WOLFORD At a time when most people see their 60s as being a time of retirement, others, like Patricia Gustafson, see it as just a decade, another chapter in the book that is their life.
And she knows a lot about books, having served as a librarian for 40-some years. Gustafson, who is 82 years old and proud of it, works as the librarian at the Wolford School.
Gustafson has lived in Wolford forever, she said, noting: "I was born here. My dad was a homesteader. I was the last of six living children."
Submitted Photo • Patricia Gustafson, of Wolford, works with some children in the library at the Wolford School. Gustafson, who is 82 years old, has worked there since 1989. “Wolford kept hiring me, so here I am, to this day,” she said. Previously, she worked in the elementary library in Rugby for 23 years.
Growing up as a Depression-era child, she never thought she would be a librarian.
"It was the last thing I wanted to be," she said last week from her home in rural Wolford.
The year was 1947 and following World War II, there was a shortage of teachers, "and there were so many country schools," Gustafson said.
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"They had put in this rural law that we could go to school, out of high school, for eight weeks to Minot and we could teach for two years on that certificate," she said.
Gustafson took advantage of the bill and received her certificate, and in 1947, she was the teacher at a country school north of Pleasant Lake. She was there for only one year before she married and stopped teaching to raise a family over the next 16 years.
When Gustafson was 34, she went back to college at Bottineau and Mayville. For three months, she was student teaching social service and business education classes at Devils Lake Central. While there, she received a visit from the superintendent of schools from Rugby.
"I had called him and asked if there were any openings in social studies or business," she said. There weren't any like that, but there was a position available in the elementary library. Gustafson wasn't impressed.
"The superintendent wanted to come down and interview me, and he gave me the job in 10 minutes, but I didn't accept it right away," she said. "I kept saying, 'That wasn't what I was looking for.'"
Despite that, Gustafson took the job and she was soon back at college in Valley City, this time to get her library science degree.
"I've been around to all of the colleges," she noted.
She "wasn't quite 40" when Gustafson began her librarian career at Rugby, where she worked for 23 years. Toward the end of her career there, her days were cut, and in 1989, she began to work in the same capacity at the Wolford school on the days when she wasn't working in Rugby.
In 1990, she retired, but it wasn't for long. She continued to work at Wolford, where she remains today.
And, at 82, she's still on staff at the Wolford School.
"Wolford kept hiring me, so here I am, to this day," she said.
She now works Mondays and Tuesdays but sometimes also goes in "extra" later in the week.
"I'm on my own, you can do what you want," she said. "When you get to my age, they pretty much leave you alone."
On those days when she isn't at work, Gustafson remains busy.
"I still wash my walls, do my spring cleaning, scrub my floor on my hands and knees," she said. Gustafson plays the piano when she feels like it and reads nonfiction. When she isn't weeding the garden or mowing the lawn, she's canning and freezing fruit and vegetables.
Running a library is pretty much the same now as it was back in the day when she first started, Gustafson said.
"We still run it the same," she said. "We still have the card catalogue."
Budgetary reasons have caused Wolford not to computerize their card catalogue so the typical card catalogue is still very much a part of the Wolford school's library.
"It's done the old-fashioned way," she said.
What has changed, though, is the society of today, Gustafson noted.
"It's hard for me to see that people don't understand what hardship is and they can do things by making up their minds and doing it," said Gustafson, who said that as a Depression-era child, she knows what hardship is. "That's what my parents taught. They just did it."
After 40-plus years of being a librarian, is Gustafson ready to end this chapter of her life?
"It's getting there, that I'm going to hang it up," she said. "I feel like I've done all I can to help the school. That's why I'm doing it. I'm not doing it to get right, I'm not getting big money."