By Rita J. Egan
A warm, familiar face at the circulation desk has greeted patrons of Emma S. Clark Memorial Library for decades. Audrey Hirschmann’s co-workers and members of the library’s board of trustees surprised her with a party Sept. 7 at Emma Clark to celebrate her 40th anniversary as an employee of the library.
Hirschmann, 88, said she has seen a lot of changes at the library since she started in 1977, including two expansions — one in the 1970s and one in the 1990s. The circulation clerk said she has worked with three directors and several supervisors at the library through the decades.
“A lot has gone on, and it just went so fast,” she said. “I can’t believe it went so fast.”
She began working at Emma Clark at 48, when her children Leslie Baffa, who was in attendance for the recent get-together, and Nancy, were teenagers. Baffa, of Stony Brook, said she was 15 when her mother started working at the library, and remembers walking there from P.J. Gelinas Junior High School. She said she’s proud of her mother for celebrating such a milestone.
“I think it’s great for her,” Baffa said. “She loves it here. It’s such a nice place to work; it’s such a nice place for the community. She really likes helping people at her job, so I think it’s great.”
Hirschmann said when she began working at the library she didn’t have any training in the field, and learned as the years went by. She said through the decades it’s been a pleasure working with her fellow employees and interacting with the patrons, especially her regulars. The library clerk said besides experiencing expansions and staff changes, she has shared life events with her fellow employees, including the passing of her husband, William, three years ago.
“We had sadness, we had happiness,” she said.
The circulation clerk said in recent years people will often tell her to sit down and take it easy, but she loves keeping busy.
“In a lot of the ways it’s routine, which is good,” Hirschmann said. “I do certain things during the day, plus be at the desk. It’s pleasant. It’s nice work; it’s easy work, really. A lot of standing on the feet but it’s the whole atmosphere, it’s very forthcoming.”
Library director Ted Gutmann, who has worked with Hirschmann for 18 years, said he has always found her to be warm and personable.
“She’s always been great to have on the staff and at the circulation desk,” he said. “And everyone knows her here in the community, and she knows everybody.”
Library board of trustees president Linda Josephs echoed Gutmann’s sentiments.
“It’s amazing that she’s been here this long,” Josephs said. “Everybody in the community knows her. She’s always a pleasure to see at the desk.”
Aileen Clark, head of circulation, said she admires Hirschmann’s commitment to the job.
“We’re very proud of Emma Clark library, and she’s one of the reasons why,” Clark said.
Carolyn Emerson who has worked with Hirschmann for 32 years, said she’s inspired to reach the same milestone and has enjoyed her time working with her fellow employee. She said when she forgets a name, Hirschmann remembers it, and is knowledgeable about the community.
“She was the mainstay of circulation when I came, and she is always so cheerful and welcoming to people,” Emerson said.
When it comes to achieving such a work anniversary, Hirschmann has advice for those who are approaching retirement age.
“If you like what you’re doing, keep working because it’s your saving grace,” she said. “Are you going to hang around the house and be a couch potato?”