Librarian Clara Latham retiring after 30 years

Moffett Library has new look built with tradition of listening

Moffett Library at Midwestern State University is open for students getting ready for Spring 2020 finals.

That’s the normal part of what continues to be a season of change for the university library. A building project was wrapping up just as the COVID-19 shutdown hit Wichita Falls, and thus the planned grand opening for April 7 had to be canceled.

And soon, Moffett will welcome a new University Librarian with Clara Latham retiring after more than 30 years of service at MSU Texas.

“My goal was to get through the opening,” Latham said. “I thought I’d stay through those two years (of the project) and then bow out at the end of May, which is super quiet.”

So much for the best-laid plans. Latham leaves a much different-looking campus than she joined in 1989 when she was hired by Melba Harvill and Joan Patterson. But the spirit of Mustangs (then Indians) has remained a constant during her long tenure, she said.

“I really liked MSU,” Latham said. “I love the environment of the library, and I love working to help people solve a goal. It was very interesting to work with faculty and see the students. We liked the size of the community. It’s got everything without being in a big city. If you don’t want to be in a big city, which we didn't, then this is a great place to settle down. We knew this was going to be my husband’s final (Air Force) assignment, and so we bought a house and decided to stay here.”

Moffett Library renovation

Libraries were different then. The card catalog was something taught to students at all levels of school in preparation for how to research a paper or project. Drinking coffee or eating a snack was strictly prohibited in a library. And browsing through the newspaper aisle was the easiest way a college student could find out the latest stories from top journalists.

Times have changed, and information began to spread much faster on the internet, but Latham’s love of being in the library only grew. Her focus remained to “help students find the best answer and do it quickly, so they don’t waste a lot of time. Even in the age of Google, people can waste a lot of time. And you want them to find accurate, peer-reviewed information.”

“We’d stay on top of the changes enough to know what’s coming,” said Latham, who remembers proving she was up with the latest technology by sending an email to Texas Woman’s University where she commuted for five years earning her doctorate. “When I came there was a paper card for every book, we shelved cards and typed cards into that card catalog. Netscape was coming along, and we were adding study space. You have to stay on top of the challenges.”

It was that ear to the ground that gave Latham the idea to put whiteboards out on the floor. Another time she realized Moffett could utilize “restaurant buzzers” to let students know when a study room was ready.

“I’m going to miss the contact with staff, faculty, and the students, and the energy of what’s coming next,” Latham said. “To be involved in everything, especially with the next year where there’s going to be a lot of challenge working with social distancing, and deciding the best way forward.”

She hopes the next group of students will appreciate the brighter colors, improvements to the computer rooms, and the team spirit at MSU Texas, where she has seen three decades of students flourish.

Latham believes in MSU as much as when she arrived here from South Dakota in 1989 and she and co-worker Andrea Williams were hired a few weeks apart. “We’ve been partners since, or sisters with a different mother, as they say,” she added. “It’s a common focus where everyone works together on seeing students be successful. I think (Wichita Falls) is a really good place to set down roots.”

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New-look Moffett Library

Moffett Library

Moffett Library display
Photos by A J Lopez III/MSU Texas

 

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Clara Latham began at MSU Texas in 1989
Clara Latham began at MSU Texas in 1989
Moffett Library in 2020
Moffett Library has a new look after the building project finished in Spring 2020.