In the 36 years she has worked as a library assistant at the Howell Township Library Terry Matteson has seen a lot of changes. From the basement on Route 524 to the branch's current location she has become as much of an institution as the library itself.
This week she will walk away from her job as Principal Library Assistant after spending more than half her life in the service of the town she called home for more than three decades. She was there at the beginning when she was asked to join the staff after being a patron of the book mobile that came to town. And for more than a decade she worked in the basement of the first building to call the library home.
Matteson said that while she has fond memories of that time, it was not the open expansive facility the library currently calls home. "It was a basement, it used to flood. It was very cold and damp. So it was nice to come over to a newer building," she said with a smile.
When she first took the job, Matteson said it was not a career path she had ever even considered. "Really I wasn't looking for a job. They found me and it was very nice because when I lived in Howell I was only three miles away, so for the majority of my employment at the library I didn't have far to commute."
Through her time at the library Matteson has had a variety of responsibilities including checking patrons in and out, answering phones and handling the fines for the headquarters in Manalapan. It is her interaction with the community that she said she has enjoyed the most. "That's how I got to know all the people because they recognize my voice. I was the one doing all the calling," she said.
Branch Manager Diane Rieth said Matteson will not be easy to replace long after she officially retires. Having first worked with her when they were both library assistants in 1999, Rieth said her institutional knowledge makes her an invaluable resource. "She has watched generations grow up and her own children grow up here too," she said.
Rieth said that while she sorry to see her friend go, she is excited that she has a chance to tackle new goals ahead. "I'm happy for her. As she says, she's not retiring, she's moving on."
Since she decided to retire Matteson said she has seen people in and out of the library who have congratulated her and said they would miss her when her time is done. Of all the people she said she will miss, Matteson said it is the youngest patrons she will miss the most. "What I'm going to miss most is the patrons with the little kids because they are really cute," she said. "They come in and they say such cute things. My grand children are getting older so I miss the little ones."
Having worked for the library for so long Matteson said she has enjoyed watching the children grow and bring in their own children over time. "I've been here for that amount of years. I've seen people come in and they used to come in as children. Now they're married and they bring their own children," she said.
She has also received more formal accolades including a proclamation from Mayor Robert Walsh and special presents from the library at the local and county level. Since she started working at the library Matteson said she has received her fair share of tokens of appreciation from the system she has worked for. That started with her 20 year anniversary and every five years since then.
Last year, when she was recognized for 35 years of service, she had a feeling that she was almost ready to walk away. "I said this will probably be the last one," she said adding, "I think it's time now."
Now with retirement at hand Matteson said she is unsure of what she will do next. "I'll relax for a while and then I would maybe like to move into something with travel because I've travelled quite a bit," she said. That includes a planned cruise in February when her and her husband of 52 years Bob will be able to escape the cold weather for at least a little while.
There is one place Matteson said she will go that she has never been before. After nine years of living in Manchester she said she has never been to the library in that town. "I figured I'm here all day so I'm not going to another library," she said with a laugh. "Now I'll be able to go to the Manchester library because I won't always be at the library."
Admitting she does not know what to expect with not having to work anymore Matteson said she is ready to see what the next steps are. "It's a big change but I figured I really want to do something else now," she said. "It's time to step down and let somebody else come in and then I'll find other things to do."
Whatever she decides to do Matteson said she will always remember her time at the library and the people she met along the way.