“To say goodbye is to die a little.”
– Raymond Chandler, “The Long Goodbye”
Library Director and friend Gretchen Beatty is leaving Nederland for the Seattle area. Tomorrow, Friday, Aug. 23, is her last day at the library.
From Dale Porter: “Late in 2002, after the new library district had been approved, the library board launched a national search for a full-time library director. Our candidate pool featured some unusual resumés: a corporate business librarian; a recent graduate in Hyderabad, India; a retiring assistant from Chicago’s main library, and a long-time librarian who said the best way to deal with unruly teens is to kick them out.
“We were considering these poor choices when board member George Blevins said ‘I think I’ve found your librarian,’ and we met Gretchen. It only took one interview to convince us that she was the right person for the job.
“Librarians are not often associated with tools and heavy lifting, but shortly after Gretchen started work in March 2003, the Great Snowstorm collapsed the community center gymnasium roof and damaged the library ceiling as well. We had three days to move the 4,000 reserve books stored on the gym balcony.
“We were provided with two rooms at the end of the west wing, and with a small work crew we got the job done. Gretchen said it was the first time she’d had to bring her own toolbox to work. With help from board and community members, Gretchen was back in business in one week.
“That was not the end of her adventures. Come 2006, the west wing was closed for renovation of the main building. Gretchen kept the library open even after the water and heat had been cut off, until the library moved into the [Caribou Village] Shopping Center. There she directed operations from a desk surrounded by children, magazine readers and visitors. Four years later, she supervised the move to the new library building.
“Despite these interruptions and difficulties, Gretchen has remained true to the values we saw in her back in 2003: creative with children’s needs, attuned to what every patron is reading, eager to order and recommend books that fit (and sometimes challenge) our reading habits, and willing to accommodate the many different ways people use the library.
“She’s hired good staff and trained them well. She leaves a strong legacy for the library’s future.”
From Kay Turnbaugh: “I first joined the Nederland Library District Board of Directors when the library was housed in a bay at the Shopping Center. The ceiling leaked, the space was incredibly cramped and Library Director Gretchen Beatty admitted to me that she hated change.
“For a woman who hated change, she certainly had more than her fair share of it
as Director of Nederland’s library. She presided over three library moves culminating in the move to a building of our own. When we acquired land and started planning our own building, we had to convince the voters that our plans were good, that our projections were sound. Gretchen was at the forefront of that effort.
“She spoke with patrons, answered questions, and took comments, in addition to her regular duties. When the bond passed, we moved to the phase of interminable meetings, working on plans with our owner’s representative, architect(s), and contractor.
“Again, Gretchen shouldered most of the responsibility for how the building would meet our community’s needs. By the time we moved the library into the new building, Gretchen was a master at moving. It was so smooth we opened for business in just a couple of days.
“That wasn’t the end of the changes. A new building required a new set of skills to deal with maintenance issues and new staff to deal with a larger space with more books and a community room that opened opportunities for programming that we had never been able to do before. As always, Gretchen rose to the challenge.
“For the first time in many years, the library is facing a change without
Gretchen because losing Gretchen is the change. Our library will forever bear Gretchen’s stamp, and we will forever be in debt to her.
“Thank you, Gretchen, for your dedication, your service, and your foresight. We are a better community because of you, and we wish you the happiest of trails.
From me: We met shortly before the roof collapsed and got to know each other on drives to and from Ft. Collins where we learned a new software program for library management. We chatted about the usual: kids, travels, and, books, of course. Gretchen was excited to be back in Nederland and to have a library of her own.
Gretchen’s stamp is on all the various renditions of library quarters we’ve had through the years. From her decision to remain open in the heatless west wing of the community center in winter (the patrons came!) to her careful and thoughtful planning of our new library, she has contributed so much to our community.
Under her direction, our library has grown from that frigid beginning with donated books and a slow Internet connection to a vital and beloved part of community life. Gretchen’s name is on the founding plaque and will soon be on a brick, but her presence will long be felt in every fiber of our library.
Safe travels toward your new life, Gretchen, and may the wind always be at your back.
Thank you. Sometime, somewhere, in a small bookstore or a quirky library, I hope I will see you around the stacks.