Changing of the Guard
(written by Anita Taylor Doering, Archives Staff)
After 34 years of diligent public service in the Archives, Bill Petersen will be retiring June 25. His collective memory will never be replaced but his work will live on through the newspaper clipping file and other collections in the Archives, in the circulating and reference collections.
We will miss his smiling face as a door greeter during the annual Give a Gift fund raiser, or as a scary ogre in the basement at the North Side Library’s Nightmare on Kane Street. He could whip together a program on life in La Crosse in 1900 as well as research and prepare stories for the Dark La Crosse Tour (he did most of the heavy lifting there) while juggling impossible reference questions.
I’ve been privileged to observe Bill’s professional growth over the past 26 years and to see him develop more confidence as our local history collections grew as well as access to national databases. He discovered that he really did like to research and found satisfaction in helping to answer someone’s question, whether it was about their family history or about some facet or fact of La Crosse history. He did it with grace and style, even if he had to repeat himself more than once.
He touched the lives of many ages – from the his part in developing the 4th grade Badger Detective program, to the National History Day tours in the Archives, to NHD judging, to show and tell to UWL and adult classes. He taught on a daily basis whether it was to a school aged audience or a one-on-one adult reference question.
He taught the staff many things and kept us grounded. He was often the entertainment at staff development workshops. We will miss his smile, the grace with which he could save almost any bad situation, his dry wit and oftentimes irreverent humor, and most of all, his unending friendship and devotion.
If you get a chance, please come in or email best wishes to Bill as he starts the next leg of his journey away from the library. You will probably find him with his camera hovered over a wild flower that might just happen to have a damselfly perched on it just right.