Library reception planned to celebrate director’s retirement
Patrons and staff of the Marshall Public Library will soon be losing a cornerstone of information services when Library Director Wicky Sleight retires.
Sleight, who was instrumental in establishing MPL as its first director in 1989, returned to the library approximately 5 ½ years ago. From 1989 to today, libraries have seen multiple changes — taking opportunities to stay abreast of cultural trends and the ways in which people work and learn. Sleight has seen those changes firsthand in Marshall and, for her, they are experiences she holds closely.
“When I first started at this library … that was a lot of fun, because when I was in library school we worked with cards,” she recalled. “When I was here, that was when the Internet (really came about).”
MPL opened before the days of email and other popular technology, such as eBooks, which now reflects large circulation numbers. It was also a time before businesses regularly utilized the Web. Assisting patrons with those tasks is something Sleight said she truly enjoys.
“I guess what (I love) is helping people,” she said. “Now, for most jobs, you have to apply online. If you don’t have Internet at home, you come to the library. That’s been great helping people in that respect, and a lot of people take online classes. I tell the staff, if you work at a courthouse or work at the library, you’re going to see people from all walks of life. You have to be open, flexible, because people come in for various things.”
Sleight returned to school in 1969 for library studies after receiving a bachelor’s degree in public speaking in 1964. In between the two, she had worked for a jewelry store.
“My mother suggested I go to library school, so I did,” she said.
Her career began while still in school, when she worked for the State Historical Society of Missouri. Sleight later worked as a school librarian for Fulton Public Schools until moving to St. Louis. There, she worked at St. Louis Community College, Forrest Park.
“That was a really great job,” she said. “The students were older and they really wanted to be there. It was really rewarding.”
Her family then moved to Austin, Texas, before first coming to Marshall. After her first stint at MPL, Sleight worked at the Kirkwood Public Library for 15 years, where she served 27,000 residents and managed a $1.4 million annual budget and 33 employees. She later became a docent at the Holocaust Museum and Learning Center, in St. Louis.
“That was really interesting, because I knew nothing,” she recalled. “It was a big learning curve. You had to go through a long period of training to be a docent.”
When Sleight learned the previous director had resigned, she applied and was hired as an interim director at MPL. In January 2013, she became the full-time director again.
“I’ve made a lot of good friends, and I’m going to miss everybody,” Sleight said.
Library Board of Trustees member Betty Stone spoke admiringly of Sleight’s contributions to MPL, specifically in her success at grant writing.
“She has brought up a lot of programs from writing grants — resources for computers and copiers and things that we would not have ordinarily had the resources to fund. She has been excellent in improving those areas,” Stone said, also noting that Sleight has written grants for summer reading programs as well as guest professors and speakers who have visited over the years. “She has been a big boon to the library, both in her first time here and when she came back. We have been very appreciative of her gifts and talents for the library.”
Perhaps Stone said it best when thinking of the mark Sleight has left on MPL, saying, “she is leaving, but her programs are still going on.” It’s a testament to the efforts, affection and dedication Sleight has had to developing services for the library community.
Marshall Public Liibrary currently hosts multiple book clubs, civic group meetings, provides a space for women who hook rugs, and a liturgy of children’s summer programs. She also recently wrote a grant for a children’s summer program of music.
“We wish her well,” Stone continued.”
In addition to retiring, Sleight also says goodbye to the Marshall Rotary Club, of which she was board president for approximately two years. During her time in Marshall, she also served on the Saline County Extension Council.
In her retirement, Sleight plans to serve on the University of Missouri St. Louis County Extension Council, to which she was recently elected, and is applying to be a substitute teacher in the Kirkwood School District so she and her husband can be closer to his doctors.
In a gesture of appreciation, the library will be holding a reception from 4-6 p.m. Friday, March 16, for friends of the library to wish Sleight the best for retirement.
“It is a time when (patrons and residents) can come say ‘thank you,’” Stone said. “If she has touched your life, we would appreciate you coming and telling her so.”
Marshall Public Library is located at 214 N. Lafayette Ave.