A reception Saturday afternoon honored Norma DeVries (left) for her career with Lake City Public Library, including the last 14 years as director. The new director is Michele Deluhery (right) who has been the library’s technology coordinator.
A reception Saturday afternoon honored Norma DeVries (left) for her career with Lake City Public Library, including the last 14 years as director. The new director is Michele Deluhery (right) who has been the library’s technology coordinator.
March 21, 2013

Lake City

It's a fitting start to retirement for a longtime librarian.

Norma DeVries began the new chapter in her life this week by checking out three books from the library where she'd worked the last 21 years and served as director 14 years. The first books on her reading list are the inspirational "The Happiness Project" her retirement this week by Gretchen Rubin and the young adult books "The Off Season" by Catherine Gilbert Murdock and "Runaway" by Wendelin Van Draanen.

DeVries was honored at a reception Saturday afternoon for her longtime service to Lake City Public Library. She began as assistant librarian to Judy Ricks in 1992 and became director in January 1999. This week, DeVries turned over that position to Michele Deluhery, who has been technology coordinator at the library about six years.

Asked about her retirement plans Saturday afternoon, DeVries said, "The first thing I'm going to do is check out lots of books and read. That's something I haven't had time to do. I see all these books. I buy all these books because they're so good, and I haven't had time to read them. So now I'm going to start reading the books I've bought over the years."

And in case she needed some recommendations, a couple of tables at the reception were covered with books accompanied by a sign titled, "A Retirement Reading List."

Later, standing in a lounge area of the library that provides a big-window view on the north side of town square, DeVries reflected on her career.

The biggest change came 10 years ago in February when the library moved from the former Carnegie Building on the northeast corner of town square to the current building, which was constructed for $1 million, all funded with donations and grants.

DeVries said of that move, "It meant we could do so much more, coming from the Carnegie Building where basically all we had for (patrons) was books."

In the current one-story brick building, meeting rooms are constantly busy with use by clubs and organizations, as well as for library programs.

While the former library had only one public-use computer, the library now has 12 that have been upgraded over the years, and the building also offers WiFi connection.

"So many people are bringing in their own laptops (computers) now," DeVries said. "That's been a major change, the technology part of it."

During DeVries' tenure, the library's services have grown from just lending books to offering videos, audiobooks, DVDs, downloadable audio and ebooks.

Looking to libraries' future, DeVries said, "Funding is always going to be a challenge."

For the Lake City library, she said, "We have very good support from our city council and (Calhoun) county supervisors. And we have a foundation and friends group that provide private support. But money is tight. We are a very busy library, and we always could do more if we had sufficient funding."

The library features a collection of about 20,000 books, DVDs, books on tapes and magazine subscriptions, and circulation has topped 14,750.

In the future, DeVries said, she'd like to see the library provide more children's programming.

"We do have summer reading and after-school programming," she said. "I'd like to see the library do more supporting kids as they learn to read. There's always room for that kind of children's programming - develop the ability to read as well as the love for books and reading because those will take them so far in the world."

During Saturday's program, retired Lake City school teacher Jean Devine, who served on the library's board of trustees with DeVries for 15 years, said DeVries deserved a big thank-you for doing a super job.

"People don't realize what that job entails," said in an interview this week. "You see her behind the circulation desk or out helping someone, but you don't realize everything else that's required of her, and she did it so professionally and graciously and humbly. That's kinda Norma.

"She developed a budget through county and city funds and was always very conscientious about how money was spent. She lived within that budget. And she worked with a very good staff, and the library will be left in capable hands because of her guidance."

Devine said DeVries was devoted to her career and did it quietly, not with any flamboyance.

"She did it professionally and with a lot of dignity," Devine commented. "And she kept us going as a state-of-the art library. With a budget you have to adhere to, she made sure we had everything necessary to keep us state-of-the-art. We're very fortunate with our library. It's such a vital part of the community."

Devine pointed out that one of DeVries' biggest legacies is the work she put into planning the new library and bringing those plans to fruition.

"It started from a dream, and it became a reality," Devine said.

DeVries and her husband, Jerry, who farmed and retired in 2010 after about 17 years as a mail carrier in Des Moines, have two sons who both live in Waverly - Mark, an actuary with CUNA Mutual Group, and James, who works with product development for IBM of Rochester, Minn. - and three grandchildren.

DeVries said of the rewards of her career, "The people are the biggest part. The library exists for the people, and that's why we're here. That's been the most fun for me, serving the people, taking care of their needs, helping them find what they're looking for, and just greeting them and making the library a pleasant place for them to visit."

For Deluhery, a library career is a dream-come-true.

"It's something I've always wanted to do, work in a library," she said.

When she landed the technology coordinator position at the Lake City library, she said, "I thought this is my ideal job. This is heaven."

Her love of libraries began when she was growing up on a farm south of Lohrville.

"I remember going to the Lohrville library when I was a little kid, and that was my big thing," she said. "We lived on a farm, I could go once a week to the library, and that was my big excitement."

As technology coordinator, she led classes for children, senior citizens and the community as a whole. Now she's looking forward to her expanded responsibilities.

Deluhery graduated from Lohrville High School in 1973, received a bachelor of science degree from Buena Vista University in 1977, worked in psychology for a few years and then in the computer industry for 23 years.

She returned to Lake City from the Denver, Colo., area in order to care for her parents, Gerald and Lois Deluhery. Lois passed away in 2006, and her dad lives in Lake City.

Deluhery said of tackling her new position, "Norma did an excellent job, and the more she's taught me about what she did in this job, I've just been overwhelmed."

She will continue to serve as technology coordinator, and the library will hire a 20-hour-a-week assistant.