TONASKET – Tonasket City Librarian Meg Lange is retiring from an enjoyable career serving readers young, old and in-between.
A Retirement Party/Open House/Reception is scheduled for today, Thursday, April 30, from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.; to say good-bye to Lange and welcome new librarian Sara McVay.
Lange began working for the library in 1994, after coming to Tonasket to visit her sister Cathy Lange, and liking the area enough to stay. The sisters are originally from Tuscon, Arizona.
At the time, the library was only open 24 hours per week.
“When I first started, my goal was to work up to 25 items a day getting checked out, because there was just no traffic. It was our goal to meet the needs of the community, but if I didn’t get the traffic, I didn’t know what the the people in the community wanted,” recalled Lange. “I can remember when we hit a thousand items a month being checked out. That was a huge goal, and now the average is 4,500 items checked out per month. We hope we met the needs of the community; that’s what it’s about.”
Lange said they worked their way up to keeping the library open full-time about 13 years ago. Check-out slips were hand-written before the library became automated, with computers for patron use brought in about six years ago. Movies and audio books were added later.
“We used to have patrons with audio books who would bring them in and trade out with other patrons through a basket on the counter,” said Lange.
According to Lange the library computers are secure, with information wiped clean once a patron logs off, and password access changing daily. People who aren’t library members can get a day pass, even using their laptops outside when traveling, as the wi-fi is on 24/7.
Other changes Lange witnessed over the years is a burgeoning summer reading program.
“It’s good-sized now, with a lot of kids in it. Last summer they read a total of 2,532 minutes, and they try to beat that every year,” said Lange. Books can be read at the library, at home or anywhere else. Minutes of parents reading to preschoolers also count.
“If they read 10 hours, they get a free new Scholastic book of their choosing that the Friends of the Library purchases with proceeds from book sales,” Lange said.
Tonasket Library is one of 29 branches of the North Central Regional Library (NCRL) system and is funded by Okanogan County property taxes. Book sale proceeds are used within the branch for additional needs such as programming, artwork displays and other library needs. The book sales are held twice a year; on the Thursday and Friday prior to Founders Day Weekend and the Christmas Tree Lighting weekend.
NCRL leases the space at city hall, with the city of Tonasket providing upkeep, maintenance and janitorial services, as well as paying for utilities.
“The people in the front office (at city hall) have all been wonderful. We use the council room for our programs, so it has been a really wonderful partnership,” said Lange. Programs include the summer reading program, puppet shows, crafts events and appearances by the ‘Reptile Man.’
The library gets deliveries twice a week of books that have been ordered or are new to the system. Three book clubs currently operating out of the Tonasket branch get copies of books ordered through a department out of regional works. NCRL is headquartered in Chelan.
Lange said a favorite memory is working with the kids after school that didn’t have somewhere to go.
“You watch them grow up over the years, letting them do things for the library to learn job skills; and then they come back and get hired,” she said. “Brittany Fitzthum came in when she was young, then she became a page, then she became a sub. I remember telling her when she was young, ‘One day, maybe we will be able to pay you.’” Lange said pages are high school students learning important customer service skills.
“We couldn’t operate without all the volunteers helping,” said Lange, adding she had lots of wonderful memories of staff members.
“You become friends when you work together,” she said.
The library currently has four volunteers on staff; Liz Williams, Hannah Calhoon, Sheila Barnes and Rachel Miketa-Lacey.
“It’s been wonderful working here, with the people and the books and the kids,” said Lange. “It’s such a wonderful facility, with these custom-made oak shelves made by a gentleman here in town.”
Retirement plans for Lange include gardening, visiting family and playing with her grandson.
“Maybe I’ll do some traveling; that would be nice,” she said.
The new librarian, who some will remember as Sara Jordan, is a 2008 Tonasket graduate. She has been working in the Omak library the last two years, and plans to move from Omak to Tonasket with her young, growing family as soon as possible. McVay’s husband, Patrick Dunn, was born and raised in Twisp, and is currently employed by the Winthrop Forest Service. Their daughter Amelia is four and a half.
“Patrick is really liking the small town feel of Tonasket,” said McVay. “Omak is still small, but the people aren’t as connected as they are in a town the size of Tonasket.”