Hiatt retiring; Skeen taking over

By Linda Moody

March 9, 2014

UNION CITY, Ind. - When Virginia Hiatt took the job as director of the Union City Public Library, she thought she might move on after a year or two. Now she is retiring after 40 years at that job.

A proud 1964 graduate of Ridgeville High School and a 1968 graduate of Ball State, she served as librarian at the Batesville Community High School before returning to Ball State for her master’s degree. Then there weren’t any openings for school librarians, and she heard about the vacancy at the Union City Public Library.

“I always thought I’d be in a school situation,” Hiatt explained, “so I thought I can move on in a year or two when I make up my mind. Well, after 40 years, I’ve finally made up my mind. I’m moving on - to retirement.”

Hiatt’s 40 years as librarian at Union City has seen two major achievements: the 1988-89 library remodeling and automation.

The remodeling in 1988-89 provided an elevator for handicapped access and an expansion of shelving by using the library’s high ceilings. At a cost of $135,000, the remodeling preserved the Carnegie building’s architectural and interior integrity

Frank Miller donated the lumber that artisans used to create the new tall shelves. The entire project was paid for by library funds and donations.

Hiatt said, “We didn’t have to issue bonds or borrow any money. I think that says a lot for the Union City community.”

The second major achievement of Hiatt’s tenure is the library’s move to automation, although the director says that move didn’t come naturally to her. When she began her job at Union City, the bookwork was done by hand in a two-spread ledger, a process that took hours.

“I’m not really into electronics, and I really drug my feet,” she recalled. “But when we got our first computer, it was so much easier to do the bookkeeping and to apply for grants.”

Now the library is part of the state-wide Evergreen system that opens up the collections of libraries across the state to Union City patrons, who can search any participating library for a book they want.

The Union City Public Library is in “very good financial shape” compared to other libraries, Hiatt said. Board members have credited Hiatt with that achievement, but she is quick to say the library’s sound financial status is due to both past and present board members.

Joseph Skeen will become the new director today.

“I believe he will do a good job for Union City,” she said. “New blood hopefully will bring new people to the library. One of the most disturbing trends is the decline in use of the library since the advent of computers. The young and even some of their parents think they can get everything from the computer, and that’s not so.”

Hiatt has a pat answer when she’s asked what retirement will mean for her.

“I have family in California, Maine, Florida and Georgia, and friends in North Carolina and Michigan, so travel will be on the agenda. Eventually I want to volunteer. Schools always need readers. I will keep busy,” she replied.

She has been content working in Union City for 40 years. She did book reviews for service clubs and was active in professional library organizations.

She added, “I’ve had wonderful board members.”

The library board is holding a retirement reception for Hiatt from 2 to 4 p.m. March 16 at the Community Room. Refreshments will be served, and the public is invited to view the library’s 40 years of scrapbooks and memorabilia while extending best wishes to the retiring librarian.