A Career for the Books

Cabell County Library Directory Judy Rule celebrates 50 years of service … and she’s not finished yet.

By Kasey Madden

Pho Noodle House

Nestled on the third floor of the Cabell County Public Library, overlooking the shelves and circulation, sits Judy Rule, director of the Cabell County Public Library, where she’s worked for 50 years. Hired in 1967, Rule was named director more than three decades ago in 1984.

Originally set on being a nurse, Rule started assisting her high school librarian at Gauley Bridge High School in Fayette County, West Virginia.

“My eyes were opened and I really liked library work. I still like helping people find things they are looking for, and I love recommending a book to someone and learning that they really enjoyed it,” Rule said.

From there, Rule attended Concord University, where she said the librarians she assisted encouraged her to get her master’s degree from an American Library Association (ALA) accredited school, if she was serious about library work.

Rule attended Indiana University and earned her master’s degree in one year, thanks to hard work and attending three summer sessions. She then moved back to West Virginia and started her longstanding career at the Cabell County Public Library in September 1967. She may have completed her formal education 50 years ago, but Rule said she is still learning.

“I would hate to think that I’ve learned all that I can learn. I’ve learned that what I don’t know is far larger than what I know, but I probably know who to ask or where to look it up — that’s why I’m a librarian,” Rule said.

In a world with Google and the ability to access information anywhere, anytime, right at our fingertips, it can be easy to wonder how a library with stuffed shelves can stay relevant in the 21st century.

“Computer literacy is a great need in society today. It’s crucial to be able to discern what is good information and what isn’t,” Rule said. “That’s one of the reasons that we don’t buy as many books as we used to. Instead, we buy databases. So, if you go to our website and look at the databases, you will find all kinds of information from vetted sources that are accurate.”

Rule said the library has an interest in improving students’ test scores in the region, teaching people to love to read and showing them how to find accurate, trustworthy information.

One of the library’s current initiatives is encouraging children to have 1,000 books read to them by kindergarten, to have them better prepared to learn once they start school. Rule is also overseeing a fundraising campaign to build a bigger library in Barboursville.

While Rule has overseen many development projects with new libraries being built or replacing outdated ones, she’s not counting that as her legacy.

“To make a difference in people’s lives is how you do that. Not the things you build. Bricks and mortar are great, but it’s people that are important.”


Judy Rule’s Top 10 Favorite Books:

  1. The Bible
  2. Harry and the Terrible Whatzit by Dick Gackenbach
  3. The Black Stallion by Walter Farley
  4. Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom
  5. Murder in G Major by Alexia Gordon
  6. The Cold Dish by Craig Johnson
  7. Hippie Homesteaders: Arts, Crafts, Music and Living on the Land in West Virginia by Carter Taylor Seaton
  8. A Killing in the Hills by Julia Keller
  9. Witness at Hawks Nest by Dwight Harshbarger
  10. Shrapnel by Marie Manilla

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