COLUMBUS, Ohio—When Carrie Ingle started working at the downtown Columbus library in March 1956, she used a manual typewriter to prepare each catalog card and meticulously glued protective jackets to new books before they were shelved. Banned from the modest collection in those days was J.D. Salinger’s “The Catcher in the Rye,” deemed too crude and racy.
Sixty years have come and gone, and the 77-year-old Ingle still is working full time behind the scenes, surrounded each day by stacks of brand-new books in what is now one of the country’s busiest big-city library systems. The card catalog cabinets are long gone, and patrons can now log in to the library’s online system and reserve one of 139 copies of “The Catcher in the Rye” or download an electronic copy to their phones.
When Ingle was hired on as a high school senior for $75 a week, Dwight D. Eisenhower was president; Elvis had just pushed “Heartbreak Hotel” into the Top 10; working women dressed in skirts, men in suits; and the downtown library didn’t have air conditioning but did had a baby grand piano that anyone could walk in and play.
“Women were not expected to do as much,” said Ingle, soft-spoken and on this recent day meticulously dressed with upswept blonde hair. “It really was a man’s world for everything, but it didn’t bother me.”
Ingle is one of probably fewer than 25 people who have worked at U.S. libraries for more than a half-century and is among the longest-tenured ever, according to Julie Todaro, president-elect of the American Library Association. That Ingle is still working and adapting to today’s technology makes her longevity, in Todaro’s words, “incredible.”
Through the years she became a much-beloved and competent cog in the machine as she and the library grew up together. Now it’s a network of 22 branches with 571,000 card holders and an annual circulation of more than 17 million.
“She loves her job, and she loves the library,” said Julie Snyder, who was trained by Ingle when she came aboard 31 years ago and remains a close friend. “She has a great work ethic.”
In the 1950s, Ingle said, the cash-poor library was lucky to snag one copy of a best-seller. When the last Harry Potter book was released, trucks rumbled up and unloaded around 700 copies. The zealous demand for each of the J.K. Rowling tales is something that stands out in Ingle’s memory of all those years and titles.
These days she still deals with vendors and cataloging of new books on computer in a cubicle plastered with photos of her great-great grandnieces and nephews. Other than some brief time off for surgery, she’s called in sick only twice. She’s never wanted to do any other job in the library than this one.
A widow, Ingle devotes much of her energy away from work to her role as a lay minister trained to teach caregivers how to give comfort to people who must deal with a dying or addicted loved one.
She’s passionate about both jobs. She doesn’t even talk about retirement.
“I’d rather,” she said, “have my life very busy.”