Library director decides to move on
NEW CASTLE – An era is about to come to an end at the Garfield County libraries. Longtime director Jaci Spuhler is moving on. Spuhler, who has led the library system for 812 years, has accepted a job with the Eagle Valley Library District in Eagle. There she will oversee the library’s local history collection.Her last day in Garfield County will be Feb. 14.Spuhler expressed mixed feelings about leaving the job.”I’m no longer queen. I will be back to being a librarian instead of a roofer,” she said with her trademark wry wit. Much of her tenure was spent overseeing repairs to the county’s six aging libraries.”I’ve painted, carpeted, roofed … everything,” she said.But Spuhler also steered the system into some much-needed changes.This year, with help from a grant from the Department of Local Affairs, the Parachute library grew from about 2,000 to 4,235 square feet.One of her proudest accomplishments, she said, was raising the salaries of library staff. By bringing salaries up to county standards, the turnover rate went from 18 percent to 2 percent, she said.”We were competing with fast food (pay),” she laughed.To cover those raises, the library board, with Spuhler’s backing, convinced the county commissioners to dedicate all of a one-quarter cent sales tax to the libraries. Previously, the revenues from that tax were split with county public works.She also saw the defeat, in 1999, of a proposed library taxing district that would have brought full funding to the county libraries. Now, the sales tax revenues cover operating costs but do not allow for a capital budget to expand the libraries, she said.Less than adequate funding keeps staffing at lower-than-needed levels while demand for services grows.The library board will revisit the idea of going to the voters to form a district, a plan that is in its most preliminary stages. In January, board members will hold meetings in valley communities to ask citizens what they would like to see in their libraries, including meeting rooms and after school programs.”We are experiencing the same growth issues (as the county),” Spuhler said. “We need larger libraries. We’ve had to give up seating space to computers and we’re running out of space for books.”Although Spuhler has found a way to expand library hours without an increase in staff, she still does not have the personnel to keep all six libraries open six days a week.Spuhler and husband Bob, who is president of Colorado Mountain College, and their two children, Robert and Jessica, came to the valley in 1988. She brought some unique qualifications to the job, beginning as the children’s librarian at the Glenwood Springs library in 1992.After graduating with a masters in library science in 1973, she went to work for the state department in Washington D.C. Her entrée into state was the fact that she speaks four languages – French, German, Russian and Polish – and reads eight, including Latin, Greek, Arabic and Ukrainian.She also had a stint at the Smithsonian Institution as a rare book librarian in the history of science collection.Spuhler admits she has a facility with languages, in part, she believes because she spent her first two and a half years in Japan and learned both that language and English simultaneously.Despite the challenges of directing the county libraries, Spuhler said the years as the head librarian in Garfield County have been good. And leaving will be difficult.”I’m extremely attached to the people who work here,” she said. “They’re a phenomenal group of women and two guys. I’ve put so much of myself into this, it’s hard to walk away.” Contact Donna Gray: 945-8515, ext. firstname.lastname@example.org
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