As the Cascade Public Library begins celebrating its 50th anniversary in October, one of its former directors — who was called a “librarian” at the time — discussed how she came into that role, as well as the changes she’s seen at the library since.
Arlene Eisermann took over as the library’s third librarian June 5, 1982, following Melitta Otting and Clara Weber. She said her best training for the position did not come from her formal education, but from an activity, she enjoyed nearly from the first time she picked up a book.
“The best training I ever had for it was reading under the covers with a flashlight when I was a kid,” said Eisermann. “I loved books from the time I started school and started to read. That was a big deal to me.”
It also contributed to her 15-year run as a librarian, where she checked books in and out and processed and ordered new books. Eisermann said her duties then extended far beyond the bookshelves. “I was also the person who shoveled the snow and did all the cleaning.”
According to Eisermann, when she first started, the City had an agreement with the Dubuque County Library, which gave the Cascade Public Library a sum of money regularly, and sent out books and other materials, as well as paid part of Eisermann’s salary. “After a while, we convinced the City we’d be better off if I ordered the books. That way we wouldn’t be getting stuff we already had on the shelves,” she said.
Eisermann was also instrumental in expanding the summer reading program for kids, and during her tenure, rounded up the funds to purchase a used microfilm reader.
In an unfortunate twist of fate, macular degeneration has robbed the lifelong reader of the ability to read, but not to enjoy books. Now she just listens to them on CD.
Eisermann has a friend who will drive her to get coffee or to the library, where she can see the many changes that have come about since she retired Sept. 24, 1997.
“Things have changed a lot,” Eisermann said. “I go in there and see all the things they have now; they have tons of new books constantly. I think it depends on who’s on the city council.”
When asked what she sees as the most important things a library offers a community, she said she was asked a similar question when she was interviewed for her position 36 years ago. Oddly enough, with all the changes in technology and how libraries work, her answer remains the same today.
“The entertainment value is the big thing and still is,” Eisermann said. “For all the people who said, ‘Oh, there won’t be books anymore because everybody will be reading them on computers,’ I thought, no, some people still like to hold that book in their hands.”