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Did you hear the one about the librarian? After nearly 28 years, she's checking out

Echo Press photo by Celeste Beam Trish Conroy will have plenty of time to read after her retirement. She is retiring this Friday from her position as librarian at the Douglas County Public Library.

With all the stories she has heard from all the people she has met, Trish Conroy thinks she should write a book.

And she'll have plenty of time to do it now. This Friday is her last day of work as the librarian of the Douglas County Public Library.

"This is an interesting job," Conroy smiled slyly. "I really should write a book."

For someone who always thought a person should never have a job for more than five years, Conroy has been a part of the Douglas County Library for nearly 28 years.

"This is my third job in America," she said, noting that her other two jobs were as librarian in Hallock and in Grand Forks, North Dakota.

Conroy said she followed in her mother's footsteps - as for her career. Her mother was a school librarian for more than 30 years.

"I also thought I would get married and have eight children like my mother, but that didn't pan out," she laughed. "I am a librarian, what can I say? This is my life."

Although she doesn't have any concrete plans for after retirement, Conroy said she plans to continue living in Alexandria, although she is thinking about heading south for the winter.

As for why she decided to retire, Conroy said there are many new challenges facing the library and that there should be someone new who gets in on the ground floor.

"I also reached the rule of 90, which was a big part of the decision," she added, referring to a retirement guideline that factors in age and years of service.

Over the last nearly 30 years, Conroy has seen many changes within the library system.

Back in 1995, the library moved from its old location in the Carnegie Building to its present location in the lower level of the Douglas County Services building.

"That was a big challenge, but it was exciting and fun to me," she said. Conroy added that in 2002, the current location was remodeled, which was another exciting time for her.

In 1998, the library system was automated, where everything was put into a computer system. The public came in to help with the automation, which Conroy said was a big undertaking, but once again, a fun time.

In the future, the library's computer system may have to have an update, in which all the books will have to be re-bar coded.

"That's another reason why I have to leave," Conroy chuckled.

The Douglas County Public Library is part of the Viking Library System, which operates 11 libraries in six counties.

And although it is a county library, Conroy said it doesn't necessarily operate like one. She said the Douglas County Board of Commissioners sets the policies for the library, as well as the budget, and then reviews her job once a year, but that's about it.

The Douglas County Public Library is a federated library, which means it maintains local control and it can buy books that the public requests.

The book budget is about $90,000 per year, she noted, adding that every week, there are many new books added to the shelves.

As the librarian, Conroy said she loves ordering and receiving the new books, which she said is kind of like Christmas.

"The whole concept of a library really amazes," Conroy said. "And we are a busy library. Very active with lots of people coming in and out every day."

Conroy said currently, about 500 people visit the library each day. When she first started, about 50,000 books were checked out each year.

Now, she said the library is on track to have 378,000 books checked out this year.

"We have more than 20,000 active users," she said excitedly. "We are busier than people think."

Besides checking out books and other items to the public, Conroy noted that the Douglas County Library circulates materials to other libraries. Typically, about 800 items per month are checked out to different libraries and about 600 items are checked into the Douglas County Library through what is called the inter library system, which is a program of the Viking Library System.

So what is Conroy going to miss most about her job?

"The people. I am going to miss helping the people," she said sadly. "There's a lot of satisfaction in helping people."

She will also miss the kids, her hard working staff and of course, the books.

Conroy, who loves the classics, revealed some of her favorite authors, who include Hemmingway, Steinbeck and Faulkner. She also loves southern writers.

"There are just so many," she said, noting that she is addicted to books on CDs and also biographies. "I love reading about people."

Conroy concluded by saying that she was honored to serve this county as the librarian.

"It's a noble job and an amazing thing to do," she said. "I was lucky to have a job I enjoy and to find value in it."

When the county commissioners begin their search for a new librarian to replace Conroy, she jokingly said, "Don't even try, you won't find anyone as good as me!"

Retirement party

A retirement party for Conroy is scheduled for Thursday, October 29 from 2 to 5 p.m. at the Douglas County Library.