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Brooks retires from library

Tom Jackson • May 16, 2014 at 2:40 PM

When Julie Brooks began work at Sandusky Library back in 1977, the library director gave her an assignment. Could she get the board to allow the library to buy an electric typewriter?

“One of the first things Julie did was get permission from the board to get an electric typewriter,” said Terri Estel, Brooks’ longtime No. 2. “It was one of her first achievements here. She went on from there”

Brooks, 59, known for trying to keep the library on the cutting edge technologically, announced Thursday she plans to retire Dec. 1, after 37 years of working at the library. She began working there in 1977 and took over the top post two years later.

The library has launched a national search to replace her, said library board president Jim Sennish. Advertisements will go out in about two weeks. Corbus Library Consultants is helping with the search.

Sennish said Brooks let the board know of her plans at the beginning of the year, allowing them time to run a proper search.

“We really respect and appreciate everything Julie’s done” he said.

Since Brooks became director in 1979 — her current title is chief executive officer — there have been a few other changes besides the introduction of electric typewriters. Among them:

•The library tripled in size after passing a bond issue in 1998.

•The new space allowed Brooks to go from holding about 70,000 items in the collection when Brooks began to holding more than 250,000.

•Annual program attendance during her tenure has gone from about 5,000 people a year to about 20,000 a year.

•The number of library cards held by patrons has jumped from 12,000 to 30,000.

Brooks said she is proudest of the fact the library has become a place that welcomes everyone in the community, where people in all walks of life feel comfortable.

The second thing she’s proudest of is recruiting a staff of talented people committed to public library service. She’s also pleased the library has a space flexible enough to grow with the community.

The Sandusky Library was the ninth library and one of the first in the area to join CLEVNET, a library consortium that now has 43 members.

Brooks, a native of Schnectady, N.Y., who also grew up in Erie, Pa., obtained a bachelor’s degree in English from Kent State University, then got her master’s degree in library science from the same school. She came to Sandusky to accept her first library job after graduation.

“I really had no intention when I got here to ever stay this long” Brooks said. “It’s as much of a surprise to me as anyone else”

Brooks said she and her husband Ron, a registered nurse at Stein Hospice, plan to stay in the area.

Brooks has pushed to make new digital services available to patrons. The library recently added Hoopla, which streams music, movies and TV shows, and has begun renting out Roku boxes to patrons.

Brooks herself, however, is old school. She would generally rather read than listen to music or watch movies. She likes biographies and is finishing “The Bully Pulpit: Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft and the Golden Age of Journalism”

And you won’t find her reading a book on a smart phone, either, or even a tablet.

“I’ve only ever read from the actual printed page,” she said.

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