MANCHESTER — When Susan Lavin closes the last chapter of her career as a librarian with the Kitsap Regional Library system the day after Labor Day, she’ll leave her desk at the Manchester Library with plenty of fond memories and a sense of accomplishment.
Alas, the call of retirement — and that of Lavin’s already retired husband, who she says needs a golfing partner these days — was too great to keep the head librarian in Manchester, a place she calls “unique” among the county library system’s branches.
“Participation from the community has been phenomenal,” Lavin, a 30-plus-year librarian, said. “We’ve had a lot of people who want to come to Manchester with their families to the library on a weekly basis.”
When she was asked to move over to Manchester in 2015 from the downtown Bremerton branch, Lavin admitted she didn’t know much about the branch or community at the time.
“But lucky me,” she said. “What a fantastic community. Manchester and Bainbridge are the only two communities [in the KRL system] that actually own their buildings. That is something that requires a lot of energy and a lot of dedication. It just proves how important they feel library service is to their community.”
When Lavin began her career as a librarian 30 years ago, she worked on a part-time basis in Poulsbo. And there as in Manchester, the community’s involvement was high. It was involved enough that, when that city’s growth took off, so did the need to expand their library building.
Lavin, who was posted at Poulsbo for 20 years (she joked, “I started as a child!”), witnessed and was part of a rapid evolution of services there over the years.
“I was fortunate to be part of that. I was the only librarian that was employed there. We had other staff, but I did the children’s services as well as reference and collections — I wore a lot of hats. It’s really wonderful being able to do a lot of things. And it’s never boring helping people and working with the community.”
She also spent a number of years leading the Kingston branch at a time when that community’s library was ripe for a new building. Then, she moved for a “stopover” at the downtown Bremerton branch at a time when the city was and continues to be going through significant revitalization downtown.
“It’s in a beautiful building,” she said, “and now they’ve managed to utilize that lower level so they can have more functions down there.”
One benefit of her time there was being able to occasionally walk to work. She and her husband live in Bremerton.
Lavin pointed to the recent Kitsap County voter passage of a library services levy as a sign that area residents are serious about their branch libraries. And that’s apparent in Manchester, her final career stop.
As a result of the levy passage, the head librarian said she and others have been working with an architectural firm and KRL to find ways to use the Manchester library building’s interior space most effectively.
“I’m not going to see the resolution of that, but it’s been a wonderful opportunity to get it started,” Lavin said. “I think with the passage of the levy, people have shown support for things that need to be done. As a result, we have been able to add the services of an additional half-time for a youth services librarian.
“We only had a half-time [allocation] prior to the levy passage. That was huge for us.”
The levy also allowed the Manchester library to add a once-a-month Saturday storytime, she said. Another bonus has been the additional three hours that the library is now open on Saturday mornings.
“That’s really been great and has shown statistically that that’s been a great decision, so we might be looking at some additional open hours down the pike.”
Lavin said she’s benefitted as head librarian by the Manchester community’s involvement in a number of ways.
“The Port [of Manchester] commissioners take care of the library and the water district meets here at the library, so it’s a good central location that is supported not only by people using the library itself but also in using the [meeting] space.
“It’s really become the heart of the community.”
The library’s Friends of the Manchester Library organization also has played a significant role by actively funding the building’s maintenance and upkeep.
The growth of technology and the emergence of the Information Age has affected just about every sector of society. That’s especially true with library sciences, the world Lavin has been involved in over the past 30 years.
“We’ve had to grow with the times, and I think we’ve done a good job,” she said. “I just think people are looking for information, and libraries are a good, reliable source. Plus, we really have a good staff that is excellent in helping people find what they want.”
She’s clearly an engaged and devoted library enthusiast. But, as the affable Lavin said earlier, retirement and golf dates with her husband beckon. So does the prospect of more time to spend with the couple’s three grown children and four grandchildren.
“My kids basically grew up in libraries, and I think it has really helped them become the thriving, good citizens that they are,” she added.