North Olympic Library System director to retire in July

By Jeremy Schwartz
Peninsula Daily News

PORT ANGELES — Seven years to the month after she took the reigns of the North Olympic Library System, Paula Barnes will close another chapter in a lifelong story of library service.

“It was really a gift to be able to have this job,” said Barnes, who announced Friday she will be retiring as director in July.

Public libraries

The system oversees the Port Angeles, Sequim, Clallam Bay and Forks public libraries.

Barnes said she told the library system's board of trustees several months ago that she planned to retire so it could start discussions on finding a replacement.

The board hopes to appoint a new director just before Barnes leaves in July so the transition will be as smooth as possible.

Barnes' career in libraries has spanned nearly all of her 60 years, starting when she and her brother ran a comic book library out of their childhood home's garage.

'Libraries in my blood'

“I've had libraries in my blood, and I always knew I wanted to be a librarian,” Barnes said.

“I was really lucky because I always knew what I wanted to do.”

Born in Vallejo, Calif., and raised in Wisconsin and Montana, Barnes took the job as director in July 2007, about a year after she and her husband, Aaron, moved to Sequim.

Barnes, who has also held library director posts in Monterey, Calif., and Joseph, Ore., was most recently the director of the Palo Alto City Library.

She left that post after her husband, an astrophysicist, retired from NASA's Ames Research Center in Mountain View, Calif.

The couple then decided to move to the Olympic Peninsula, where Barnes said her husband had spent years exploring Olympic National Park with family.

It was a very natural move for us,” Barnes said.

Achievements

In her years as director, Barnes oversaw the expansion or renovation of all the system's branches and a 2010 campaign to increase the system's tax levy to combat declining revenues.

“That was a challenging time as we were still very much in the economic recession and yet were asking people to vote for [an] increase in property taxes,” Barnes said.

Barnes said the fact that the measure passed was gratifying “because what it told me is this is a really special community — that even in the midst of a recession, people valued their library enough to vote on an increase for their property tax and keep the library vibrant.”

Barnes said she will miss the people — library staff, volunteers and patrons — the most after she leaves and is proud of the system's progress in responding to patron wants and needs.

“We've done a really good job of tuning into the needs and the interests of the community and responding with collections and programs that people like and enjoy and that people need,” Barnes said.

She said she intents to stay in Sequim and see what volunteer opportunities might present themselves.

“I would [also] like to find hiking groups for mildly adventurous middle-age or older-age ladies that I could join and explore some hiking trails I haven't explored before,” Barnes said.

“We love it here.”

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Reporter Jeremy Schwartz can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5074, or at jschwartz@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: January 18. 2014 5:02PM
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