Librarian goes from the age of ‘shush’ to public computers

By Wayne Bryan Published April 13, 2014 at 12:00 a.m.
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PHOTO BY: Rusty Hubbard

Judy Golden has been working in libraries since the 1970s. In fact, she began working for the Clark County Library in Arkdelphia in 1974, before she had finished taking classes at Ouachita Baptist University. Golden became head librarian in 1977 and has held that position since.

Even before she finished taking classes at Ouachita Baptist University in 1974, Judy Golden was working for the Clark County Library in Arkadelphia.

“I did my practicum as a student at the public library in 1973 and then was hired part time there in the spring

of 1974 and was full time after I graduated in August,” said Judy Golden, director of both the Arkadelphia Public Library and the Cabe Public Library in Gurdon. “I was made the head librarian in 1977, and I have been here since then.”

Golden said that over those years, she has seen the library change and has seen even greater changes in what it means to be a librarian.

“We seldom shush anyone anymore,” she said. “I remember when I was a young staff member, I might be walking across the floor talking to another staff member, and I would be shushed by one of the patrons. Now we are media oriented, and there are meetings at the library and music playing and people on the computers.”

There are now four computers that can be used by patrons at the Arkadelphia library, and Golden said all four are busy most of the day. She said that not only had she never planned to be working with computers at the library, but that 20 years ago, she was even fighting the idea of using one herself.

“I’ll admit I fought using computers for a while. Now I feel bad for people who don’t have a computer. We often forget many people still don’t have them,” Golden said. “They can hardly find or apply for a job without a computer. That is the main activity they are used for now. Some people have to come in and use the computer to get their W-2s.”

While there are only four computers available, they take up plenty of room in a library that was built in 1903 and has not been expanded since the 1940s.

“Along with the computers, we have DVDs and music and audiobooks,” Golden said. “It can get pretty tight in here. I sometimes can’t remember how we worked all this in, along with the books.”

No matter how small the space, Golden said, there will always be new books coming in.

“When I order a new book, I check that section of the stacks and see if there is anything I can weed out,” she said. “I will find a worn-out copy, but I’ll often look it over and end up only getting a new copy.”

Golden’s agenda now includes completion of plans for the summer reading program for children.

“The kids will be out of school in just a few more weeks,” she said. “We want to be ready to keep them reading.”

Unlike a lot of libraries in the region, Golden said, the Arkadelphia library is adult-oriented during the weekdays. “Adult members are checking out novels and science fiction.”

Mysteries are also popular. Romance novels are no longer the draw for women library-card holders that they once were, Golden said. Her own favorite book, however, is Gone With the Wind, Margaret Mitchell’s romance set in the Civil War. Being a librarian, however, it is not surprising that Golden admits she is not a big fan of the iconic 1939 movie based on the book.

“I have not seen it that much,” she said. “I just don’t want to commit more than three hours of time to sit and watch a movie.”

While Golden and her staff might feel cramped in a small building, she said there is something special about working in a small local library — getting to know the people.

“When you have been here as long as I have, you get to know everybody,” Golden said. “I can remember some of the old card numbers of the longtime patrons, from the time before we had computers. We have some patrons who come in every week, week after week, and we know what kind of books they are looking for, and we will set them aside for the ladies.”

While Golden says she didn’t plan on being a librarian until she was in college at OBU, she says that now she can’t remember ever really wanting to do anything else.

“I have always been a big reader,” she said. “My junior high school librarian encouraged me to read, and she would save books for me from very early on.”

Raised on a cotton farm outside Lewisville, Golden thought Arkadelphia was the big city when she came there to study at Ouachita Baptist College (now Ouachita Baptist University). It was the only change of cities she would ever make.

“My plan was to get out,” she said. “I was in a big city and felt free as a bird. I was not going home after graduation, and I was not going to settle down.”

Golden started college as a sociology major, but that changed.

“I liked library-science classes, and I began to take some as electives,” she said. “Soon I had enough for a major, and I graduated with a degree in library science.”

Not interested in working in school libraries, Golden was sent for her practical experience to the Arkadelphia Public Library. Within three years, she was head of the two-library system.

However, there was something more than the job keeping the young woman in town.

While in school, she met her future husband, David.

“He was a local boy, and we met where kids would go to get hamburgers, and boys and girls could sit and talk,” Golden said. “We married when I had been in school two years.”

While staying in Arkadelphia was not in the young woman’s plans, Golden said, she has no regrets.

“I have enjoyed my time here. I am perfectly happy to sit in my small, quiet library and read reviews of new books and talk with people who come in. I can’t think of anywhere else I would rather be.”

At age 60, she has entertained thoughts about retirement, but that is not on her mind now.

“I want to hang in and stay longer. I would love to help renovate and expand the library,” Golden said. “The library owns property behind the building, and I would love to see a major expansion, but that would take at least a couple of million dollars.

“But I think we can do it. I’m not finished yet.”

Staff writer Wayne Bryan can be reached at (501) 244-4460 and

Tri-Lakes Edition Writer Wayne Bryan can be reached at 501-244-4460 or

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