A Farewell from Bill Baars
Editor's note: Bill Baars, who turned the Lake Oswego Public Library into a community gathering place filled with so much more than books, officially retired Friday after 16 years at the library — the past 11 as director. Hundreds of people filled the library Friday night to say goodbye, honoring a man whose impact on Lake Oswego can't be overstated.
The Review chronicled that impact when Baars announced his retirement in July. (See tinyurl.com/BillBaarsRetires .) This week, we asked him to tell us what it's all meant to him, in his own words. Here's what he had to say:
I sat in my car for a bit after leaving the Lake Oswego Public Library last Friday evening, my last day as director of this amazing library. I watched as the lights went out on the second floor and then the first, and as people who had been my co-workers left the place that has meant so much to me.
It's so difficult to say goodbye.
Keeping me company in my car were a few boxes containing things I'd accumulated during my tenure and had kept in my view every day. I have the actual brochure for the sale of Lake Front Property in Oswego, and photos taken of and from the house my grandfather built in the 1930s on Maple Circle, on Kelok Bay. I have photos of my great-grandparents, who had a small farm before that in Lake Grove, as well as a picture of the first library at Fourth and D, where I attended the opening festivities in 1962. Such a long time ago.
I have two photographs of Dorothy Stafford — one of the two of us and one taken on the first day she arrived in Oregon. Poems from her husband and son that graced my office walls, and books written by them that I kept on my shelves. I have art work purchased from students that was created for Lake Oswego Reads. I have my vocational service award from our outstanding Lake Oswego Rotary Club. Pictures of family, notes from friends, letters from library users. Flowers, cards, gifts. Thoughtful, tangible items.
Less tangible but even closer, I carry so much love in my heart. And I thank all of you for that. For the privilege of being the director of my hometown library — your amazing library. It is a place of wonder, serendipity, community, collaboration, challenge, education, recreation and joy.
I have seen many of those things on a daily basis. I have seen how libraries transform lives, every hour of every day. I have seen a community dedicated — like no other — to education and enrichment, to interaction, to conversation, to programs, to an institution that is great because the community believes in its importance and strives to make it so.
I have had the great fortune to work with the best library staff anywhere, and with smart, dedicated, effective city and community partners. Please bear with me as I thank a special few, just a fraction of those who are due mention. There are many, many more out there. You, reading this, are a part of this, too.
I would not have returned to my beloved Lake Oswego had it not been for the previous library director, Jan Erickson. I had worked under her leadership at the Multnomah County Library, and after her move to LO, she gave me glowing reports of the library community, City staff and the City Council and mayor. Jan always gave me the best possible advice and direction, and this proved to be no exception.
Jan is also responsible for my advocacy of programming and innovation. She has since passed away, and I've missed her every day. And of course, she was right. (She loved to hear that!) I have been thinking of her a lot lately. I know that many of us have had one special mentor in our lives. She was mine.
City Manager Doug Schmitz and Mayor Judie Hammerstad were visionary leaders, and they assembled a top-notch staff. At the end of my career, I enjoyed the support of City Manager Scott Lazenby and Mayor Kent Studebaker. They were a pleasure to work with.
My co-workers at the City were the absolute best. I know how hard they work, I know that our citizens expect the very best, and these folks are outstanding at what they do. It was inspiring to work with a team of this caliber, and I am incredibly impressed with their dedication. They have pride in their work, and it is justified.
I have enjoyed a great relationship with every mayor (thank you Judie, Jack and Kent) and City Council. There is no greater gift than time and expertise, and I valued not just our working relationship and their support, but their friendships as well.
Speaking of friends, the Friends of the Lake Oswego Library are doing outstanding work daily. A special mention is due Presidents Colleen Bennett, Terry Huber and Nancy Niland. (And V'Anne Didzun has always kept me on my toes.) The Booktique (with their terrific manager Mo Ogren) has also been a wonderful partner, supporting library programs and collections; a big shout-out to Jack and Jeanne Radow and Herb Baumgarner for establishing that amazing book store. And the library continues a close collaboration with the Oswego Heritage Council; I could not be more impressed with its work under the leadership of its board, the incredible Nancy Niland and archivist Mark Browne. I look forward to continued great work with these community treasures.
I'm going to miss Lake Oswego Reads, but that program will always be close to my heart. We have had some stunning events, writers, programs. I think of Anthony Doerr, Abraham Verghese, Ivan Doig and Tim Egan. Kim Stafford the year we celebrated his father's poetry. But I have to say that 2012 was truly special — the year of "Mink River" and Brian Doyle. To have spent the month in Brian's presence. To hear him speak to our community of our community. To hear him MAKE community. For me, it was the reason I wanted to do the LO Reads program in the first place. It was truly unforgettable.
LO Reads is blessed with an amazing steering committee led by the astounding Cyndie Glazer. It is an honor to be her friend and to have worked with her so closely and so well.
I could not have done what I needed to do without Beverly Ross. To me she is the unsung hero of my LOPL years. Her job title of Administrative Support only describes a fraction of what she did. She was my savior, my sounding board. She listened, she counseled and cautioned me when I needed it. We were truly a team. Any success I've had is as a result of collaboration. Hers more than anyone else's, and that's saying a lot.
I want to thank The Lake Oswego Review for not only being THE place to find out what was going on at the library — and everywhere else in town — but also for pursuing excellence, providing valuable, useful information and serving as a community resource. Under Publisher Brian Monihan and with the excellent, indefatigable and hugely talented editor Gary Stein (that guy is EVERYWHERE), I look forward to keeping up with all things Lake Oswego.
I am going to miss the staff of our wonderful library. Every day. I have been extremely fortunate to work with an amazing, smart, sensitive, dedicated, gracious, passionate group of people. I know how lucky I am, and I know that with these folks — and our wonderful new library director, Melissa Kelly — in place, the library and the community will continue to thrive, learn, challenge and delight each other.
Finally, I'm going to miss you. I'll miss every opportunity to talk with someone about our library. To hear your stories, to get your input on how to make this library even better. YOU have made this library great.
It's been an incredible honor to be the director of your Lake Oswego Public Library. Thank you.
— Bill Baars