A life of full-time library service comes to an end

RANTOUL — Violet LaPine didn’t need an aptitude test to help her figure out what she wanted to do for a living. She knew from an early age that libraries were in her future.

Since she was a student at Woodrow Wilson Junior High School in her hometown of Decatur, LaPine, who has been the head technical library assistant at Rantoul Public Library for 22 years, has been in the place of books and the Dewey Decimal System.

While some people get letters for their high school athletic involvement, LaPine received a medallion for her four years of work at Decatur MacArthur High School. Her library work continued at Richland Community College. She went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in library science from Illinois State University.

LaPine is careful to note: “I’m not a librarian. To be a librarian, you have to have a master’s degree.”

No matter the title, LaPine, known by many as “Miss Violet,” has retired from library work.

It’s not like LaPine couldn’t wait to retire. It’s her fondness for the work that has kept her at the library so long.

“I’ve loved it. I can’t give this place up,” said an emotional LaPine. “I was thinking about all the different things I’ve gotten to do and learn.”

One person who will miss LaPine is library Director Holly Thompson.

“Violet was the heart of the library and is irreplaceable,” Thompson said. “We are fortunate that she plans to continue helping the library on a volunteer basis.”

LaPine will continue to help with the weekly card-making nights at the library, held from 7-8:30 every Thursday.

“I love it,” LaPine said of card making. “We make birthday cards, talk and laugh. It is so much fun.”

LaPine’s library service in Rantoul (she also served for several years at the Decatur library) started in 1995 as a library assistant when Rantoul Public Library was located on Century Boulevard — a location now home to Walgreens. She became head technical library assistant a few years later under Director Don Thorsen.

The present building on Flessner Avenue — formerly an Air Force bowling alley —  was opened as the library in 2003.

While LaPine said she liked the Century Boulevard building with its history and despite its leaky structure (one spot had a crack wide enough to pass a dollar bill through), it wasn’t big enough. Activities were crowded. In those days, a Medieval group that met there had to go outside for dancing. Now there is plenty of room for that yearly event as well as many others, ranging from a writers group, to an electronics class, a Yarn N Yak club, computer use, even reading.

Like any smaller library, the staff wears many hats. LaPine has worn her share. One was organizing the annual authors fair.

“I loved doing all the local authors (fairs),” LaPine said. “We ran the course for that. I got to be on TV because of that. I was on radio because of those things.”

What LaPine has liked best about working at a library (yes, she loves to read but rarely had time) was “you get to learn new stuff, be around all different kinds of people, all the different programs that we do.”

Another attraction was the diverse learning.

“It’s almost all at your fingertips, always,” she said.

While LaPine has been technical library assistant, she can’t claim to be ahead of the game on the latest technology. She wasn’t enjoying that role as much.

“It’s time now to turn that over to the younger people,” LaPine said. “Give them a chance to learn new things. I don’t feel as smart about computers as I used to. I was kind of teasing I’m going to get out of here before it turns to Windows 10. I’m not ready for that. I grew up on computers with punch cards.”

And the changes in technology have been significant.

A youngster who shows up for Chess Club at the library spied an old manual typewriter in storage and asked what it was. Every time he shows up for chess, he asks if he can see the typewriter and if it’s in working order yet.

It was at an event in Charleston hosted by the Society for Creative Anachronism — an organization dedicated to research and re-creating the arts, skills and traditions of pre-17th century Europe — that LaPine met her husband, Daniel, who was from Milwaukee. LaPine, as usual, was helping out. She was teaching how to play board games.

After their marriage, her husband, who was in the military, was sent to England. She did not work in any English libraries but did a lot of volunteer work there.  The

LaPines were later sent to Arizona, where she ran two church libraries and was involved in dance programs.

Her husband decided to leave the military and study to become an engineer. He enrolled at the University of Illinois, and they settled in Rantoul.

Some of the significant memories of her 20-year-plus Rantoul library stint have been serving youngsters who then grow and bring their youngsters to the library. She remembers one such instance when a parent told his daughter, “That’s Miss Violet. She was my librarian when I got on the computers and learned all this stuff.’

“I’ve been with two generations here,” LaPine said. “That’s amazing to think about. You think, ‘I’m just doing my job,’ and then all of a sudden you turn around 10 years, 15 years.”

LaPine is also active outside the library. She teaches dance to a group of fourth- and fifth-grade girls at Christian Life Church on Tuesday evenings. She teaches Sunday school to first-and second-graders. And on Mondays, she plays disc golf with a group of women at Wabash Park.

She’ll have more time for all of that now. And she would like to travel more.

LaPine could have retired much sooner, but “I fell in love with what I was doing. This is the job that God created me to (do). This is my mission field — people coming to me and actually being able to help them,” she said.

dhinton@rantoulpress.com




 



 

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