Sherry Wood ends a 47-year run at Rochester Library

Wood started as a switchboard operating and worked her way up.

Sherry Wood recently retired from the Rochester Library after working there for nearly 50 years. (Contributed photo Rochester Public Library)

Sherry Wood never intended to work nearly 50 years at the Rochester Public Library. It more or less happened.

When the Rochester native started work at the old library building, 11 First St. St. SE, Wood was 19. That was in February 1973, and Richard Nixon was still president. Wood started off as a part-time switchboard operator and worked her way up.

Technology hadn't yet made its mark on public libraries, remolding them into information centers with sprawling missions. When Wood graduated from a manual typewriter to an IBM Selectric to type out catalog cards, it was kind of a big deal.

During the next 47 years and seven presidential administrations, Wood, 66, would see a whirlwind of change at the library, all the while performing the core function of connecting patrons with the books, DVDs and the other materials they sought.

If you've ever borrowed anything from the library, in all probability you dealt with Wood at one time or another. But don't call Wood a librarian. She explains why.


When you started at the Rochester library, did you think you would stay for 47 years?

Not at all. That was my first job basically, other than babysitting.

Why did you stay as long as you did?

It's a nice place. It was more like being with family. And there were enough changes over the years. When I started, I typed catalog cards with a manual typewriter. We got excited when we got an IBM Selectric. And then everything went to computers.

Did you witness a lot of change at the library?

A lot of change. That's why it made it easy to be there 47 years. It was like getting a new job every so many years. Relearning again.

Yet you don't consider yourself a librarian. Why is that?

I don't have a library degree. I didn't go to college for one.


Then what is your title?

I'm a Library Associate II.

Sherry Wood recently retired from the Rochester Library after working there for nearly 50 years. (Contributed photo Rochester Public Library)

You were so close to 50 years, the half-century mark. Why didn't you stick around for three more years?

Technology. I don't like using computers. I mean, I did well for my job for what I had to do. But I'm not a technology person. I loved my co-workers. I loved 98 percent of the patrons. There's always a couple. But most of them were awesome.

What do you think of all the changes that have happened to libraries during your time?

Some in the new generation don't even know what the old library was. The original library was going in, browsing for books, checking them out. That's all you did was go in and get books. That's what libraries were.


Was one of the more vexing tasks working at the library was collecting debts on overdue books?

It was. You get people very mad at you. You get four-letter words, but now we don't do overdue fines anymore. That started a few months ago. It was a way to knock down barriers for the people who couldn't afford to pay overdue fees.

Matthew Stolle has been a Post Bulletin reporter since 2000 and covered many of the beats that make up a newsroom. In his first several years, he covered K-12 education and higher education in Rochester before shifting to politics. He has also been a features writer. Today, Matt jumps from beat to beat, depending on what his editor and the Rochester area are producing in terms of news. Readers can reach Matthew at 507-281-7415 or
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