lane has done.”

Messer is planning to spend her first week of retirement in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where she will visit her daughter who is nine months pregnant and is expecting a baby girl.

Messer admits she will miss the library staff a lot, but said this was the first chance she had ever been able to go visit her daughter and stay for a long period of time.

“I feel lucky to be able to retire before the Social Security age,” Messer said. “I really will miss my co-workers. It will be hard to come in here and not want to put away magazines or books that are laying out.”

Messer said working full-time at the library was often a demanding job, but it was rewarding.

“I liked meeting the public — the good, bad and the indifferent,” Messer said. “You may get one ugly customer every now and then, but most of them are lovely and appreciative.”

Messer currently lives in Clyde and has been a Haywood County resident for decades. While working for the library, she has noticed many changes to both the county and the library system.

“We didn’t even have a county manager back when I started,” Messer recalled. “The commissioner who got the most votes during the election was the one who ran the county.”

In addition, Haywood County has grown a lot over the years, particularly the county’s library, Messer said. The only library used to be inside a two-story house with a basement that was located on land that is currently a parking lot at the Haywood County Public Library.

“We had maybe 10 employees then,” Messer recalls, adding that she was a secretary. “We didn’t have part-time workers or the branches then. When we worked there, we did everything that needed to be done.”

The library system has also undergone extensive changes in its cataloging system, Messer said. In previous years, Messer had to hand type cards on a typewriter or type in an ISB number to organize the books, but now the library uses a new computer software that organizes all of the books and connects all three library branches in Haywood.

“It’s a lot quicker to catalog now, but there’s more to catalog,” Messer said.

Messer didn’t want a celebration held in honor of her retirement, but the library staff did give her a plaque and rocking chair in honor of her service, Woodrow said.

“It meant a lot to me,” Messer said. “I can take it out to the lake (Douglas) and sit in it with my babies.”

Messer is sad to leave her staff behind but feels confident that having younger employee take over her job will be refreshing.

“When a younger person takes over, it will be a better position,” Messer said. “Everyone is replaceable — whether you want to think you are or not.”

Woodrow said Messer’s job has been posted internally, adding that some employees on staff may be qualified to fill the position. As of now, no decision has been made.

Messer knows she has left big shoes to fill, and gave some advice to the person who takes over her job.

“I would tell them to do the very best you can,” she said. “We’re all human and we all make mistakes. Make it your job — not ‘Lane’s job’ or somebody else’s job — your job.”

Though difficult, Messer promised that she wouldn’t be checking in at the library to make sure things are OK.

“You’ve got to have faith in the people you left behind,” she said.