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RUSKIN: Fetherston retires

Published on: August 1, 2018

Librarian retires after 16 years; begins and ends career in Ruskin

By Stephen Flanagan Jackson

Isabelle Fetherston, left, is bid a fond farewell on her final day at the Ruskin Library by Peggy Boa, president of the Friends of the Ruskin Library.

Public libraries are among the most treasured resources in a community. The Hillsborough County Public Library Cooperative serves thousands of people in the Tampa Bay area with its 31 branch libraries, a bookmobile and a cybermobile as well as the Witt Research Center in Tampa.

 People like Isabella Fetherston, former librarian at the Ruskin Branch Library, are the human force behind public libraries, which provide a wide range of resources and services, other than books, in this age of digital technology. Philanthropist Andrew Carnegie would be amazed and proud how the library seeds he planted over a hundred years ago have been cultivated and nurtured all over the U.S., even in Ruskin and the South Shore area.

 Fetherston, however, just completed her final day on July 20 as an employee of Hillsborough County Public Library Cooperative at the Ruskin Branch. For Fetherston, it was a bittersweet day as she walked away into retirement after 16 years of service from a job that was an integral part of her life. Fellow employees and frequent and infrequent patrons alike attest to Fetherston’s caring and gentle style of service. “She will be missed” is the general consensus.

 Fetherston graciously answered a few questions about her work and retirement.

1. How long have you been involved in library work? Which libraries and what type work?

I have worked in public libraries for 16 years. My first library job was as a part-time shelver at Ruskin Branch Library. Next, I became a part-time library assistant for a few years. I enrolled in an online Masters in Library and Information Studies program from Florida State University and became a part-time librarian at the Ruskin Branch. After I received my degree, I took a full-time position as a teen librarian at the New River branch in Zephyrhills, which is part of the Pasco County Library System. I eventually became the branch manager for New River branch. Since this branch was 50 miles away from my home in southern Hillsborough County, I was very happy to take the position as branch manager of Ruskin Library three years ago. I feel I have come full circle, back to the branch that I started at. 

2. What did you do professionally before your present work?

Libraries were my second career. I have a Master of Science (University of Illinois) and Ph.D. (Boston University) in biology, and I used to study animal behavior. I moved back to Florida to be near my parents. 

3. Where did you grow up, attend high school, and attend college?

I grew up in Saint Petersburg. 

4. What are some of the challenges of library work?

Librarianship is a very challenging career. In what other career do you have to be able to find reliable and unbiased answers to questions about anything? Nowadays, librarians have to be very proficient with technology, good at teaching people technology, and good at providing interesting programs for all ages. Of course, we still help people find the information and books that they need and also recommend books that they may like, based on their personal preferences. 

5. What gives you a sense of contentment and satisfaction with your library work?

I love helping people to achieve their dreams — such as getting their Florida childcare certification, finding a job, or accessing public services. I also really enjoy helping people overcome their fear of technology and start enjoying their new smart phone, tablet or computer. I get great satisfaction in sharing wonderful library resources that the library pays for, and that patrons can use for free — such as unlimited online tutoring from grade school through the first year of college. I also enjoyed teaching basic jewelry-making classes — bead work and wire working. All the programs at the library are free, and we provide all the materials.

6. What is the short term and long-term outlook for the Ruskin area?

Ruskin Branch is a small community library, which is 52 years old. We have a friendly staff and a very supportive Friends of the Ruskin Library group. We have several partnerships within the community, such as with the Firehouse Cultural Center and the Ruskin Recreation Center. This year Ruskin Branch programming has included a local history series, a creative kitchen series, craft programs, children’s theater and more. The SouthShore Regional Library is 12 years old and provides a large number of programs for all ages. It even has an art studio and art exhibits. 

7. Anything you would like to add, either about your work and/or your personal/family life?

I am retiring so that I can take care of my parents.