Library leader plans to retire

The Bartholomew County Public Library will bid farewell to its leader and longtime staffer — one who has ushered the library through its most recent digital revolution — and promote its second-in-command to the top post.

Director Beth Booth Poor, 65, will retire May 31 and assistant director Jason Hatton, 35, will assume her role June 1.

Poor, a native of Chicago Heights, Illinois, began working at the library in 1973 after serving as librarian for Southwest Allen County Schools in northeast Indiana. Her first role at the local library was coordinating extension services, which included the Bookmobile and the Hope branch library.

Early on, Poor said she never considered how long she would stay at the facility.

“I was very young then and living day-to-day,” Poor said.

She replaced 36-year director Steve Suckow in 2003 after 18 years as assistant director.

“I’d been thinking about it for a while,” she said of retirement. “I just thought this was about the right time to go.”

She said having such a capable successor such as Hatton and a wonderful staff to continue the facility’s work figured into her decision.

Poor listed her proudest accomplishment as “keeping the library up to date with what people want and keeping us on the cutting edge.”

She said she probably will be more involved in the local community in the future but has no specific plans.

She mentioned that the library’s busiest years under her leadership were 2008 and 2009 when local residents struggled economically. The library’s free resources became more popular than ever. The facility sees circulation of nearly 1 million materials annually.

Staff has increased under her leadership from 45 to 60.

Library board president Mike Wilkerson said that in his four years on the board, Poor has “become the very library itself to me.”

He praised her for staying current on today’s technology, nudging the library forward through downloadable books, music and other items.

“Look also at the Digital Underground area,” Wilkerson said of the library’s newest feature with video-editing and other capabilities launched by social media coordinator Curtis Hartwell. “It’s state of the art. I think part of the developments like that are due to her leadership — and empowering talented people around her.”

Besides the library, Poor became the face of Popfest as chairwoman of the orchestral event that attracted about 7,000 people annually to the library plaza until the concert was discontinued in 2009, due to funding challenges. She also served as the longtime choral coordinator for the Columbus Indiana Philharmonic and its chorus.

Her husband, Bill Poor, well-known in the local arts community, serves as interim director of the Tyson Library in Versailles.

Beth Booth Poor

Age: 65

Position: Director of the Bartholomew County Public Library

Hometown: Chicago Heights, Illinois

Education: Undergraduate degree in American literature from Depauw University in Greencastle; also a master’s in library science from Indiana University

Before coming to Columbus: Served as librarian for Southwest Allen County Schools in northeastern Indiana

Community involvement: Longtime chairwoman of Popfest; Columbus Indiana Philharmonic board member and choral director; board member of the Columbus Indiana Architectural Archives; past president of Zonta of Columbus; past president of Tri Kappa philanthropic organization

Jason Hatton

Age: 35

Position: Assistant director of the Bartholomew County Public Library

Hometown: Columbus

Education: Undergraduate degree in art history from Bethel College in Mishawaka with a sociology minor; master’s in library science from Indiana University

Before coming back to Columbus: On staff at the LaPorte County Public Library before being hired in 2006 locally as a reference librarian

Community involvement: United Way of Bartholomew County board member; board member of the Columbus Indiana Architectural Archives; past adjunct faculty member of Ivy Tech Community College, where he taught online courses in library science; Indiana representative council member on the American Library Association

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Brian Blair is a reporter for The Republic. He can be reached at bblair@therepublic.com or 812-379-5672.