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Librarian's career one for the books

by: LINDSAY KEEFER - Woodburn Public Library's circulation librarian and former program coordinator Sandy Kinney is retiring after 15 years on Oct. 31.Librarian Sandy Kinney is saying goodbye to another chapter of her life.

The circulation lead library at the Woodburn Public Library is retiring Oct. 31 after 15 years. The library is holding a public reception for her in the multipurpose room on Monday from 3 to 5 p.m.

“She’s been the heart of the library for 15 years and she will be missed by her library family,” said library manager John Hunter.

Kinney, who turns 65 on Thursday, didn’t get her start in libraries, but she’s glad she’s ending with that career choice.

“This has been the favorite job I’ve ever had because there’s been so much diversity, so much to do and so many challenges,” she said. “I’ve really been able to work with the creative component.”

Kinney has worked multiple jobs over the years, from airline reservation worker to the postal service to social services to helping develop the Oregon Health Plan, having experience as a Medicaid policy consultant.

“I’ve had great jobs, and they’ve all been beneficial to others because I was helping people,” she said. “I hope my presence here (at the library) has been helpful to people, but really I think it’s been my least helpful job!”

Kinney was born and raised in Peoria, Ill., and didn’t move to Oregon until after marrying a Vietnam War veteran, whose parents had moved to Oregon while he was overseas. They initially settled in the Rogue Valley but later moved north to Turner. It was there Kinney had a brief political life. She got involved in her daughter’s school and was asked to be on a committee. A friend suggested she join the parks board and she was appointed to fill a city council seat that had been vacated. She served as a city councilor for two years and mayor of Turner for four years.

Although her political career ended when she and her husband decided to relocate to Woodburn, Kinney said she might pursue it again.

“I wouldn’t discount that possibility,” she said. “I’m interested in so many different things and I have the energy and skills.”

Although they moved to Woodburn to accommodate her commute to Oregon City at the time, Kinney soon started working for the Woodburn School District in a classroom with students who have disabilities. But she left after two years so she could care for her granddaughter, Erin. Soon, she found a part-time job as security monitor at the Woodburn Public Library.

“At that time, there was a big gang problem; it was very different than it is now,” she said. “We had fights, I had my life threatened more than once. But I have a background in social services, so I had the ability to deal with people and be a forceful presence.”

Before long, she started moving up in the ranks, as her supervisor and the library director both recognized she had other skills.

The library had a Music in the Park program for many years, but soon after Kinney took over, it started to blossom.

“There wasn’t much funding for it,” she remembered. “Then Woodburn Downtown Association approached us to see if we were interested in their support of the program. It was perfect timing.”

The funding allowed for the library to bring in better bands and even some vendors.

“It became more of a festival than just a music concert,” Kinney said. “I had the good fortune of attracting marvelous performers.”

But last year, when budget cuts plagued the city, Music in the Park was transformed into Woodburn Summer Nights, which lessened the amount of live performers but included movies in the mix. Kinney’s job description became circulation lead and no longer included the program coordination.

With all the changes, Kinney decided it was time to check out.

“I’m ready for the next chapter,” she said.

That next chapter will involve volunteering at the Historic Elsinore Theater in Salem, where she now lives, as well as finally reading all the books on her list.

“When you work in a library, you can’t just read all day,” she said. “I would constantly be seeing books to read but never got a chance to read them.”

She’s also a fan of gourmet baking, and her library family will still get the benefit of her culinary skills when she gets the urge to bake.

“It’s always been a hobby but no one at home will eat it!” she said. “So I’ll come in to see my good friends.”

For many, Kinney has been the face of the library, her smile the first thing they see when they walk through the doors. Her presence will be replaced by Jeannie Rogers, a long-time librarian who, before her November promotion to circulation lead, has been working part-time since last year’s cuts.

“I’m so appreciative to the community for being so kind and welcoming from the beginning,” Kinney said. “I’m grateful for the opportunity to make wonderful friends that I’ll never forget.”