UP Closes Founding Chapter of City Library

University Park lost its first – and only – library director when Sharon Perry Martin retired after more than 11 years of service.

“The only job just about I ever wanted my whole life is to be a librarian, and to be one here has really been wonderful and been a lot of fun,” Martin told the University Park City Council when its members recognized her at their Feb. 20 meeting. “Thank you for trusting me … with that brand-new library.”

The city aims to name a replacement by June.

Martin joined the staff of the University Park Public Library before there was a library. She began her work with the task of opening the library’s building in The Plaza at Preston Center, setting the library’s budget, and transitioning it from a book barn into an official municipal library.  

Martin, the library staff, and volunteers managed to open the building’s doors after three weeks of shelving and tagging books.

Martin had come across the UP job posting by happenstance while helping a colleague at the Dallas Public Library find a job.

“I thought, ‘what an opportunity to go to work for a community that worked so hard to get a library and to get started from the ground up,’” she explained.

The book-loving community was Martin’s favorite aspect of her job. As the director of a small library, Martin knew her readers, their families, and the types of books they enjoyed.

When she received new books, she would email users to tell them a requested book was available. If she hadn’t seen a customer in a while, she might check and make sure they were well.

Although Martin came to University Park in 2012, she could count 29 years as a librarian. She was inspired to pursue the career by an aunt who, like her, loved books and history and worked as a librarian in southern Louisiana.

After Martin graduated with master’s degrees in library science and history from the University of North Texas, she began her career in the Dallas Public Library. She worked there for 17 years, 18 if you counted her practicum as a student.

“Libraries have been at the front edge of technology,” Martin said, crediting technological advances with allowing the library to deliver services during the pandemic.

During the COVID-19 lockdown, the library continued to offer its Halloween party via Zoom and, at times, viewers could see Martin’s dogs running behind her during Facebook live programs.

With funding from real estate professional Christine McKenny, the library started “UP @ the Library Family Time.” The Saturday programs have featured guests from the Dallas Zoo and the Perot Museum.

Under the guidance of the library’s “wonder woman,” Zoe Williams, University Park has also started offering two monthly programs for older children: Elementary Explorers, which features STEAM content, and Create and Chill, which involves a creative or art project. Martin said the programs are very popular, each attracting 20 to 25 participants.

Martin’s husband, Mike, has been retired for 10 years, almost as long as she’s worked in the University Park library. The pair have plans to travel, beginning with a trip to Switzerland and a riverboat cruise on the Rhine that ends in Amsterdam. Closer to home, neither has seen Big Bend or the Marfa Lights, and the pair plan to spend more time with their four grandchildren and possibly at their place in Oklahoma.

Martin already reviews advanced copies of books and may create a personal book review blog. She has also started volunteering with local pageants. Last October, she participated in the Miss Senior Texas Pageant, her first pageant since 1979.

“Being a librarian is just the best job in the world,” Martin said. “But working in this community has made it even better.”

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