FREEPORT — Beth Edmonds, director of the Freeport Community Library, will be retiring next year after more than 30 years at local libraries.
Edmonds, who started working at B.H. Bartol Library as a volunteer in 1982, will be retiring Feb. 5. She became director of the Freeport Community Library in 2005.
B.H. Bartol Library, the town’s former library, was where the Abercrombie and Fitch is on Main Street. In 1997, the town built the current library at 10 Library Drive. Edmonds worked as a clerk at the old library before she was named the children’s librarian.
At the new library, Edmonds created the Young Adult Room before becoming library director.
Outside the library, Edmonds served four terms in the Maine Senate, where she was first elected in 2000. In two of those terms, she presided over the Senate, the second woman elected to do so.
Edmonds said she feels like it’s a good time to move on.
“The library is in good shape,” she said. “I’ve gotten us to a good spot.”
The Freeport resident said she wants to spend her retirement doing landscape painting, getting more involved in political activism, and visiting family members.
“I’m ready to not have a schedule every day of my life,” she said.
As library director, Edmonds handles administration and behind-the-scenes work. She buys and processes books, and said she makes sure everything runs smoothly.
“Mostly when you’re director you’re thinking about the whole,” she said. “You’re putting together all the pieces of the puzzle.”
Edmonds also runs story time for toddlers on Tuesday mornings. She said the library offers something for all users, and she’s “always liked that goal of meeting the needs of a lot of people.”
“There’s something completely democratic about a library,” she said. “We try to have something for everyone.”
Edmonds said one challenge has been trying to help older generations understand how to use technology. The library has many computers as well as some iPads for patrons to use. Kindles are also available for check-out.
Aside from the patrons and the library building itself, Edmonds said the thing she’ll miss most when she retires will be the five full-time and five part-time employees she works with.
“I have a great staff,” she said. “That’s the most bittersweet part of all this.”
Edmonds isn’t the only staff member leaving the library, however. Vicki Lowe, a cataloguer who manages the Bartol local history room, is retiring as well. Lowe began at the B.H. Bartol Library in 1979 and started working part-time recently. She said it’s now time for her to fully retire as well.
Lowe said she will miss “helping people with local history questions and family history.”
According to Lowe, there are no plans to hire someone to take her place. But Town Manager Peter Joseph will be getting someone on board to fill Edmonds’ shoes. Since the library is a town department, the Town Council will then have to formally approve Joseph’s choice.
Edmonds said someone new should be chosen within the next month, and feels it should be one of the current staff members.
“I think there are good people in the system already who could step in and do an excellent job,” she said.
Whoever fills the role, Edmonds said the person has to understand that customer service is “the the first and foremost responsibility.”
“We’re trying throughout the country to let people know that libraries are warm, welcoming places,” she said. “That’s the primary thing I want the new library director to be aware of.”
Edmonds, who said her library work has been fueled by “a lifelong enjoyment” of reading, said although she’s retiring, she’ll still visit the library often.
“I’m going to come here and take out books,” she said. “This is my library. I want to stay connected.”
Beth Edmonds, the director of the Freeport Community Library, will be retiring in February after working for local libraries for more than three decades.