Today Sage Holben will be leaving the library for the last time as a member of the Metro State Library staff. As she retires after 16 years at Metro State, we look forward to seeing her again as a patron but will miss her insight, friendly and caring demeanor, and community mindedness.
Sage’s first day at Metropolitan State University was January 6, 1999. She rattles off the date without second thought, saying, “I don’t know why, but I remember that date.” At the time, the library was housed in New Main in the same room as the campus computer lab. Sage was hired to work half the day at the IT Help Desk and half the day at the library desk. At that time there were about 5 full-time library staff, a couple of part-timers, and one student worker. Everyone did everything! Reference, ILL, cataloging, it didn’t matter if you had a library degree or not. Sage had more books in her home library than the university library owned. She remembers the excitement of the library’s first interlibrary loan request, “Finally, we had a book someone else wanted!”
According to Adela Peskorz, “There was a time in its earliest history that the library’s ‘footprint’ was little more than an alcove, tucked into a corner of New Main’s lower level, its identity still very much in its formative stage, with so much of its mandate yet to be clearly defined. As Interim Co-Director at that time, shepherding some of its fledgling growth during this embryonic stage, I and my administrative partner, Carla Johnson, were looking for a Library Technician who could both weather and thrive in an environment undergoing constant change and redefinition.
In one of those wonderful convergences of opportunity and timing came our Sage, who, if I remember correctly, had only recently packed up her car (much of it with lots and lots of books, which I’m sure comes as no surprise to anyone) and moved cross country, doing so based pretty much on faith alone—an early harbinger that already marked Sage as someone primed to ride the waves of our ‘grand adventure,’ always with the great bearing, wry humor, and deep commitment to the greater good that we all now know are signature traits.
There was no one better suited to take on the ‘chief cook and bottle washer’ role the Library Technician position then represented. Little ruffled her, and her commitment to service and community evidenced itself early on, only growing over time as she became a strong community advocate and nurturer in our home Dayton’s Bluff neighborhood.”
As the library grew and David Barton was hired as the dean of Library and Information Services the library evolved and the departmental structure changed. At a staff meeting David asked people what job they wanted. Sage says, “I wasn’t very quick and got serials.” While serials may not have been her first choice, she has diligently worked to organize and make accessible a growing collection of periodical materials.
When asked what she enjoys most about working at the Metro library, Sage replied, “Working with the patrons and living in the community has allowed for many enriching connections.” One of the connections Sage speaks of is her work with Jim Goff, a community patron of the Metro State Library and active DFL-er. “Jim Goff taught me the Wellstone way. Meaning we campaigned door-to-door in the neighborhood.” Sage has lived on the same block in Dayton’s Bluff since 2000 and has been a voice for equality and neighborhood improvement in that time.
Sage’s ability to bring the library and community together are exemplified by this quote from Adela Peskorz, “For Sage, the principles of dedication to the betterment of all fluidly translated from work to home and back again. Her position here at Metro was far more than a job; it provided an extension of her deepest passion for making a positive difference in the world and making it a better place for everyone. Whether it was establishing her home ‘Little Free Library’ for neighborhood young people or speaking publicly and proudly for both the University and local community members, she forged a path uniquely her own and left an indelible mark on the Library’s legacy—and I ought to know, since I was there from her beginning here, watching her ascend and fly in a place that truly became home to her; one for which her door always remained open and welcoming, wherever she was.”
What will Sage miss about working at the Metro Library? Laughing, she replies, “Having a place to bring baked goods that didn’t turn out quite right.” But mostly she will miss the people. Jennifer DeJonghe recounts a story of Sage’s love of people, “Once, I saw a woman walk up to Sage in the library and give her a greeting and a hug. Sage smiled and hugged the woman back, and they chatted briefly like old friends. Later I remarked to Sage, oh, I didn’t know you two knew each other. Sage said, ‘We don’t! That just happens to me all the time.’”
Sage is looking forward to spending her time working with Peter Rachleff and Carla Riehle to promote programs at the East Side Freedom Library; creating a working group of neighborhood landlords, property owners, and tenants; completing art work and other creative projects; writing for the Dayton’s Bluff District Forum; proofreading greeting cards, “…and there are always protests and rallies to attend.”
Sage’s parting words of wisdom for us, “Don’t miss opportunities to connect with someone as a real human being. The connection may be as simple as making eye contact with a stranger as you are walking down the stairs. But in that moment, there’s a spark, and you truly ‘see each other.'”
