Janet Metzger has lived a life of turning children into lifelong readers and she loved to make them laugh in the process.
After more than 50 years of library service, including the last 15 as the head of children’s services at Rodman Public Library, Metzger is turning her attention to one child – her first grandchild, Kesla – and will retire on Dec. 31.
“I have really enjoyed the past 15 years,” said Metzger. “The time has really gone fast. I am really grateful to everyone who gave me the opportunity to do what I love.”
Metzger, who started working in libraries as a sophomore in high school when she was a page at the Louisville Public Library, always knew she wanted to work with children. However, she envisioned being an elementary school teacher.
After graduating from St. Thomas Aquinas High School in 1974, she matriculated to Walsh College (now Walsh University) with that goal in mind. She continued to work at the library in Louisville during nights, weekends and summers. When she graduated in 1978 with a degree in elementary education, she interviewed for a few teaching positions, but they were all at the junior high or high school level.
“That really wasn’t what I wanted,” said Metzger. “I wanted to be working with little ones.”
Throughout Metzger’s time in college, she had been encouraged to consider library science as a career by Mary Louise Lowe, the director of the library in Louisville. And when Metzger, who had married her husband John in July of 1978, had not found a job by that fall, Lowe hired her on a full-time basis to act as a liaison between the schools and the Louisville Public Library.
“It was a perfect fit,” said Metzger, who later became a children’s librarian and attended Kent State while working her full-time job to get a master’s in library science.
She continued to work full-time until August of 1985 when the Metzgers welcomed their first daughter, Stephanie, to the family, and Metzger worked as a substitute at the Louisville library. In June of 1989, another daughter, Natalie, came along, and Metzger continued to work part-time until both girls were ready for school.
And by the time both daughters were enrolled in Our Lady of Peace in Canton in 1993, Metzger was right there with them after accepting a position as the school’s librarian. It was another perfect fit for Metzger, who oversaw the implementation of a computer lab at the school.
However, when cuts were being made to the school, Metzger decided to move on and made the transition to the Ramsayer Research Library at the William McKinley Presidential Library and Museum, where she delved into local history, reference, and genealogy for four years.
“That was a lot of fun and fascinating,” said Metzger.
However, the call to work with children came again in February 2008 when Pat Stone, who had worked with Metzger in Louisville, was named the director at Rodman Public Library and needed someone to replace her as the head of children’s services at RPL.
“I have loved being a children’s librarian,” smiled Metzger. “I loved the creativity of it. I loved that I could let my imagination run wild with programming. And I loved turning kids onto good books and making reading fun for them.”
Metzger said over the years, she recommended many different authors to children, but more often than not, when a child was looking for a good book, she would start them off with humorous books, like those of Mo Willems, or those by Jen Thomas that are interactive and the children become part of the story.
“I loved to see the kids have fun and laugh,” said Metzger.
However, there’s one particular child she would like to make smile these days and that’s Kesla, her 16-month-old granddaughter who lives in Athens.
John, an accountant with Fleming Foods for many years, has been retired for two years, and the couple would like to be more available to make the nearly three hour drive when they are needed to help care for Kesla, as well as spend time with several older relatives.
“Both families are very close-knit,” said Metzger, who for 40 years also played the organ at Mass for the residents of the St. Joseph Care Center in Louisville before COVID ended that run.
A poll worker for the Stark County Board of Elections, Metzger said she plans on doing more volunteer work in retirement.
Metzger says she will miss interacting with patrons.
“In all my jobs, I have worked with the community in some way,” she said. “I have always enjoyed that outreach and making everyone aware of how important libraries are and of turning people from thinking about libraries as only a place you can go to get books into a place where you can go for anything – information, entertainment, or some kind of help. I would hope that if someone is thinking, ‘I need help. Where should I go?’ they then think, ‘I am going to go to the library to find the help that I need.’”
She will also miss her co-workers.
“Librarians are fantastic people to work with,” said Metzger, who noted automation in libraries as well as the sharing of resources and the cooperation between libraries have been major positive changes she has witnessed over her career. “You hear stories from people who don’t like working with a certain boss or a certain co-worker. Staff at libraries I find to be the greatest people to work with. I have always enjoyed everybody I’ve worked with at all my jobs.”