On a recent morning, Jill Bachus sat at her desk inside the front door of the Curtis Memorial Library in Wheatland.
All was peaceful and quiet, as the library didn’t open for another half hour.
Other than the sun that shined through the windows, all that illuminated the inside of the building on the town’s Main Street were the colorful strands of Christmas lights and festive decorations placed throughout the shelves of books and reading spaces in celebration of the holiday season.
Bachus said she likes having the library lights off, so she can better enjoy the bright colors of the holiday décor.
For Bachus, the timing is fitting. At the end of 2020, Bachus retired from her position as library director. It’s a job she has enjoyed for the past 15 years.
But, as the 63-year-old quipped, the time has come for her to “start a new chapter” in her life.
Bachus and her husband, Kent, live just outside of Wheatland. They have two children — son, Kendall, who works at Kunau Implement in DeWitt, and daughter, Savanna, who is the family and consumer science teacher at Calamus-Wheatland High School.
For 16 years, when Kendall and Savanna were little, Bachus worked in a grocery store bakery in Clinton.
But having two small children and working an hour away from home was difficult for the young mom.
So, Bachus took a job with the meal site at St. Paul’s United Church of Christ in Wheatland.
The work was fulfilling, and it was just five minutes from home.
“I served the seniors, and helped deliver food,” she related. “I loved so many parts of it, but I got attached to the seniors. Whenever they went to the nursing home or passed away, it was like losing my grandma all over again. That part was very hard for me.”
So, Bachus started helping in the library at Calamus-Wheatland Elementary in Calamus. There, she could be close to her kids and had fun seeing them and their friends during the school day.
That, coupled with her experience working in the library while a student at Pleasant Valley High School, was really all the familiarity Bachus had to go on when the position for a library director at the Curtis Memorial Library opened up in 2006.
But it sounded like something that would be fun and interesting.
As it turned out, Bachus was right.
“I just love working with people … from all walks of life,” she shared. “To be able to help them find a book … the library has so many other services, like copying, faxing, laminating things. I also love our summer reading program, the crafts we make with the kids and just getting them excited about reading.”
Bachus has witnessed many changes at the library throughout her time there, primarily in the number of services it provides to the public.
She is disappointed to end her career during the year of COVID — which caused the need to cancel the summer reading program and the town’s annual Christmas festival at the community hall, two events in which the library took an active part.
But, Bachus has made lots of great memories. As for whomever is hired for the job, she has some parting words of advice for the next director.
“You’re not alone,” she said with a smile. “You have the help of the library board, city clerk, city council, the state library … there is a whole network of people who can answer your questions.
“In businesses like retail, it’s competitive. But in the library world, it’s the opposite. We borrow each other’s ideas. If anyone knows an easier way to do things, they tell everyone else. That’s what’s so wonderful about this business.”
There will be plenty of things Bachus said she will miss. She always enjoyed looking for new ideas for eye-catching displays to set up at the library.
But it’s the interaction with the patrons she will miss the most.
“The people,” Bachus related. “I kind of miss them already; with COVID, some of them are trying to be careful and haven’t been coming in. But it’s just been fun to meet new people, to have people come in and visit and to help them find what they’re looking for. They keep me up to date on what’s going on in the community.
“I’d like to thank the whole community. All the other libraries, locally and statewide. There is such a support system out there. The state library is unbelievably helpful. But I still have a library card … I’ll be back, checking out books.”