Patron Portrait: Barbara Hillman

We had the opportunity to interview a long-time library user and wish to share her story with our community. Please enjoy this portrait of Barbara Hillman.

Before she had to give up driving a few years ago, Barbara Hillman, 90 years young and a longtime patron of the Westlake Porter Public Library, would routinely visit the library. She would saunter over to the 7-day bookshelf, mosey on down to the DVDs, and finally linger in her favorite area – the nonfiction shelf where her beloved books on antiques lay waiting.

Barbara Hillman photo
Barbara Hillman

Barbara Hillman fell in love with antiques when she started collecting Doultons and sterling silver as a young bride. She pursued her passion, embarking on a career as an antiques dealer to support her four kids. “It was a struggle in the beginning,” she says. She learned the trade by honing her instincts and doing her own research. “I love looking up stuff, I love polishing silver. I’ve made some mistakes; sometimes I bought the wrong things, but I always learn something.”

Since that rocky beginning, Ms. Hillman has given presentations on antiques all over Ohio, including Bay Village and Westlake. She has traveled across the country, participating in antiques shows in cities like New York, Chicago and Miami. Over the years, she has been on an endless quest for special items, visiting countless tag sales and estates sales, and establishing relationships with a wide network of trusted dealers from whom she buys items of interest.

The book is freedom.

At her booth at the Medina Antiques Mall, and now with the help of her youngest daughter, Karen, Ms. Hillman buys, sells and appraises all kinds of merchandise, specializing in sterling silver and high-quality items. Several times a month, the Adult Services Department would get a phone call from Ms. Hillman. “Could you check eBay for me, sweetheart” she would ask, wanting to pin down how much customers were bidding on a vintage perfume bottle, for instance, or an old toy pocket watch or collectible doll. “Your customers have to trust you,” she says. Establishing a fair price is part of that equation.

“The antiques business keeps my mind busy,” Ms. Hillman says. So does her insatiable love for reading. “The book is freedom. My blood pressure stays low when I read,” she says. She gives every book 50 pages before she decides to continue reading or to put it aside.

Lately, large print books have become her mainstay. When Harlan Coben comes out with a new novel, she never fails to put her name on the holds list. She’ll dip into a James Patterson or John Grisham once in a while, but she’s always on the hunt for new authors. A recent favorite is British author, Lisa Jewell. Along with novels, of course, she periodically requests books on antiques to help her with appraisals. “If I don’t have a book, I go crazy,” she says. “Apart from my family, the library has been everything to me.”

Barbara Hillman has come a long way from Selma, Alabama where she was born. A Westlake resident for the last 30 years, she is determined to live on her own until she can’t live independently anymore. She has a stair lift at home, a Life Alert tag, 10-year-old dog Stella by her side, and the love and support of her family and friends. In the evenings, she’ll turn on Channel 50 to watch an old movie and then settle down with a good book for 1-2 hours.

“I’m alive, I’m lucky, I can walk, I can think, I can talk, and I do have a little bit of a brain hanging in there” – all very humble and humbling words from a woman who lives a blessed and colorful life doing what she loves.

Thank you, Barbara Hillman, for being a beloved member of the WPPL family.