We’ll miss you, McMahon

Jacob Lane · Wednesday, April 12, 2017
“Life is a series of hellos and goodbyes. I'm afraid it’s time for goodbye again.”

-Billy Joel

Longtime director of the West Liberty Public Library Janette McMahon has decided to move on, after 22 years of serving she’s headed west.

“I love this community, it’s passionate for what it does,” says McMahon. “When this community decides to do something it absolutely does it.”

It was a tough decision, but McMahon has decided to accept a job as Executive Director of the Fremont County Library System in Wyoming, where she’ll oversee eight libraries.

With her daughter Breonna in college and her son David graduating this May, she and her husband Tom have decided to take the next step in their life journey.

“I never thought I’d be at the same job for 22 years, it’s been amazing,” says McMahon. “It was an extremely hard decision to give it up.”

Director McMahon’s last official day will be May 31; however, she’ll be using a lot of that time to work on the move. In the meantime the library has publicly posted for a new director.

Should everything go according to plan, the new director will get to spend a few weeks training under Director McMahon.

They’re going to be some big shoes to fill, Director McMahon knows just about everything there possibly is to know about the West Liberty Public Library.

She began as the Children’s Librarian back in 1995 under Director Jenny Ver Steeg. That same year she would eventually replace Ver Steeg as the director.

Obviously a lot has happened over her tenure in West Liberty. When McMahon first started, construction was beginning on the then ‘new’ library building on Spencer Street.

So what are some of her favorite moments with the library?

“The stabilization of the budget of the library,” she says. “That has been a big thing. When we built the facility the first time around the library board and myself worked hard for the stable funding that we have.”

Perhaps not the most ‘exciting’ accomplishment, but to have a stable budget can mean a lot to a local library. To carry it on through the years has been tough, but also a success.

Probably a little more exciting, and stressful, for Director McMahon was moving the library’s entire collection to a temporary facility on Third Street, then moving it all back a year later.

Many will remember that moment in recent West Liberty history when the building was deemed unsafe in 2012 and shut down.

Director McMahon and the entire staff moved thousands of books, computers and supplies to the temporary location that now is Marias/Magolandia.

Then they got to move it all back!

“I never want to move a library again,” she says jokingly…though seriously at the same time. “But that was a big boon to solve the library’s problems.”

West Liberty just went through two weeks worth of rain and wind thanks to incoming warm weather. Many will be happen to know the library’s roof didn’t leak.

Another big project taken on by McMahon has been starting and building the archives. For a small town like West Liberty, archives are not common.

“That has been a big, big project for probably half of the time I’ve been here, because it is such a slow process,” she says. “We gained the training, built the system, then figured out how to catalogue and preserve.”

The library has a specialized climate controlled room for old documents, papers and books. It also provides access to many of those materials on its website wlpl.org.

After all, our community loves its history. Thus, the library took the initiative to help store and preserve several pieces of that history.

Another accomplishment, expanding the Spanish collection with well translated and authentic material. West Liberty’s Spanish collection is second par to non for a community this size.

In fact, a lot of the material comes from vendors outside of the country. It’s been another slow building pet project that McMahon has taken seriously.

Perhaps the library’s most recent success has been facilitating the Betty Akers Creative Space, not mention the massive amounts of community programming.

To put it simply, Director McMahon has been vital in just about every major move by the library. She’s become its heart and soul.

It’s going to be a tough void to fill, but also an opportunity.

“I do appreciate the ability to be creative and to work with the folks in West Liberty,” she says. “I have greatly enjoyed my time here.”

“It was a hard decision to make, but the best one for us right now,” she adds. “I have really enjoyed working here, I think the people in West Liberty have always been very supportive.”

McMahon is going to miss the personal connections she could have with people, especially the people of West Liberty. Her new job will be more about coordinating.

She speaks of times when she has been sitting in her office and heard a particular patron walk in the door, so she rushed out to show them a new book.

She also talks about many of the programs the library has had, and how the community and the library board has always been behind her, for better or for worse.

“I hope people understand that this support is what makes the library great,” she says. “I may have coordinated the library and we have great staff, but truly you can’t have a library like ours if you don’t have community support. You just simply can’t.”

Say what you will about us Janette McMahon, but we’re going to miss you too.
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