- Associated Press - Tuesday, April 11, 2017

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - Sharon Bernhardt still remembers getting lost in the pages of “Beauty and the Beast” when she was a child. Some 60 years later, the fairy tale remains her favorite book.

And that’s saying something, considering Bernhardt has spent the past half-century surrounded by books.

In honor of National Library Week (April 9-15), the Indianapolis Public Library is spotlighting her as the longest-tenured librarian in its 144-year history.

From Bernhardt’s beginnings as a part-timer at Eagle Branch in 1967 when she was a student at Northwest High School to overseeing eight branches today, she has witnessed the technological and societal changes that have transformed libraries through the years . from card catalog to automation and online self-service.

Bernhardt didn’t get her own public library card until she was in junior high, but that started a long-lasting love affair with the library and with “Perry Mason” mysteries as a teen. Today, she enjoys biographies and the occasional Nicholas Sparks book. She also likes movies, but don’t expect to see her at the new “Beauty and the Beast” film.



“I have this version in my head from reading when it I was young, and I don’t want any extra characters or anything to change that,” she said.

Among the changes she’s seen on the job over the years:

Her first library card was a paper card with her name typed by a branch librarian. Today, cards with identifying bar codes can be small enough to fit on a key chain, or skip the card entirely and download it on your smartphone.

The collections available are larger and more diverse with shelves of movies and music taking up space that might once have been reserved for Nancy Drew, the Bobbsey Twins and the Hardy Boys.

E-books and audio books are in demand now, but old-fashioned books are still king, Bernhardt said. Large-print editions are popular as baby boomers age.

Library staff knew their patrons better in the early days, Bernhardt said. Back then, “everything required staff assistance; there was no self-service.” Today, libraries are a resource center for everything from jobs to GEDs, fatherhood forums to summer food programs.

Gloria Keating remembers Bernhardt during her early years at the Eagle Branch.

“It was our Wednesday tradition for myself and my four children to visit the library,” she said. “I can still remember how friendly and kind she was, especially when giving my children a quick peek at the new books.”

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Source: The Indianapolis Star, https://indy.st/2oYPJIY

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Information from: The Indianapolis Star, https://www.indystar.com

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