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Volunteering gave Tualatins Little Shelving Angel her wings

Dorothy Howard was posthumously named Tualatin's 2006 Distinguished Citizen
by: Submitted Photo, A SHELVING ANGEL — An undated photo of Dorothy Howard shows the 45-year Tualatin resident at the Tualatin Public Library where she volunteered nearly 9,000 in the last 20 years. Howard died in March and was posthumously named Tualatin’s 2006 Distinguished Citizen by the Tualatin Chamber of Commerce last week.

TUALATIN - Dorothy Howard was Tualatin's 'Little Shelving Angel.' And for the last 20 years, city officials and library staff wanted to see the hard-working retired librarian recognized for her quiet accomplishments.

Toiling away for hours a day volunteering at the Tualatin Public Library, Howard put in nearly 9,000 volunteer hours since 1986. But the one thing she shied away from was the spotlight. Though city staff tried for years, Howard would not allow the city or any organization to recognize her.

'That was very much her way,' said Howard's son, George Howard, of Newberg.

Dorothy Howard passed away March 13 at the age of 84. Last week, she was posthumously named the Tualatin Chamber of Commerce's 2006 Distinguished Citizen of the Year.

'She would have been embarrassed,' George said of his mother's likely reaction had she attended the Celebrate Tualatin dinner and heard the nickname some library staff had bestowed upon her: 'Little Shelving Angel.'

But knowing Dorothy Howard as many people at the library seemed to, she would have avoided the dinner and the recognition.

'We tried to recognize her at our annual library staff recognition ceremonies,' said Tualatin Library Director Darrel Condra, 'but she simply wouldn't show up… She wasn't motivated by formal recognition.'

Howard and her husband Jack moved to Tualatin in 1961. As a resident, Howard devoted her time to her children, to her career as a librarian in Multnomah County and to her community, George said.

After Howard retired from Multnomah County, she and her husband volunteered through the city's library and senior center. Howard also volunteered through the years with American Red Cross blood drives, the Washington County Elections Board and the U.S. Census Bureau. Neither Howard nor her husband ever wanted recognition, George said.

'She just thought (volunteering) was something everybody should do to give back to their community,' George said.

Howard chose to give back in the one field she felt to be an expert, said her son.

Going through the nightly ritual of closing down the Tualatin library, staff would often find Howard among shelves of books tirelessly reshelving titles according to their place in the Dewey Decimal System.

Even with the announcement that the library was closing in 15 minutes, in 10 minutes and in five minutes, Howard continued to work.

'We'd do a once-more walk-through in the library and see (Dorothy) still shelving books,' Condra said. 'She'd want to keep going until she was done, but we'd tell her, 'There'll be more books to shelve tomorrow.' That's what we had to tell her to get her to stop for the day.'