By CHRIS MORRIS
NEW ALBANY — The Indiana Room of the New Albany-Floyd County Public Library lost a bit of history Thursday afternoon, but it had nothing to do with a book or an old newspaper. It did, however, have something to do with the retirement of Betty Menges.
Thursday was Menges’ last day on the job in the Indiana Room, and several staff members and friends attended a party in her honor in the Strassweg Auditorium on the first floor of the library.
“She truly is a treasure,” said Rose Frost, director of the library. “She is a walking encyclopedia of New Albany and Floyd County. She is very highly regarded in this community.”
Menges, 62, spent most of her time at the library working in the Indiana Room. Between handshakes and opening gifts, she said she was a bit overwhelmed with all the attention and that Thursday marked her final day of employment.
“I don’t think it has sunk in yet,” Menges said. “I’ve enjoy looking at all the old newspapers and learning about New Albany history. I’ve tried to answer people’s questions and have helped many of them.”
She has helped most of them.
“Just the knowledge she has about New Albany and Floyd County history ... she is one of a kind,” said Floyd County Historian David Barksdale. “I’ve seen people walk in there a little intimidated and Betty is always so warm and helpful. She has put many patron at ease as soon as they walk in there.
“As the Floyd County historian, the Indiana Room is my home away from home. But Betty never once appeared to get impatient with me. She has been a great help to everyone.”
Menges hopes to return to the library soon and research her own genealogy.
The current library opened in 1969 and Menges arrived four years later. She said there have been many changes to the building and in the industry.
“When I came we had typewriters. Now they [patrons] don’t know what they [typewriters] are,” she said. “There have been a lot of changes through the years.”
Menges received several cards and gifts, including the George Morrison print of downtown New Albany, as viewed from Silver Hills, from the library staff.
“She has been very influential in how we do our work in the Indiana Room,” said Paulette Gibbs, reference services manager at the library. “She is the foundation. She has always expressed to me a quiet dignity and wealth of knowledge.”
Matt Eidem, the first-ever archivist for the Indiana Room, has been on the job for seven months and said Menges has been extremely helpful getting him acquainted with New Albany and Floyd County history.
“You couldn’t ask for a better person to learn from,” he said.