‘From card catalog to computers’: Harwinton librarian retires after 36 years

Joann Hohensee

HARWINTON — After 36 years working at local libraries in Harwinton, librarian Joann Hohensee is retiring.

Hohenese began her library career at the T.A. Hungerford Memorial Library in 1984. The library, on Route 4, was founded in 1909 and is now a museum.

Hohensee said she was “a steady patron” there and became friends with then Director Stasia Motuzick.

“I have always loved libraries, finding them exciting places to visit,” she said. “When the job opened up, Stasia told me about it, I applied, and was hired. I was a clerk/typist and worked at the desk checking out books, checking in books, shelving, typing catalog cards, typing letters, etc. — the usual office duties.”

When Harwinton Public Library, on Bentley Road, opened in 1989, Hohensee was part of the transition team that welcomed people to the new building. Motuzick had retired in 2015 and Alice Freiler has been director since.

“I have loved books and reading since my childhood days going to the Torrington Library,” said Hohensee. Her father, she explained, was “a serious reader” of both fiction and non-fiction and “a big influence” on her life.

Hohensee said her favorite part of being a librarian, is, “Without a doubt, interacting with library patrons, both young and old — getting to know each one and their reading likes and dislikes. Many of our patrons eventually become our friends, sharing bits of their lives with you. You share with them too. You can't help it.”

Hohensee’s years at the T.A. Hungerford Memorial Library served as a “good foundation for what was ahead,” she said. “It was good to learn how to type the catalog cards, type up a newsletter, etc., not just to file the cards that came in with the book orders, or open up a `Word’ newsletter template. Things were a bit slower than they are now.”

Hohensee said she believes libraries continue to play a key role in the education and entertainment of a community. “Libraries are not just about books and materials. We are part of the community, a gathering place for people to learn about gardening or genealogy, or programs for children and young adults. For many years, we offered income tax preparation, but with COVID, we could not offer it this year. Libraries are repositories of the past and present, but look ahead to the future as well.”

Hohensee urges parents to encourage their children to read by bringing them to a library. “Read to them every day and let them see you reading and enjoying books. Talk about books with them.”

Hohensee had some memorable moments that she said she holds dear. “One of my funniest memories happened a few years ago. I was sitting at my desk typing up something, probably overdue notices, when our high school page walked by me and took a double take, stopped, turned around and said, ‘That's a typewriter!’”

Plans were to have a retirement party in honor of Hohensee’s long service but COVID-19 intervened. Those wishing to say goodbye, or want to write a few words of appreciation, can do so through the Harwinton Public Library.

Honensee said she enjoys reading both non-fiction and fiction. “Right now, I am enjoying the novels of mystery writer Louise Penny when I can,” she said.

As for retirement, she said she’s looking forward to the change in routine. “I want to do the things I've been putting off for so long. At the top of the list is eventually getting to spend time with my 8-year old granddaughter, Marley.”

Freiler said she can’t imagine the library without Hohensee.

“She has been the backbone of our staff: calm, kind, meticulous, generous and optimistic,” Freiler said. “She has helped to train every single member of our staff — and we remember her patience.”

According to Freiler, Hohensee has been a vastly important “go to” person during her three a half decades as a librarian. “She is the one we go to when we need to know ‘what is this?,’ ‘where is this?,’ or ‘do you recognize this name?’ No matter what the day might bring, we always felt better able to meet it with Joann on our team. We will miss her very much, but look forward to seeing plenty of her ‘on the other side of the desk,’ and are happy that she will have more time to relax and enjoy her family.”

Motuzick said she and Hohensee worked together for many years.

“She went from card catalog to computers, rotary phones to text messaging,” Motuzick said. “She always made me look good.”

Connecticut Media Group