There’s a cub-sized sculpture located near the entrance to the Schlow Centre Region Library children’s department.
Legend had it that if there were no birthday candles or falling stars in your immediate future, “Webster” the bear made for an adequate substitute for the dissemination of hopes and dreams out into the universe.
Back in the days when Schlow’s digs were a little more cramped, head of children’s services Anita Ditz encouraged young visitors to rub the bear’s nose and wish for a new library.
Webster is now enjoying larger accommodations.
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“I told the kids that the reason we have a new library is kids wishes are powerful,” Ditz said.
I told the kids that the reason we have a new library is kids wishes are powerful.
After 34 years with Schlow, Ditz may have to settle for being young at heart. All the same, some form of wish fulfillment seems to be lurking on her horizon.
After she retires in September, the librarian is embarking on a mystery road trip with some friends. The closest thing she’s received to a clue is “south” — which leaves a whole world full of possibilities moving forward, both on this trip and all the many to follow.
“I’d like to go to Paris when it’s not so cold,” Ditz said.
None of this is to say that she still isn’t passionately invested in the building on South Allen Street.
Ditz believes that libraries are the pillar of democracy and become especially important during the formative years of young children.
“If they aren’t able to read, they can’t function in this society,” Ditz said.
To that end, she strived to turn Schlow’s children’s department into a place where the families of Centre County can put their feet up and feel at home. Almost 1,600 kids were registered for the 2017 summer reading program, which in turn is enhanced by hands-on activities like watercolors, yoga and robotics.
“She’s got a lot of creativity and a lot of imagination, and she’s always willing to try new things,” said Paula Bannon, children services librarian.
She’s got a lot of creativity and a lot of imagination and she’s always willing to try new things.
Bannon will succeed Ditz as head of the department. Her plans moving forward are simple — continue to focus on what works.
“I do really rocking storytimes,” Bannon said.
Meanwhile, co-workers have established The Anita Ditz Fund for Schlow Library Children’s Department to support the purchase of books, toys and other programming that will help cement the librarian’s legacy.
Donations can be made through the Centre Foundation.
Ditz’s last day is Friday, but a party will be held in her honor on Sept. 23 in the Downsbrough Community Room.
She’ll at least have to come back to visit Webster, who still hasn’t abandoned his post by the department’s front door.
“Libraries are some place you should visit your entire life,” Ditz said.