As head of information services at the Jackson County Public Library in Seymour, Becky Brewer doesn’t consider any question out of the ordinary.
After 15 years on the job, she has heard it all. But being able to answer people’s questions and help them is what has made going to work so rewarding, she said.
Brewer, who will turn 70 next month, is retiring Dec. 16. The library has renamed the position head of adult services and has hired Julie Lingerfelt, an assistant librarian from Sapulpa, Oklahoma, for the job.
Although she will miss her daily interactions with staff and library patrons the most, Brewer said she doesn’t plan to sit at home and do nothing.
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She already is working to establish a Stephen Ministry at Central Christian Church in Seymour, a volunteer effort that will allow her to continue helping people.
“It’s a caring ministry where the Stephen ministers learn to be lay ministers and help people in their congregations and the community meet their needs,” she said. “It’s a natural fit, and I feel called to do it.”
Brewer’s life always has revolved around helping others.
She was married to Dr. Mark Bevers, a local physician who passed away at the age of 47 in 1993. They had three children, Rachel, Sara and Hannah.
What many people don’t know is that while married to Mark, Becky also was planning a career in medicine and was studying premed in college. But it wasn’t feasible at that time for both her and her husband to go through medical school, she said.
So instead, she chose a different track and received a degree in social work. But she also worked in doctor’s offices.
When the Beverses moved back to Seymour, Mark joined Dr. Harry Baxter in medical practice in 1974 and served as the county coroner, too. Becky began working for her husband and Dr. Baxter part time.
“We started doing all the old house calls and going to the public nursing homes,” she said.
She recalls having a trestle table in their kitchen where Mark would end up doing minor procedures.
“We were always sewing people up there,” she said, laughing. “That’s how things were back then.”
Mark went on to start the first emergency department, which he led, at Schneck Memorial Hospital in Seymour. To better assist him, Becky was studying to get her physician’s assistant license and was preparing to take the test when her life was forever changed.
“When Mark died, I had to make a big decision about what to do,” Becky said.
That’s when she decided to go to library school at Indiana University in Bloomington. It was a path she had never considered before, she said.
“I felt drawn,” she said. “I think it was God’s plan.”
It also was quicker than the three years of continuing education she would have needed to pursue a career in Christian counseling, she said.
Becky later married Roger Brewer, who was in retail management, overseeing big retail stores in the north and east sides of the Midwest. Roger, who is originally from Washington County, had once managed the Murphy’s store in Seymour as a young man and wanted to come back to the area, she said.
After finding a job managing the Quality Farm and Fleet store here, Roger moved back and eventually retired from the company. He later started doing property maintenance work and even worked at the library with Becky for eight years before retiring again.
Having earned her master’s degree in library science, Becky was working on websites and created the first real estate website across the country, she said.
She had taken business elective courses and helped a man who was starting to have people do websites in the business school.
“I found all the real estate companies that were online at the time and put them all together in one place,” she said.
She often wishes she would have continued that line of work, as the internet became more important in the business world.
In 2001, Becky decided to go back to work full time if she could find a job that “fit,” she said.
A sorority sister of Becky’s who lived in Kentucky saw Julia Aker, director of the Jackson County Public Library, at a national library convention. Aker mentioned she was looking for someone to come work at the Seymour Library, and that is when Becky’s name was suggested.
“So Julia called me and said there was an opening for the circulation manager job,” Becky said. “That position also was in charge of adult programming.”
It’s difficult for her to forget her first days of work, as she started at the library just two days after the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.
Becky was hired for circulation, and another woman was brought in for information services. But the other woman left a year or so later, and in 2002, Becky took over that department.
The library and her job have changed so much over the years, and nothing is what it was like when she first started, she said. She recalls having to teach people how to look for a book by using the large card catalog and using hardbound encyclopedias and other reference books to answer questions.
“It has evolved tremendously,” she said.
Libraries are no longer places for quiet reading but are where people meet for work and leisure. They connect to the library’s free Wi-Fi internet and use iPads or their phones to find information. Teens play video and card games or create things in the maker space. Adults hold business meetings there, and young children play and learn through discovery stations.
“Any library that thought they would just have books and people would sit passively and read aren’t going to have many people at all,” she said.
Technology has been one of the biggest and most important changes, she said.
Becky began to increase programming for adults and focused on educating patrons on how to use technology. Now, the library offers one-on-one services to help people navigate their personal devices or to answer specific technology questions.
“If we don’t keep up with what’s going on, we are really missing out,” she said.
It would also be a disservice to the taxpayers, she added.
“What we are always trying to figure out is what do the taxpayers want because it’s their money that pays for this place,” she said. “We plan ahead for what we think we need to do.”
Part of that planning includes writing grant applications for the library, which she has done, too.
Becky has learned that she can’t meet every single person’s request, but she can find them other resources.
“I’ve had such an opportunity to be able to work with tons of people that needed help,” she said. “My real thrill has always been to connect people to what they need.”
In her retirement, she hopes to start a Bible study and a walking group to help further connect people. She also plans to spend more time with her family, including eight grandchildren and one great-grandchild.
She will always be proud of the meaningful work she has done at the library.
“It has just been great,” she said. “When you’re working someplace, you want it to do well. And when you see it doing well and going forward and people enjoying it and getting a lot out of it, then it just makes you really happy.”