Looking to Sage
“I shall deeply miss Sage Holben at the library as a friend, colleague, and comrade. Unlike many well-intentioned folks, Sage lives out her values each and every day, treating every person she meets — child or adult, faculty or homeless, stranger or neighbor — as a full human being. She is, by turns, whimsical, passionate, honest, generous, fearless, hilarious, deeply compassionate, idealistic, pragmatic, and indefatigable. Sage is one of the best, heartiest laughers I’ve ever known. I mean, she guffaws with total commitment, all consuming belly laughs, often for no discernible reason and frequently at my jokes. I’d want her on my side in a fight, revolution, zombie attack, or game of charades. I know we haven’t seen the last of you at Metro State, Sage. You’ll be out there in the community keeping us honest and challenging us to be honorable in our actions. We will find you on your porch with a group of kids, making art, standing up for social justice, feeding people soup, and speaking truth to power. Thank you, so much, for everything.” -Martha Hardy
“I have never met a person so committed to human welfare and her community. I so appreciate her down to earth approach to life and her willingness to speak out. I will miss you Sage!” -Chris Schafer
“Wishing you much luck and joy in life Sage—you most definitely deserve it!” -Adela Peskorz
“To many people, Sage Holben is the Metropolitan State University library. She is the friendly face, the official one-woman library welcoming committee, and the person who will give you help or answer your questions whether you are student, faculty, or community member. She is well known, and well loved, for her kindness and generosity. Sage is also one of the bravest, boldest, stubbornest, and most… colorful… people at Metropolitan State University. I have come to never put anything past her, and to realize just how far she will go when following her bliss or when standing by her convictions. Once, in the staff break room, Sage was pondering aloud which types and colors of Jello would work best for filling a bathtub with, and for photographing oneself in. After the discussion wound down, Sage left the room and another staff member said, ‘she was
being hypothetical, right?’ but most of us there knew full well that when Sage says she means to do something, she really means to do it. Sure enough, Sage later produced art prints of herself, reclining in a tub of Jello. On another occasion years ago, a group of us was discussing, more or less facetiously, how we might just have to chain ourselves to a particular person’s desk, in order to resolve a problem. Sage showed up the next day with a large, heavy, particularly gothic length of chain, which she apparently keeps on hand for just such occasions.
Sage and I once collaborated as a team to capture and re-home some stray cats that were living behind the library. After a bit of a skirmish with one testy feline (who I daresay had some Sage-like qualities), I ended up needing a tetanus shot. It felt like an adventure though, with Sage as one of the few people who wouldn’t roll her eyes at my foolhardy attempts at animal rescue, and who, as always, remained steadfast in her desire to help the downtrodden. For there are causes worth chaining oneself to a desk for, worth getting a tetanus shot for, and worth stalking the errant New York Times delivery man for. And if you want to learn more about such things, look for the woman in the Dayton’s Bluff neighborhood, whom everyone seems to know, and who seems curiously… huggable.” -Jennifer DeJonghe
“I have seen Sage be the voice for patrons and members of the community who might not have been heard. She also has a playful side. When I walk by her desk I don’t know if I will learn the technical difficulties of being photographed in a tub full of Jello or the best way to get information out to the surrounding community. She has been my go-to person to learn about the history, geography, and current needs of Dayton’s Bluff. Keep doing your good work and being that voice for those who need one.” -Katherine Gerwig
“Of the four years I had the pleasure of being Sage’s coworker and cubicle neighbor, I enjoyed times when we collaborated on creative projects together, and valued her how her simple “hello” in the morning could make me feel at home in the office. The best was when I we would glance in passing, I could see a certain glimmer in her eye that would make me stop in my tracks to ask what she was up to.” -Allison Holdhusen
“Sage. Words don’t suffice. You really should have the pleasure of meeting her yourself. I’m not even sure how to describe her. Sure, I worked with her at the library for the better part of a decade, and am richer for it, but if there ever were a woman not to be defined by a job classification, it is she. When I think of Sage, it will be as much for the gallery of snapshots covering her cubicle, pictures of neighborhood kids she took to meet senators, of Dayton’s Bluff porch life, of her beautiful son, of other cities, of cats. No cubicle ever conceived could contain Sage. In her ‘retirement’, as I think of her I might think of an artist, an activist, an advocate, a writer, a woman realized and not to be messed with, a fearless neighbor—or at least one not imprisoned by fear—a woman who simply cannot tolerate lies, nonsense, or injustice. Sage is just something else. I can’t wait to hear what she does next.” -Owen Hansen