Mary Anne Cressman, longtime librarian and library supervisor at the Elmira branch, passed away July 25 after a brief battle with cancer. She was 67.
Cressman worked at the Elmira library for 40 years before her retirement in 2009. She presided over a number of changes during her tenure, including its expansion in the 1970s, the switch to a computerized catalogue system and recent renovations to make the building wheelchair accessible.
“The library was a big part of her life for 40 years,” said Cressman’s husband Ron. “I think of her smile and the kindness and dedication to her profession. She was always willing to help people.”
“I think she embodied excellent and compassionate public service. She was welcoming, she always had a smile for people. She had a quiet determination to give everyone a positive experience,” said Katherine Seredynska, manager of public services for the Region of Waterloo Library.
Cressman moved to Elmira in 1966 and started working at the library part time in 1968. The library board was looking for someone with a B.A. and a love of reading, and Cressman fit the bill.
She oversaw two major renovations to the library. In the 1970s, an addition was built onto the Carnegie building while the library operated out of a bookmobile. In 2008, the library operated out of the children’s area while an elevator was installed.
“That was a dream of hers for many years,” Seredynska said. “She was always very cheerful with a change like that. She did a great job of steering everybody through it.”
Seredynska recalls that during the recent renovations, Cressman asked the construction crew to cut a window into the wall so people could see the work progress and it became a huge draw for patrons visiting the library.
Cressman also had a passion for local history and library history. For the library’s 100th anniversary in 1988, she researched and wrote a booklet tracing the history of the Elmira branch from its humble beginnings with eight books donated by the Germanius Society.
Seredynska praised Cressman’s rapport with staff and patrons, noting she always made people feel better.
“You could go in to pay a fine and you felt you were contributing to the library,” she said.
Bette Cummings, children’s librarian at the Elmira branch, said Cressman continued to attend staff parties after her retirement and helped make dolls to raise funds for Haiti after the earthquake. Many library patrons came in this week with memories of Cressman, and added their signatures to a memory book.
The Cressmans enjoyed travelling and had been to Egypt, Europe and Russia. After Mary Anne retired, they travelled to the East Coast to visit family, went to Santa Barbara, California, and were planning to be in western Canada and the Yukon this summer.
“I could look at the itinerary right now and tell you where we’re supposed to be sleeping tonight,” Ron said, noting that Mary Anne liked to have every detail of their trip planned out and organized.
“She’s going to be missed by a lot of people, no one more than me.”
Along with her husband Ron, Cressman is survived by sons Chris (Lisa Harrison) Kirkness of Connecticut, Jeff (Lauren Muir) Cressman of Whitehorse and Scott (Adrienne) Cressman of Burlington; her brother John (Sheila) Stackhouse of Truro, Nova Scotia; brothers and sisters-in-law Ross (Karen) Cressman and Wendy (Peter) Banting; and Peter Kirkness.
The funeral was held Friday at St. James Lutheran Church in Elmira.