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Longtime Newberg library director Leah Griffith will retire after nearly three decades of service in the community

GRAPHIC PHOTO: GARY ALLEN
 - Leah Griffith became the director of the Newberg Public Library in 1992, the year that George H.W. Bush was elected president

When asked about what she views as her greatest accomplishments at her post, retiring Newberg Public Library Director Leah Griffith was quick to praise everyone except herself.

She praised Mary Lynn Thomas and Korie Burkle and Amanda Lamb for the work they've done in children's services. She praised K'Lyn Hann for growing the teen services program and weekly arts club meetings. She praised Denise Reilly, who built up book clubs not just at the library, but at the local senior center as well.

"What I'm most proud of is people here believe strongly in what they do," Griffith said.

She added that it doesn't matter if a person is full time, works 10 hours a week or volunteers. She said they all are proud of what they do.

"We do make a difference in people's lives," she said.

It's not just checking out books, she intoned. A library is a place to get information and for those who need them to use computers to apply for jobs.

"I consider myself very fortunate to have been able to make my career," she said.

Griffith will retire on June 20, concluding 27 years as the leader of the library and 42 years total in libraries across the country. Originally from Seaside, she came to Newberg in 1992 after stops in Cornelius and in southern Ohio. It was while working in Ohio that she got a call from her sister back in Oregon, who read about the post in Newberg.

"It was great to come home again," she said. "I've enjoyed being part of Newberg."

Her time in Newberg also featured serving the Newberg City Club, the Newberg Downtown Coalition and the Newberg Cultural District Board. She's a Rotarian with the Noon Club and served as the group's president in 2016. She's also been involved with the Oregon Library Association, a statewide organization supporting local libraries. She said this was important to her, because it improves the service a library can offer when librarians connect.

The city hasn't announced Griffith's replacement yet, but City Manager Joe Hannan said an offer has been made to a person and they have received a verbal agreement from that person.

Since coming to Newberg, Griffith said she's proud of the ways the library has grown. But again, she's not the one who takes ownership of that.

"I've always appreciated the ability to be the person that says yes to a person when they come up with a great idea," she said. "I encourage the staff to do great things."

Griffith said this summer she'll return to Seaside to spend time with her family and hopes to do some traveling and "get myself settled into what life is like as a retired person." However, she plans to remain active in libraries.

She said when she first began working in libraries, back in Seaside, all they were for was to check out books.

"Now the things we do are so much more," she said. "It's amazing what a library can provide to a community."

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