BREMEN — When Arlene Dettbrenner started working at the Bremen Public Library in 1981, there were vinyl records, film reels and plenty of typewriters — but not a computer in sight.
“I’ve seen a lot of changes through the years,” Dettbrenner said.
As she plans to retire at the end of September, she recalls one of the most exciting changes at the library — the introduction of VHS movies into the collection.
“We had a little shelf with about 30 videos and two VCRs that we loaned out. I think it was a $10 fine if you were late with a video,” she said.
Then computers came.
“I remember my first experience with a computer mouse,” she chuckled.
She was there when the library transitioned from manual to computerized check-out. She watched the card catalogue become extinct. She saw the role of the library change drastically.
“We used to do a lot more reference work for people, pulling back issues of magazines and so forth. We don’t do much of that anymore, because of the Internet,” she said.
While many aspects of the library have changed through the years, one thing has remained constant — Dettbrenner’s upbeat attitude and friendly smile. Children’s Librarian Sandy Krost has worked with Dettbrenner for 27 years.
“Working with Arlene has been a joy,” Krost said. “She’s a positive, encouraging person, open to talk about ideas and try new things. I’ve always had a fun time working on any project with Arlene.”
The two ladies have been co-leading a book discussion group at the library called the “Book Questers” for several years and share a similar passion for coordinating refreshments to go along with each book title.
“We both like having nice napkins,” Krost said with a laugh. “We try to think, ‘What kind of napkins would go with this book?’”
Dettbrenner has enjoyed being part of the book group.
“I like it because you read books that you wouldn’t normally read,” she said.
Library Director Marsha Patterson appreciates Dettbrenner’s dedication to the library.
“Arlene has been a very important part of our library staff for 31 years,” Patterson said. “When I hired her she was just an acquaintance but she has become a very dear friend and I will miss her being here and helping me along the way.”
Dettbrenner started as a part-time desk clerk, working with patrons and conducting a story hour for children. A few years later, she moved into the full-time position she still holds today, handling the library’s bookkeeping needs as well as processing new materials and getting them ready for the shelves. Another part of her position has been coordinating materials for the entryway display case.
Her favorite part of her job has always been the people — both the patrons and her coworkers.
“I really like working the desk and being with the patrons,” Dettbrenner said. “It’s a very nice place to work. I will miss the staff. We always talk and laugh together.”
The only negative aspect of her job was cleaning 16mm films, though she looks back on the experience now with a laugh.
“We had to clean, check and splice them while using a foot pedal and if you didn’t get it just right, you would have film all over.”
Dettbrenner is celebrating her retirement with a trip to Florida, where she will visit with family and go to Disney World.
After the retirement vacation, Dettbrenner has plenty of hobbies and interests to keep her busy — reading, cooking, going to her lake house and watching Notre Dame football, to name a few. She is also an active member of the Psi Iota Xi service sorority. Most of all, she plans to spend more time with her family.
Arlene and her husband, Tom, have two daughters, both of whom reside in Goshen with their families. Kelly and her husband, Heath Simpson, have three children, Grant, Madison and Emma. Shannon and her husband, Jason Smith, have two children, Annika and Lilly.
Dettbrenner’s last day at the library will be Friday, Sept. 28 — exactly 31 years after her original hire date of Sept. 28, 1981. Staff members at the library encourage patrons and friends to stop in to see Dettbrenner on her last day.
“She has a great attitude and she will be missed by both the staff and our library patrons,” Patterson said.