Kathy Blackburn gets congratulatory hugs from Olivia Pierce, 5, of Portage (right) and Carolyn Chester of South Haven (left) at the South Haven Public Library in South Haven, Ind. | Stephanie Dowell~Sun-Times Media
Updated: March 21, 2012 8:05AM
There was no doubt what Kathy Blackburn’s favorite color is.
Purple streamers festooned the meeting room of the South Haven Public Library and a purple bouquet graced one of the tables.
Blackburn, the guest of honor, wore a purple cardigan, and many well-wishers who stopped by on Feb. 16 to commend Blackburn, the library’s head of youth services, on her 30th anniversary with the facility wore purple as well.
Story hour attendees and their parents, colleagues, area teachers and community members congratulated Blackburn, even if it had been awhile since they’d last been to a library program.
“I loved story time here. It was a lot of fun,” said Carolyn Chester, 25, of Valparaiso, who first attended Blackburn’s programs when she was 2.
Blackburn, 66, who lives in South Haven, started her career at the library on Feb. 16, 1982, as a children’s assistant. Two years later, she became head of what is now the youth services department.
The people and the children haven’t changed over the years, and Blackburn said she’s always considered the library like a family.
“I just hope over the years I’ve touched some lives in a love of books,” she said. “It is a fun job and that is why I never feel bad getting up in the morning and going to work.”
Her favorite children’s authors include Eric Carle, author and illustrator of “The Very Hungry Caterpillar,” and Jim Aylesworth, who retells fairy and folk tales.
Outside the library walls, Blackburn enjoys her basset hound puppy Heidi Noelle and her two cats, Maggie and Moses. She also likes horses and collects Breyer horse figurines, and plays organ for the Prince of Peace Lutheran Church in Merrillville.
But mostly, she loves the library and its patrons. Olivia Pierce, 5, gave Blackburn a big hug. Mom Shannon Pierce, of Portage, said Olivia has been attending story hour with Blackburn for three years, more than half of her life.
“My daughter’s learned to enjoy books just from being at the library,” Pierce said. “Books are kind of a dying breed, and I think it’s important to keep kids involved with books and programs.”
Blackburn plans to continue in her role at the library as long as she can.
“I’m really not ready to retire. I feel as long as I enjoy my job and as long as I can do it, I want to do it — if I can get that one more kid into books,” she said.