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Sewickley church librarian knew that's where she belonged

| Wednesday, Aug. 13, 2014, 9:01 p.m.
Kristina Serafini | Trib Total Media
Librarian Ruth White of Sewickley stands for a photo inside the library at St. Stephen's Church on Monday, Aug. 11, 2014. White was recently named the Outstanding Congregational Librarian of 2014 by the Church and Synagogue Library Association. She said the library would not be what it is today without the help of donors and volunteers.

Sewickley has added the distinction of being home to one of the top librarians in the country.

Ruth White, who has lived in Sewickley with her husband, Sherman, since 1994, in July was named the Outstanding Congregational Librarian of 2014 by the Church and Synagogue Library Association for her work as the librarian of St. Stephen's Church.

The CSLA is a national organization composed of more than 600 churches and synagogues of various denominations. White was nominated by Carol Meisinger, the president of the Southwest Pennsylvania CSLA chapter, of which White has been a member since 1996. She accepted the award during an awards ceremony on July 31 in Portland, Ore.

“Ruth is a visionary,” Meisinger said. “She thinks of something that would be good to add to the library — whether a book, program or a special new service to members — and she makes it happen.”

A native of California, White moved to Sewickley when her husband's job pulled them away from their previous home of Rancho Palos Verdes.

“I somehow learned of the CSLA very soon after we moved here,' White said. “It sounds crazy, but I don't remember exactly how that started. I joined because I thought it was the best thing to do, to join a professional group, when I was new in town.”

White began working as a librarian at an elementary school in Rancho Palos Verdes. Originally, the teachers in the school had small personal libraries in their classrooms, but White helped to unite them into one central library.

It was that experience that brought her to the library at St. Stephen's.

While attending a new members class at the church, White was informed of different ministries within the church that were in need of new members. The library was one that had fallen by the wayside for a time but had seen recent interest from several church members, White said.

It wasn't long before she was asked to head up the ministry.

“Once I said, ‘Yes,' I knew that was where I belonged and knew I had no way of saying, ‘No,'” White said. “Somehow, my mind just filled with all the possibilities. I enjoyed working with the kids in California, but here, it was with the whole church, so it was new working with the adults, too.”

White quickly found help and support from Sue Harvey, Mid Ice and Peggy Noll. With the help of those women and dozens of other volunteers over the years, the library has begun to thrive.

“If it wasn't for those volunteers, there would not have been an award,” White said. “There were so many miracles along the way. I feel very honored to receive the award, but it was only with their help.”

During White's time at St. Stephen's, the library has grown from 600 volumes to more than 6,000. The library was moved into a larger area on the third floor of the church in 2004.

“Ruth has led the charge in converting the Upper Room on the third floor into a very fine church library,” said the Rev. Steve Palmer, assistant pastor at St. Stephen's. “She's invested a great deal of her time, energy and resources into filling that room with books and other resources. She's reinforced the theological education in the church and has created a great learning environment through all she's done.”

Although a variety of factors, including health, have kept White from traveling to many of the statewide CSLA conferences, she makes it a point to attend meetings with the local chapter.

Gary Horvath is a staff writerfor Trib Total Media.

Reach him at or via Twitter @GHorvath_Trib.

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