Librarian and Chair shuffle takes place at Nakusp Public Library

New Chair Barb MacPherson kisses the hand of now former Chair Paula Rogers.   - Photo courtesy Barb MacPherson
New Chair Barb MacPherson kisses the hand of now former Chair Paula Rogers.
— image credit: Photo courtesy Barb MacPherson

There are changes afoot at the Centennial Building, and not just the renovations that will join the archives to the historical edifice. The Nakusp Public Library is undergoing changes in both the boardroom and library staff.

Much-loved librarian Sabina Iseli-Otto will be leaving the library to pursue her interests and loves elsewhere in the community.

“I’ve been offered an opportunity to work for friends in the private sector, which I can do online from anywhere – an opportunity I didn’t want to pass up,” she told the Arrow Lakes News. “I’m planning to run the bike shop in the meantime, though as more of a meeting and activity space for adults and kids than for bicycles (at least at this time of year).”

Events are already happening at Black Bear Bike Repair, including the robot club and an upcoming spinning (fibres, not bikes) workshop on Feb. 10.

Her departure came as a bit of a shock to board members, said former library board Chair Paula Rogers.

“We kind of were surprised because we’d heard it right from her mouth she was going to stay,” admitted Rogers, although she believes the move is ultimately the right one.

“Sabina has fantastic energy and vision for youth in the community. I think her real heart is helping youth,” she mused. “Being librarian was too restricted for her. Her ideas of community were larger than the library.”

The long-serving chair is herself leaving the library now that she has reached her maximum time of eight years on the library board (according to library legislation, board members can only serve a maximum of eight consecutive years). Vice-chair and long-time friend Barbara MacPherson will be taking up the reins now, the decision having been made official during the Nakusp Public Library’s recent AGM held on Jan. 31.

“It’s sad to go, you get used to the job,” said P. Rogers about leaving the board.

New Chair MacPherson is no stranger to the Nakusp Public Library herself, and is the person behind the popular Poetry Night and Books That Make A Difference annual events.

Both women are familiar with the library and its many incarnations.

“When we came in 1977, it was this dusty little place with a lot of Harlequin Romances,” said MacPherson, who has been impressed with the changes wrought over the intervening years.

When the news was received that Iseli-Otto was moving on, the board offered the position of interim head librarian to Susan Rogers.

“We had offered it to her before Sabina was hired,” Paula Rogers said about the head librarian spot; MacPherson confirmed this was the case.

Susan Rogers said she aims to hold the course and get down to the brass tacks balancing the budget in the next six months.

“There are no wild aspirations,” she told the Arrow Lakes News. S. Rogers said she will continue to support staff and volunteers and run programs at the community library.

Susan Rogers, who will be assuming the role of acting head librarian once Iseli-Otto has departed, started volunteering in 1994 with then librarian Evelyn Goodall. When Goodall retired for the first time, she continued on as assistant librarian with Marilyn Misutka until Evelyn came out of retirement. S. Rogers first worked as head librarian during Goodall’s leave while she toured Italy by bicycle. The stint was during the library’s expansion project, S. Rogers told the Arrow Lakes News, a large undertaking. About a year later, she was up to bat again when Goodall suffered a terrible fall on her bicycle that put her out of commission for six months.

The library board will be hiring in six months, and will be posting the position, although Paula Rogers and Barb MacPherson are already confident that Susan would fit the bill.

“For transparency reasons, it would be better to post it,” Paula Rogers told the Arrow Lakes News, although she did agree with Barb that Susan could continue on in the position.

“We don’t foresee any reason why it wouldn’t work out,” said Barb about Susan staying on as the head librarian. “It sounds pretty hopeful.”

For her part, Susan Rogers is sad to see Iseli-Otto go.

“We’ll really miss her spirit, passion, energy and enthusiasm,” she said Susan Rogers about the outgoing librarian. “She infused new life into the library.” Along with bringing new blood to the library, Iseli-Otto also introduced new books into the collection, said S. Rogers.

One of the additional changes coming with Sabina’s departure will be a shift from four staff members to three, which will be better for finances, said Paula Rogers.

Library staff will now be comprised of Susan Rogers, Cindy McNaughton, and Patty Riley, all of whom bring a variety of skills and experience as well as a great love of the library to their work.

McNaughton herself also started in the 90s, and recalled working with Marilyn Misutka when the library shared space with the Village office.

“I moved away for a few years and upon my return in 2009 volunteered at the front desk of our new and lovely library,” she told the Arrow Lakes News. When Goodall was taken out of circulation by her bicycle accident, McNaughton was offered a staff position.

Over the last two years, McNaughton has focused on increasing her professional skills and has completed certification in many domains including Public Library Administration, Collection Development and Acquisitions, and Reference and Information Services. In 2012, she also received her diploma in the Community Library Training Program.

McNaughton will miss Iseli-Otto and the environment she fostered at the library.

“She made me feel that my ideas and input were important and valid,” said McNaughton. “She knew that a library is an institution that should show tolerance, fairness and access to knowledge to all.”

The third staff member Patty Riley started in the late 90s, although she took a break for personal reasons but was back in 2008.

“I learned more about inter-library loans and cataloguing,” Riley told the Arrow Lakes News. She also began filling in for Susan or Sabina when they were away. “My library training has been on the job and on-line workshops offered by library association.”

Riley is also a huge library fan: “I love everything about working at the library–books, patrons, great co-workers and volunteers.”

Outgoing librarian Iseli-Otto will be missed by her too.

“I’m going to miss Sabina at the library immensely,” she said, “She is always open to new ideas, and is amazing at giving a person the confidence to try just about anything.”

Iseli-Otto’s warmth and openness made patrons feel great, McNaughton added. “Years of public service and being a past business owner has made me realize that it is the people who work the floor or the front desks make the difference.”

McNaughton would like to see the library continue the great work Iseli-Otto started. The board will be doing so this year by developing a strategic plan, a suggestion Iseli-Otto brought to the board.

Although she initially thought strategic planning was a bit elaborate for the small library, P. Rogers confirmed that the library board will be doing a strategic plan this year.

“The push is to expand the library into the community,” she told the Arrow Lakes News, and finding ways that the library can be useful to the community as a whole. Libraries, even the Nakusp Public Library, can be daunting to some people, a dynamic that former librarian Iseli-Otto would like to see changed.

“People are afraid of going into libraries for a lot of reasons,” she told the Arrow Lakes News, “and I think that the conversations about those reasons need to go on forever because they’ll always be a part of every library’s reality.

“I heard people were afraid because they don’t know what’s at the top of the stairs. I heard they’d lost books from a library once,” she listed as a couple of reasons that people might find the library intimidating.

“I don’t know how it could be more welcoming,” said new chair MacPherson who sees the library as a community space and is amazed people in town are intimidated by the library.

Iseli-Otto sees libraries as a tool and resource, “a warm place you can always go” that could be the place where lifelong literacy begins.

“Literacy means having the skills to do whatever you think is the most important thing to do with your life,” she explained. “Literacy isn’t about being able to read or do math, it’s about learning about what you want and then figuring out how to get it.”


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