WICHITA FALLS, Texas (TNN) - Midwestern State University’s beloved librarian Clara Latham is retiring after more than 30 years of service.
She arrived from South Dakota in 1989 and knowing it would her husband’s final Air Force assignment, they decided to settle in Wichita Falls.
A lot has changed during her 30 years on campus.
“When I came, all of our materials were in a dumb terminal," Latham said. "You could look up a book title and write a column or go to the shelf, but there was nothing else you could get from the computer. So much of it is now online, they’re able to get out what they need from the online resources, and we try to really lead them toward the good resources, the databases that we’ve purchased.”
Construction at Moffett Library has wrapped up and soon a new librarian will be welcomed to the building to utilize the renovations.
Work had been going strong since May 2018 to turn the library into a more modern place for students to study, with the cost of renovations coming at $7.4 million.
The grand opening planned for April 7 was canceled as the coronavirus pandemic unfolded.
The MSU Texas news release can be found below:
Moffett Library has new look built with tradition of listening as longtime librarian retiring after 30 years
Moffett Library at Midwestern State University is open for students getting ready for Spring 2020 finals.
That’s the normal part of what continues to be a season of change for the university library. A building project was wrapping up just as the COVID-19 shutdown hit Wichita Falls, and thus the planned grand opening for April 7 had to be canceled.
And soon, Moffett will welcome a new University Librarian with Clara Latham retiring after more than 30 years of service at MSU Texas.
“My goal was to get through the opening,” Latham said. “I thought I’d stay through those two years (of the project) and then bow out at the end of May, which is super quiet.”
So much for the best-laid plans. Latham leaves a much different-looking campus than she joined in 1989 when she was hired by Melba Harvill and Joan Patterson. But the spirit of Mustangs (then Indians) has remained a constant during her long tenure, she said.
“I really liked MSU,” Latham said. “I love the environment of the library, and I love working to help people solve a goal. It was very interesting to work with faculty and see the students. We liked the size of the community. It’s got everything without being in a big city. If you don’t want to be in a big city, which we didn’t, then this is a great place to settle down. We knew this was going to be my husband’s final (Air Force) assignment, and so we bought a house and decided to stay here.”
Libraries were different then. The card catalog was something taught to students at all levels of school in preparation for how to research a paper or project. Drinking coffee or eating a snack was strictly prohibited in a library. And browsing through the newspaper aisle was the easiest way a college student could find out the latest stories from top journalists.
Times have changed, and information began to spread much faster on the internet, but Latham’s love of being in the library only grew. Her focus remained to “help students find the best answer and do it quickly, so they don’t waste a lot of time. Even in the age of Google, people can waste a lot of time. And you want them to find accurate, peer-reviewed information.”
“We’d stay on top of the changes enough to know what’s coming,” said Latham, who remembers proving she was up with the latest technology by sending an email to Texas Woman’s University where she commuted for five years earning her doctorate. “When I came there was a paper card for every book, we shelved cards and typed cards into that card catalog. Netscape was coming along, and we were adding study space. You have to stay on top of the challenges.”
It was that ear to the ground that gave Latham the idea to put whiteboards out on the floor. Another time she realized Moffett could utilize “restaurant buzzers” to let students know when a study room was ready.
“I’m going to miss the contact with staff, faculty, and the students, and the energy of what’s coming next,” Latham said. “To be involved in everything, especially with the next year where there’s going to be a lot of challenge working with social distancing, and deciding the best way forward.”
She hopes the next group of students will appreciate the brighter colors, improvements to the computer rooms, and the team spirit at MSU Texas, where she has seen three decades of students flourish.
Latham believes in MSU as much as when she arrived here from South Dakota in 1989 and she and co-worker Andrea Williams were hired a few weeks apart. “We’ve been partners since, or sisters with a different mother, as they say,” she added. “It’s a common focus where everyone works together on seeing students be successful. I think (Wichita Falls) is a really good place to set down roots.”
The Wichita Falls Museum of Art at MSU Texas opened Friday with limited hours, and can welcome up to 12 visitors at one time. Should there be greater than 12 people in the museum, visitors will be asked to wait in an appropriate area.
To continue caution against the spread of COVID-19, visitors are asked to sanitize hands, cover coughs, and maintain six feet distance from others, and if they prefer, to wear a mask. Museum staff will do the same and will be on hand to guide visitors. Guest surfaces will be cleaned after every visit.
Hours of operation are 10 a.m.-1 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday; 10 a.m.-1 p.m. and 5-7 p.m. Thursday; and 1-5 p.m. Saturday. Fridays from 9-10 a.m. are reserved for seniors 65 and older. The Museum Gift Shop remains closed until further notice; however, pre-bagged exhibition catalogues for current shows are available for sale with a credit card. There are many educational and enrichment opportunities available online at https://wfma.msutexas.edu/