Retiring library exec director won’t let grass grow underfoot

Huntington City-Township Public Library Executive Director Kathy Holst (left) chats with Janelle Graber, the director of the Eckhart Public Library in Auburn, during a retirement reception for Holst held at the Huntington Branch on Friday, June 13.
Huntington City-Township Public Library Executive Director Kathy Holst (left) chats with Janelle Graber, the director of the Eckhart Public Library in Auburn, during a retirement reception for Holst held at the Huntington Branch on Friday, June 13. Photo by Rebecca Sandlin.

Originally published June 19, 2014.

When Kathy Holst retires as executive director of the Huntington City-Township Public Library, she may just pick up where she left off so many years ago - in Argentina.

"I've always been interested in paleontology," she explains. "I was an exchange student in Argentina when I was in high school. And that new, great big, giant dinosaur - largest in the world - that they just found down there? I might go back and investigate that. Maybe even help dig it up."

Holst, who has spent more than 30 years at the helm of HCTPL, isn't planning to let any grass grow under her feet when she finally works her last day, still to be determined. On her to-do list is a European trip planned for the fall, spending some quality time with her grandchildren and visiting her 94-year-old mother in her home state of Idaho.

A reception to honor Holst was held Friday, June 13, at the Huntington branch, where she greeted a bevy of well wishers. One of them, library board member Juanita Buzzard, says Holst's influence will be missed at the library, but not her presence.

"We're losing a director, but I'm not losing (someone who is) a great friend," Buzzard said. "We've been very busy. She is largely responsible for all of this building. It's all been her dream and her work and her planning."

However, being in the library business wasn't Holst's intent when she graduated from college with a degree in international relations.

"I married my husband, who was an engineer in Berne, Indiana," she recalls. "And believe it or not, Berne, Indiana, did not have a great demand for international relations."

A library director position opened in Berne and Holst was tapped for the job. She subsequently went back to school and obtained a Master in Library Science. Later she came on board at Huntington's library, in 1983.
"I've been happy," she says.

Among Holst's achievements at HCTPL are the nearly 15,000-square-foot addition built in 1997 and the $3.4 million expansion in 2010, adding another 13,000 square feet and more than doubling the children's section. In addition, she spearheaded the Markle branch's plan to purchase the lot and build a new facility at the location now occupied by the Markle Town Hall building.

Another important phase she led the library through is the addition of new technology, giving patrons the edge in using the Internet and electronic devices to enhance their reading and research experiences.

"We had the first self-check in Indiana; we had the first broadband Internet in the county," she says. "We have always utilized what was new to make what we had even better."

Janelle Graber, the director of the Eckhart Public Library in Auburn, says Holst has been a wonderful resource to other libraries as they strive to keep current and combine resources, such as online ebook availability.

"She's helped us tremendously over the years," Graber says.

But Holst counts the programming that has evolved at the library over the years as her biggest achievement.

"We do have marvelous facilities," she says, "but they are only important when people utilize them in the way they were meant to be utilized, and library services are important to this community.

Concurrently, it's the people and public contact she'll miss the most.

"We've always had people who come in and say, ‘It would be marvelous if you could ...' and we file that away," she explains. "If there's a way to serve that portion of the community we've always done that. The public has definitely been involved in the library programming."

In the next few weeks, Holst will help train her successor, incoming executive director Rebecca Lemons, whose first day will be July 14.

"I will be available to answer questions and help her through that transition," Holst says.

After that, she'll begin to pack for a trip.