Retiring librarian Marge Trautman ends tenure as matchmaker between readers and books

She's no stranger to fiction

January 31, 2007|By Laura Shovan | Laura Shovan,special to the sun

The staff at the Howard County Central Library still remembers the day a patron walked in not with a book to return, but a warm apple pie.

"Please give this to Marge Trautman. I'm so grateful for the books she's recommended," the woman said, according to reference librarian Kathy Lewis.

Trautman, a longtime Howard County librarian, is retiring Friday after a 28-year career. Her reputation as a matchmaker between books and people won her a loyal following of patrons, and the occasional apple pie.

Trautman has done everything from driving a Bookmobile to serving as interim manager at the central library - her current position.

Ann Gilligan, Howard County Library's associate director, was Trautman's boss at the central library for several years.

"She has represented the library in so many venues - as a trainer throughout the state teaching people how to do readers' advisories," Gilligan said. "[Trautman] has the most unsurpassed knowledge of fiction and literature. The reason she's sort of an institution is that she's such a wonderful resource."

Trautman's husband is semiretired and the couple plan to travel and spend time with their two grandchildren. Trautman was born and raised in Baltimore, and she and her husband have lived in Columbia since 1972.

When Trautman wanted to return to work after being a stay-at-home parent, a friend encouraged her to apply to the library. She was hired for the county's Bookmobile program in 1978.

Trautman drove a converted bakery truck loaded with books. Passengers sat in a folding chair. The truck, Trautman remembers, "was a little daunting."

She said, "It just seemed like the neatest thing to get this job and be able to talk about books. ... I just found my home" working at the library. The Bookmobile program ended as the library opened additional branches.

Trautman earned a master of library science degree in 1991 and moved to management. She conducted training workshops for incoming librarians and guided many of her co-workers in their personal reading.

Roberta Rood, a central branch library associate, considers Trautman a mentor and friend. "She guided me toward authors like Anne Tyler. That's been a great source of both personal and professional pleasure," said Rood.

Fritzi Newton, Cultural Connections Project coordinator and information services librarian at the Miller branch, also worked with Trautman. "I don't think I've ever met anybody who's as dedicated to creating an excellent fiction collection as Marge is. ... Marge lives and breathes fiction," she said.

Trautman kept the central library's fiction collection current, with a variety of genres and authors - both classic and contemporary. "Sometimes I'd find [authors] serendipitously, with someone coming in and asking for a specific author," she said.

Some of that give and take between librarian and customer has been lost since the advent of the Internet. Gilligan said, "Marge never wanted to take the easy way and say, `Oh, that [book is] over there.' She always had a conversation with her customers to find out what it was they liked."

In the early 1980s, Trautman initiated library services for book groups - well before Oprah Winfrey made them trendy. "We thought, `Wouldn't it be good if we could steer them toward books we have enough of, or books that would make a good discussion?'" Trautman said. The program initially supported two or three clubs. Now the central library gathers books for 40 groups.

Co-workers and family gathered last week at the central library to celebrate Trautman's retirement. "She's highly regarded to have brought back so many old timers" for the party, Newton said. In addition to speeches and gifts, there was some teasing. Trautman was presented with, "a manifesto of all the things Marge has always wanted as far as the fiction desk," Rood said. The document referred to Trautman as "Head Fictionista."

"It made me feel like I will be missed and that I've made some kind of difference here," Trautman said.

"I was a little bit of a perfectionist," she added. "They had me nailed," with the manifesto.

Trautman hopes to substitute occasionally at the central library's fiction desk. "That's my way of not letting go completely," she said. "It's kind of been my identity all these years. It's kind of scary to step away from it.

"I'm going to read a lot more," she added. "I have lists and lists of things to read. That's one great part about retirement."

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