Kay Webster, Coordinator of Youth Services, passed away suddenly on Tuesday, November 27.
Kay first worked as a library aide at Winters-Bellbrook Community Library while attending high school in the 1970s. After earning her undergraduate degree from Miami University and Master of Library & Information Science from Indiana University, she returned to the Greene County Public Library system as the Children’s Coordinator in 1980. She would spend the next 38 years overseeing the library’s youth programs, with a brief stint as the interim Head Librarian of the Xenia location in 1984–85.
Kay had a passion for youth literacy and loved picture books, participating in the Southwestern Ohio Young Adult Materials Review Group and SWON’s Picture Book Read-in. For many years she was a storybook reader on Sundays at Books & Co.
Kay’s service to the community extended beyond the library walls. She was a long-time member of Altrusa, the Greene Optimist Club, and sat on the advisory board for Family and Children First. As an Ohio Library Council member, she was a regular presence at conferences and acted as a colleague and mentor to youth librarians across the state. In 2001, Greene County Public Library reinstated a bookmobile, which was a point of pride for Kay. If ever someone mentioned Greene County’s seven community library locations, Kay was quick to add, “And a bookmobile!”
In 2013, Kay proposed that Greene County join Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library. The program was an immediate success. To date, Greene County’s Imagination Library has delivered more than 250,000 books to nearly 10,000 local children. At the time of her passing, Kay was finalizing another youth literacy initiative, 1000 Books Before Kindergarten, designed to work in tandem with the Imagination Library.
Children who visited Kay at her second-floor office in Xenia were awed by her collection of children’s books, toys, and coloring supplies. She collected anything penguin themed and often asked her youngest visitors right away if they had a favorite animal. Kay’s ability to connect with children started a mantra around the library: “Kay is for kids.”
Her favorite kid was her niece, Emily. Coworkers often heard about her bright, funny, and kind niece. While it may have sounded like bragging, many of us found out first-hand the boasts were well-deserved. Emily currently works for Greene County Public Library doing the sort of work that would make her aunt proud. Kay is survived by her husband of 25 years, Neil, and their beloved golden retriever, Casey.
We are all proud to have known Kay, and to have worked alongside her as she helped shape a culture of youth literacy in Greene County. To say she will be missed is an understatement. It’s hard to estimate how many lives she touched, or how many children she served who became parents and brought their children back to her. We will be forever grateful to Kay for being our coworker, our champion of youth literacy, and our friend.
Greene County Public Library will host a celebration of Kay's life on December 7, from 6:30–8:30 p.m. at Xenia Community Library.