Cleo Griffin, Newton’s library lady, started it all with $50 and a lot of help from her friends
November 6th, 2009 Posted in Arts and Life
By Kelly Greenwood
NEWTON–Chances are, if you’re familiar with the Newton Library you’ve probably heard of a woman named Cleo Griffin.
Griffin, an Idaho native, became the Newton library director as the result of an LDS Church calling back in 1997.
She said that she and some Relief Society women had talked about having a library for a while. Then one day in August 1997, she went to a meeting at her church house. Her bishop promptly told her she had been given a church calling as a literary specialist, Griffin said.
She said she meditated about the library idea for a while and thought of what would need to be done to make it happen. She asked her Relief Society president about the idea, who told her to “go for it,” Griffin said.
Griffin founded the library in 1998 with $50 and “ a lot of help,” she said.
Griffin served as the library director until 2008, when she retired and Sarah Rigby took over the position. “Sarah has done a wonderful job,” Griffin said.
Griffin still works at the library as a librarian once a week on
Monday nights and volunteers additional hours.
If you take a look at the library’s Special Collections section, you’ll see Griffin’s hard work almost bursting off the shelves. And though she is retired, Griffin is still hard at work researching and compiling materials for the Special Collections section.
“I won’t live long enough to get done,” she said, laughing.
She has been researching historic Newton homes one by one and supplying information for the Daughters of Utah Pioneers.
She said eventually she wants to hang framed pictures of the historic homes in Town Hall—something she said she will
discuss with the town council.
In addition to her work with the library, Griffin doesn’t seem to have a problem keeping herself busy. She has a big family, which she says keeps her busy. She has also been compiling her personal history on a blog and frequently works on her family genealogy.
“I’ve always liked genealogy,” she said. “My kids always get family history for Christmas.”
As for the Newton Library’s future, Griffin said she thinks it is in good hands. “We have a great board,” she said. “They’re good to help.”
But though the library has been successful, it has not been without a few struggles. There is “not enough manpower” for the library, she said, and any funding for the library has to be obtained with grants. But leave it to Griffin to take matters into her own hands–she recently started an endowment fund for the library.
“Hopefully after I’m dead, they’ll have enough money,” she said, with a laugh.
Griffin has also received help from her brother, Dale J. Skinner, in many ways, and added her husband has always been supportive of her efforts with the library. She emphasized that townspeople have also been very supportive.
“We’ve just had a lot of support,” she said. “It has been a community effort.”
As for Griffin personally, she has enjoyed working with the library over the years. “It’s good to have an outlet,” she said. “I’ve always liked libraries.”