Susan Harper was in the right place at the right time.
She began her tenure as director of the Commerce Public Library just as libraries across the country were starting to change dramatically with new technology, and she effectively led the Commerce facility as it responded.
The 1995 library had no computers, no books on tape (DVDs were not around) and no Internet service. Today, at the point of her retirement, in addition to the traditional books, the library is a center for access to the Internet — for research, job searches, amusement and communication. As technology has evolved, the importance of the library has increased, and the Commerce Public Library has largely met those challenges.
The mission of the library has not changed so much as expanded. The library remains a key component of community education and information, and its usage has grown more rapidly than the area’s population. Much of that is due to changes that took place under Harper’s 13 years as director.
More children, teenagers and adults come to the library regularly for a multitude of reasons, from the aforementioned purposes to exercise programs for children to art exhibits in the meeting room to library-sponsored book groups and writing groups. Managing a library also means making sure leaks in the roof are fixed, the plumbing works and spending stays within budget. It requires trying to best utilize limited resources to keep the facility viable to people of all ages in a multitude of areas that were unforeseen a generation ago.
Through it all, Harper persisted with infinite enthusiasm and optimism as an advocate for libraries, books, reading, writing and service to the community. None of that will change with her retirement, but Commerce library patrons know that their library is a better, friendlier facility today for the service of Susan Harper.