(Posted July 14, 2020)
By Kristy Zurbrick, Madison Editor
She wanted to hit 20 years exactly. She came close.
Peggy Riley, a cheerful, helpful presence at Mount Sterling Public Library, retired on July 1. Her first day on the job as assistant librarian was Sept. 20, 2000. She came within three months of reaching that two-decade goal.
“I had a nasty fall in February. Thankfully, nothing was broken, but today was my first time driving since it happened,” Riley said earlier this month. “My body’s not wanting to work like it used to, and it’s hard to drive. I thought maybe it was a good time to retire.”
The 80-year-old relayed all of this with not a hint of gloom in her voice. That’s just her personality–upbeat all the way. That personality made her an enjoyable co-worker and a delight to library patrons.
“Peggy was always good entertainment and fun,” said Melissa Reece, also an assistant librarian. “I’m going to miss having her around.”
Riley got into library work because she was looking for something to do between crops going in and coming out of the ground. Her husband had closed his insurance business to focus on farming.
“We talked about traveling, but that didn’t pan out. So, I decided to look for a part-time job,” Riley said.
She found it at Mount Sterling Public Library but not before turning down a job driving the bookmobile for the Circleville library.
“I just didn’t feel comfortable with driving a bookmobile, but I pushed the idea of a bookmobile with Heidi (Fletcher, director of the Mount Sterling library at the time),” Riley said. The library got a bookmobile.
As for her time at the library, Riley said she enjoyed everything about it.
“It’s been great. When you work in the winter, you’re out of the cold. And it’s a cool place to be in summer. You can talk to people. You’re always moving–restocking shelves, helping customers,” she said.
While staff members at the small library are cross-trained to do most tasks, Riley definitely had her specialties. She took care of logging, shelving and tracking circulation of magazines. She was a regular on “cargo” duty, packing and preparing interlibrary loan materials for shipping to any of 200 libraries around the state, as well as unpacking loans coming the other direction.
“She always liked to call patrons to let them know when their materials came in–because she likes to chat!” Reece said.
Before joining the library staff, Riley had worked at the local grocery store, taught Sunday school at churches in Mount Sterling and Five Points, and had five children who attended Westfall Schools. As such, she had made lots of connections, and a lot of those people visit the library.
“I enjoyed the people coming in and out,” she said of library patrons.
Riley brought as much enthusiasm to volunteer tasks for the library as she did to tasks for which she earned her paycheck. She was a regular at Friends of the Library fundraisers, participating in paint parties, providing desserts at various events, and modeling in the group’s fashion shows.