Wyoming librarian Rebecca Hostetler will retire at the end of April. She joined the East Central Library system in 2007 and became the Wyoming branch librarian in 2009.
An open house will be held from 5:30-7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, April 30, to celebrate her years of service. The public is invited to a short presentation at 6:30 p.m. Refreshments will be served.
Hostetler’s career began and will end as librarian, but there were plot twists in the middle.
Her first job out of college was serving as librarian in Barron, Wis., a town of about 3,500 located 40 miles east of St. Croix Falls on Highway 8.
In 1972 she had just completed a B.S. degree in elementary education at Indiana University-South Bend, her family had moved from Indiana to Wisconsin, and she was looking for work.
“There seemed to be a glut of teachers,” she said. “Jobs were nonexistent.”
To prepare for a civil service exam at the Barron County courthouse, she visited the library. The next day, she got a phone call. The librarian was about to retire and invited Hostetler to apply for the job.
“She was an old maid who took care of her parents until they died. This was her baby,” Hostetler said. “For whatever reason, she thought I would be a good librarian.”
She got the job, took a library science course through the Education Telephone Network and stayed seven years.
When she left, it was to attend seminary and become a pastor with the American Lutheran Church, which had begun ordaining women in 1970.
Hostetler liked writing sermons, she said. She would do research and then mull the topic over during the week.
“My approach was, I was preaching to myself as much as to them,” she said. “What do we need to hear?”
Hostetler served congregations in Minnesota and Wisconsin and said she found her niche in caring for the congregation as a whole, especially those experiencing a major change.
“When a pastor has left, the congregation will go through a grieving process,” she said. She helped them look at their history, where they were and where they wanted to go.
But a long career as pastor was not to be.
“About the time I was finishing seminary, I began to question my sexual orientation,” Hostetler said. “I came to realize I was lesbian.”
She decided that trying to function within a church that, at that point, did not accept gay pastors was not workable.
“Leaving was pretty heartbreaking for me, because I loved parish work,” she said.
Hostetler did temporary jobs before becoming a project coordinator for OutFront Minnesota.
She had been living in St. Paul, but wanting some space, she and her partner moved to a hobby farm in Rock Creek. In 2007 she took a part-time position at the reference desk at the East Central Regional Library in Cambridge and landed the branch librarian job in Wyoming in April of 2009.
During her time at Wyoming, rain gardens were installed around the the library building. The special landscaping is designed to filter rain water and snow melt before it enters the ground. Trees, grasses and perennials attract birds and butterflies, and benches built as Eagle Scout projects offer inviting spots to enjoy the view. The rain gardens were built by volunteers.
“In the summer it’s very pretty,” she said. “Monarch butterflies love it.”
In her five years at Giese, Hostetler created several programs for children.
“My approach to community outreach is to establish a good relationship with the elementary school,” she said. She used Legacy Amendment funds to bring a historical character, ventriloquist, physical comedian and author to the library. A program for fifth-graders taught story telling.
The summer reading program includes a collaboration with District 831 School-Age Child Care that brings about 100 children, on two buses, to the library on Wednesdays and Thursdays during summer vacation.
To put books in the hands of children in need, she also started the Giving Tree project, working in partnership with the Chisago County Health and Human Services Department. Patrons can pick the name of a child and buy a book for that child. The program has now spread to libraries in Chisago Lakes, North Branch and Rush City.
The librarian also reached out to seniors, collaborating with Meadows on Fairview residents to facilitate Halloween and Valentine’s Day parties for children.
“Community outreach has been my focus,” she said.
An online quote from Wyoming Mayor Eric Peterson praises Hostetler’s work:
“Rebecca is truly an asset for the Giese Memorial Library. Always looking for ways to improve our library, and finding ways to reach out to the community, promoting literacy, encouraging reading, championing learning and bringing our community together. Seldom does one see such passion in an individual,” he wrote.
What does a community librarian plan to do after retiring?
“I’ve always loved books,” she said. Hostetler enjoys both fiction and nonfiction.
When she began suffering from the autoimmune disease lupus a couple years ago, she said, she didn’t feel like reading, but now she looks forward to sitting down with a book.
She especially enjoys memoirs and recently was moved by “The Time of My Life,” Patrick Swayze’s autobiography about dealing with pancreatic cancer and facing death.
She also loves to fish and intends to spend time this summer on lakes in Chisago County and up north.
East Central is in the process of hiring a new branch librarian at both Wyoming and Chisago Lakes, where a similar position is open.