The Journal Gazette
Sunday, February 16, 2020 1:00 am


Era comes to an end at library

Librarian retires, recalls changes over the years

TERRI RICHARDSON | The Journal Gazette

Devuan Patten is the quintessential librarian.

Her desk – which is neatly equipped with items she needs to catalog books – is flanked by a wooden book cart and she quickly turns into an information help desk as she explains what the Technical Services staff of the Allen County Public Library does.

That's where the 80-year-old Fort Wayne resident works. And that's where she has been most of the 62 years she has been with the library, until she turned in her cart and retired Jan. 31.

On this day, the day before her final day, Patten grabs her cart and offers a detailed description of her job as well as a tour of every section, including introducing each person she works with and what their duties are.

You'd think there would be a book about this. But wait, there is – well, actually a manual – that Patten pulls out and shows the instructions for how to do the job. It's a procedural manual from 1982 with typewritten pages that provides instructions on how to enter books into the system.

Of course, everything is automated now and done through the computer. But there are still things done by hand, including placing bar code stickers and protective covers on the books to prep them for patrons.

Before retiring, Patten was the acquisitions supervisor. She was in charge of prepping the items – both print and non-print, which includes such things as video games, CDs and DVDs – and getting them ready to go where they need to go. All of the items that have been purchased by the library go to the Technical Services building, where they are cataloged and placed in bins for shipping to library branches, schools or other places that receive the books throughout the county.

Patten started at the library in the Carnegie building in 1957. She was 17.

“I never thought I would stay here that long,” Patten says of her tenure. But she loved her job and loved the people that she worked with, she says. “You never worked at the library for the money.”

The library at that time was called the Fort Wayne Public Library. The Carnegie building was eventually demolished to make way for a new building. However, Patten had spent time in several places doing different things before she landed in her current spot. 

She started by filing newspaper clippings, but also filed books and drove the bookmobile for several years. Her biggest project, however, was being in charge of the large automation that the library went through in 1989. The project involved switching everything over to computers and linking books to the card catalogs. It took two years.

One of the biggest changes Patten has seen during her time at the library is the increasing number and variety of items the library offers.

She says there are more authors and more books that are being written. In addition, the library didn't have non-print items when she started, other than vinyl albums.

Patten says she reads when she can. She loves mysteries and craft books. But most of her time is taken up with family and her job. “Did I have much time reading? No,” she says. “(My time) was spent mostly working.”

Some of that time included working in her sister's ceramics studio. Patten once taught ceramics.

Patten, who graduated from New Haven High School, has two children (a daughter passed away) and four grandchildren. She was actually born a preemie, weighing in at 2 pounds. Her mother, she says, told her she would place Patten in a drawer by the heater.

Patten hasn't really planned out what she will do during her retirement. She is planning on going to more craft shows and antiquing with her son.

And maybe, she will be able to catch up on that long overdue reading.

Senior portrait

This once-a-month feature profiles northeast Indiana residents who are age 65 and older. If you would like to submit a senior for possible publication, email Terri Richardson at

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