RACINE — Libraries are about people.
That’s the lesson Racine Public Library employees are carrying with them after long-time librarian Peggy L. Martin died March 3.
Martin, of Racine, died just before her 91st birthday at the Woods of Caledonia. She worked for more than 60 years at the Racine Public Library, starting in 1949, according to her obituary, and was known for her children’s storytime. A room at the library is dedicated in her honor.
Nick Demske, a community resources librarian, said Martin taught him that libraries are about more than just providing books and other resources to patrons. Demske said he met Martin when he started his first position at the library shelving books. As he watched and learned from his colleagues, he noticed that some people visited the library just to see Martin.
Demske watched how she interacted with visitors — noting her impeccable memory for details about people’s lives — and determined he wanted to emulate Martin’s connection with library guests.
As he thinks about Martin’s impact, Demske said he remembers the value she saw in supporting children.
“This society really takes children for granted,” he said. “We almost treat them like half human beings … Peggy would flip that on its head and be like, ‘These are the people we need to pay the most attention to.’ That, for me, is what characterized her legacy most.”
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Darcy Mohr, the head of adult and youth services at the Racine Public Library, said she first met Martin at age 16 while shelving books on the Bookmobile. Like Demske, Mohr said she remembers Martin as welcoming and someone who made others feel special.
“She just had this spirit about her, always wanting to be helpful,” Mohr said. “She always wanted to know how she could help, regardless of what the situation was.”
Mohr said Martin loved her community, including her job and volunteer activities at her church, the local hospital and other local organizations.
“She just really loved Racine and the people of Racine,” Mohr said. “It was a loss, but Racine was lucky to have her.”
In the spotlight
Martin was the subject of a Journal Times article last year previewing a birthday party thrown in her honor at the library. The article detailed how Martin attended the first preschool storytime in the United States at age 5 in 1932. She told a reporter at that time that it meant a lot to her for children to tell her how much they love to read.
Martin married her husband, Robert B. Martin, in 1950. He died in 2011. She is survived by her children — Jeffrey, James and Jane — as well as her grandchildren and great-grandchildren. The family suggested memorial donations be made to the Racine Public Library or St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, where Martin was a member.
A memorial service was held March 9 at Maresh-Meredith & Acklam Funeral Home. Demske said the crowd at the service paid tribute to Martin’s memory by including a staple from her story times: a rendition of “On Top of Spaghetti.”
“She (Peggy Martin) just had this spirit about her, always wanting to be helpful.” Darcy Mohr, head of adult and youth services at the Racine Public Library
“She (Peggy Martin) just had this spirit about her, always wanting to be helpful."
Darcy Mohr, head of adult and youth services at the Racine Public Library