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El Dorado toasts librarian for 40 years of promoting literacy in Union County

El Dorado News-Times

Public radio listeners love their librarians. Therefore, this story hits a nerve. The librarian of Barton Library in El Dorado for the past 40 years, Nancy Arn, is retiring.

While Arn was stationed at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio, she worked in the aeronautical library. There, she realized she wanted to get her master’s degree in library science. It was the dawn of computers.

“We were learning about bits and bytes and all the technical aspects of computers. Now, we don’t write people’s names down. We have automated systems to check out books and to list books that we didn’t have before. It’s made the job different -- not necessarily easier -- but different,” Arn said.

Former El Dorado mayor Mike Dumas was always impressed with how Arn expertly juggled and stretched city-county library funds. He says she set up satellite library services in outlying towns across Union County so no one had to drive too far to find books.

“Being a public library living off of public dollars, she didn’t have a lot of revenue to work with. She was limited. But she did an excellent job in trying to reach out to the entire county to see that the library was available to everyone,” Dumas said, who now serves as a Union County Justice of the Peace.

Arn says she hopes her legacy will be that she made the library more inclusive. In the 1970s, that wasn’t the case.

“When I first got here, teenagers weren’t allowed in the library without a parent in the evenings to do their homework. We tried to open that up so that all ages would be welcome,” Arn said.

A reception is set for Thursday from 2 - 5 p.m. at the Barton Library, 200 East 5th Street.

In retirement Arn plans to travel, garden, volunteer, and read all the young adult fantasy fiction she can get her hands on. Her last day is Dec. 31. Notably, it’s also the last day of Fine Forgiveness Month at Barton Library.