|Mary shows a picutre of the Breathitt County property she and her husband Doug (shown behind) own|
There is something fitting about writing this article about Mary McLaren and her retirement on January 1 in Off the Shelf as it was Mary who facilitated the first iteration of Off the Shelf and it was she who was the first editor. Just another one of those very many things she has done and has done well during her 25 years at UK, her 43 years as a librarian.If one was to identify common themes in Mary McLaren’s life, one might say she has always been particularly interested in learning, in the people around her, and in nature. Growing up in a rural, largely German-heritage town in northern Pennsylvania, Mary McLaren (nee Kronenwetter) was an avid student and someone who enjoyed outside activities. At the College of Steubenville she enjoyed a variety of subjects from physics to history to English but, in the end, completed her degree in English. As graduation neared, realizing that her degree did not really qualify her for a specific career, she reasoned that with her love of learning, a career in academic libraries would suit her well. She enrolled at the University of Pittsburgh’s library science program and completed her MSLS there in 1969.
Her first library position was at West Virginia University in Morgantown as a junior reference librarian. Early in her tenure there she met Doug McLaren, an outgoing forestry major from Pittsburgh, and they married in 1970. Upon his graduation, Doug was hired by the Kentucky Division of Forestry in Hazard and Mary was hired as Library Director at Hazard Community College. Mary and Doug lived in Hazard for two years before Doug was hired by the University of Kentucky to teach in its forestry program at Robinson Substation in Breathitt County. As fortune would have it, Lees College in Jackson was looking for a library director at that time and Mary was hired for that position. It was during this time period that Mary and Doug purchased a mountain property in Breathitt County, a refuge that they still enjoy today, and developed many friendships that they still maintain. Their children Elizabeth and Matt were both born during their years there. Mary served in that position for 17 years, until Doug transferred to the UK Lexington campus.
It really was not until the move to Lexington in 1987 that Mary became more intimately involved in the technical services side of libraries with her being hired as Head of Acquisitions at the UK Library. Her administrative abilities served her well in quickly developing a working knowledge of collection development processes. She held various positions with increasing responsibility in the processing and acquisition areas from 1987 until 2002 when she was named Administrative Services Librarian with a special assignment related to storage and space utilization. In 2006 she became the Head of the Facilities and Storage Department and, until 2011, worked with facilities issues. In 2011, her career took her to a new and totally different area when she was appointed Federal Depository Collections Librarian. While clearly Mary has held a variety of positions throughout her career, a common theme has really been administration, an area in which it is easy to see she is very successful due to her intelligence, industry, excellent work ethic and personal grace. Dean Birdwhistell recently referred to her as the “ultimate team player”.
As she looks forward to this next phase of her life, which she recently referred to as her “third phase”, Mary plans to become a more accomplished beekeeper, spend time with her grandchildren, and continue with her gardening interests and community volunteer work at God’s Pantry and other programs-- learning, people and nature. One cannot imagine idle times for this energetic and active retiree and, with her leadership abilities and people skills, she will doubtless be making the world outside UK a better place, just as she has done for her 25 years here within UK.
Story by Tag Heister; photo by Lewis Warden