It has been a year of change at Morrison-Talbott Library in Waterloo.
In addition to changes in service due to COVID-19, construction of a major remodeling project is currently underway and the library recently welcomed Jamie Wratchford as its new director.
Wratchford takes the place of Elaine Steingrubey, the longtime director who retired at the end of June.
Steingrubey said she was “thrilled to leave the library in her guidance,” referring to Wratchford, who has been at the library since early 2017.
Wratchford is originally from Millstadt, but she and her husband have lived in Waterloo for the past 28 years.
She began her career providing financial aid and student loan administration services for private educational and lending institutions in the St. Louis area. She left that career to homeschool her two now-adult daughters.
“When it came time for me to return to work outside of the home, I spent a lot of time thinking about my skill set and passions and really asked myself, ‘What do I want to do when I grow up?’” Wratchford recalled, adding that she “purposefully chose library administration, returned to school and was blessed to find a position at Morrison-Talbott Library.”
Wratchford began working part-time, but soon became the assistant director, working closely with Steingrubey the past three-plus years.
She says she loves that “libraries are extensions of their communities” and Morrison-Talbott Library is no different.
Wratchford’s vision for the future of the library is already taking shape with recent changes to the building itself.
“We realized that there is a lack of meeting space for organizations and individuals in our community,” she said. “To meet this demand, we undertook a large renovation… to create those much-needed meeting spaces for people. In that same vein, we added restrooms and a kitchen for the comfort and use of those groups.”
The space was made by creating a stairwell to the lower level of the library, which now houses archives and the meeting spaces Wratchford described.
“The public’s response to the stairs and all of the renovations has been overwhelmingly positive,” she said, also noting the renovation “created more public space on both levels for computer use, studying and collaboration” when the library can operate at full capacity in the future.
The library only recently opened for limited browsing and computer use following an extended shutdown due to coronavirus restrictions and construction closures, although much of the major construction work was completed during the stay-at-home order.
Wratchford said all libraries have focused on digital services during the pandemic, adding that Morrison-Talbott Library has seen a dramatic increase in the use of electronic books and audiobooks and they have begun hosting web-based programming.
“Our community does miss the library and we miss everyone as well. It has been challenging to keep materials and services accessible while still attempting to protect the public and our staff, but libraries continue to innovate and transform, as they always have and will,” Wratchford said.
She has also been tasked with the care of the Col. Morrison home, the site of the original library, stating that “we will rely upon the community to help the home find its future purpose, which might mean additional meeting spaces, rentals or even as an annex to the main building.”
Wratchford is looking forward to watching the library grow under her watch. “I am excited about the future of the library and our important role in the community. I felt called to public service, and am honored to join the short list of those who have served as the director of Morrison-Talbott Library through the years.”