by Julia Skeval
“It’s in my blood,” Bill Cotterill said when he explained why he entered the library profession nearly four decades ago. His father was a printer, which meant he grew up surrounded by books and it was because of that upbringing that he made working in libraries his career for 41 years. “It’s in my blood therefore I took it as my profession.” And after all this time spent in libraries all over the world, Mr. Cotterill feels it’s finally time to retire. His last day was Feb. 5.
Mr. Cotterill received his Bachelor of Arts degree from Worcester State College and then got his Masters in Library Science at Syracuse University. After graduation, his degrees took him all the way to England where he worked in a library for three years. Mr. Cotterill enjoyed wokring in London, England, “when you’re tired of London, you’re tired of life.” He saw, he travelled, and did a lot while there, and he is very grateful for the rich expereince he had.
After returning to the U.S., Mr. Cotterill worked in Massachusetts before moving once again; this time to Central New York in the 1970s. He took a job at Bishop Grimes where he worked for 20 years, leaving in 1996. For another three years, Mr. Cotterill found various subbing positions in the area, eventually coming to J-DHS in 1999.
The librian at the time was Sharon Voninski, who just before the Februrary break of 1999 asked if Mr. Cotterill would like an official part time job as her aid. Mr. Cotterill said yes, citing again that he had to take it because the profession was in his blood. He was standing in the green screen room at the front of the library, where the J-D RamPage now films the RamFeed show, when he found out he got the job. “You would not believe how much that room as changed between then and now.”
Mr. Cotterill said that moment is one of his favorites over the 17 years that he’s worked here. “I thank Ms. Voninski for allowing me to regain my professional dignity.” She helped him be reborn, “it was my professional renaissance.”
Spending almost two decades in the same place has exposed Mr. Cotterill to some very dramactic technological changes, not just in the green screen room. He found adjusting to the new computer systems hard at times because he was brought up in the “book generation,” and often had to take notes when current librarian Mary Panek showed him how to use some of the features on the computers. But while he may not be a wizard with computers, Mr. Cotterill knows the old system of filing and looking up books, the card catalog, better than probably anybody else in the school. “If you put a student next to me to look up a book on the computer and me using the card catalog, I could find it faster,” he said.
As for what he’s going to miss after retiring, it’s no surprise that the students and staff he’s interacted with and helped on a daily basis for the past 17 years are at the top of his list. “I’m going to miss doing things for them.” However, getting up every day at 5 a.m. is something Mr. Cotterill won’t mind leaving behind.
When his colleagues speak of Mr. Cotterill, one thing they always mention is how helpful he is with students and being able to find pretty much any book or source someone may need. “(I’m going to miss) his interactions with the students,” said Ms. Panek, who has worked closely with Mr. Cotterill for over 10 years. She loves seeing him build relationships with them and will miss that when he leaves. He has a way of conversing with the students, and getting to know them beyond just what they may need from the library staff, she said. History teacher Tom Bennett thinks Mr. Cotterill just relates well to people and “has a real knowledge about how to find information,” which is a real asset to have at J-DHS.
“He’s extremely knowledgeable when it comes to history and sports,” Ms. Panek continued, saying she’ll also miss how supportive of students and teachers Mr. Cotterill was. “He’s a very kind soul and a gentlman.” Mr. Cotterill sings similar praises of Ms. Panek who he calls “a top class librarian, probably the best in CNY.” She knows so much about computers and technology and working with her has been beautiful; “she’s really top notch,” he said.
While many staff members wait until the end of the school year to retire, Mr. Cotterill will have his last day just a few weeks into the second semester. He said it just felt like it was time; “my mind’s not at it having been in the profession for 40 years or more.” He didn’t think his body could take working all day much longer. While Mr. Cotterill would have loved to have gone another five months to finish out the year, he said it’s important to listen to your body and people “have been very gracious” toward him and his decision.
In retirement, Mr. Cotterill wants to spend more time with family, including his wife, daughter and granddaughter. He’ll be doing a lot of volunteering at places like Loretto, working out in his gym and taking care of things around the home, such as mowing the lawn. However, students may still see him around some days, as he has applied for a subbing position at the middle and high school libraries.
When asked for any parting words, Mr. Cotterill recited the Latin phrase “sic transit gloria mudi,” translating to “so passes the glory of the world.” He said he’ll be going on to a new chapter but is grateful for working and will miss everyone at J-DHS.