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After 33 years of service, librarian and Lyon alum set to retire

After 33 years at Lyon College’s Mabee-Simpson Library, Public Services Librarian Kathy Whittenton, ‘75, will retire in June 2019. Whittenton’s story at Lyon began when she was a student herself.

“I originally came [to Lyon College] for family day in junior high school,” she said. “I wanted a small school, and I found it at Lyon. At that time it was Arkansas College.”

Whittenton, a senior history major by spring 1975, had decided against the teaching profession. But after meeting with history professor, Dr. Jane Fagg, Whittenton found her true calling.

“[Dr. Fagg] said ‘have you ever considered library science?’ recalled Whittenton. “As it turns out, I took one of those personality tests, and librarianship was at the top of the list.”

Whittenton graduated with a master’s of library science from Vanderbilt’s Peabody College in Nashville, Tenn. in December 1976. She landed her first job with the East Arkansas Community College library in her hometown of Forrest City.

Eight years later, with Fagg’s encouragement, Whittenton became a librarian at Arkansas College.

While at Peabody, she was introduced to the then-new concept of interlibrary loan (ILL), the computer service that helps libraries loan materials to other libraries. Vanderbilt had a computer during a time when it was uncommon for libraries to have one.

“A lot of smaller libraries depended on the state library to give them access to the books through the computer,” Whittenton explained.

She carried her experience with computers and ILL to Lyon, and in 1984, she witnessed Lyon join only a few other state libraries in owning computers and offering ILL.

“It wasn’t common to have a PC [back then],” she said. “We had two computers. We used [one] for interlibrary loan and cataloging, and we each had certain hours [to use it].”

Whittenton shared that the library became “automated” in 1989, meaning librarians were able to search for materials via the computer.

“When the computer became a good tool to use, it solved our problems,” she said.

Whittenton’s fondest memories are helping students and faculty find materials for their projects and research.

“I really enjoyed helping the students find information on all subjects including chemistry and biology, and I never had a chemistry class in my life,” she said. “I learned a lot every day.”

Despite the library’s computer using dial-up in the 1980s, Whittenton said she averaged eight to ten searches a day for faculty.

“The first time I noticed really appreciating the computer [was when music professor] Dr. [Russell] Stinson asked me for the address of a chapel in England,” she said. “I looked it up, and it gave me a map of exactly where it was. I remember saying ‘wow.’”

Whittenton said she will miss the people at Lyon the most, but she won’t be too far. She still plans to attend college events. She also looks forward to volunteering with several historical societies in Batesville.

When asked if there was anything she wanted the community to know about her, smiling she said, “I’ve enjoyed being here, and it doesn’t seem like 33 years…it was always interesting.”

Whittenton’s retirement reception will be Friday, April 26. from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. in the Bevens Music Room of the Brown Fine Arts Building (Brown Chapel) on Lyon’s campus. The Lyon and Batesville community are invited to attend.

Article by Madeline Pyle / Image submitted

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