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Library fills its top position

A 30-year veteran prepares to direct the future of library
by: Jim Hart, New West Linn Library Director Christine Siegel stands near the library's donor board.

Thanks partly to Willamette University and partly to the astute judgment of West Linn officials, the West Linn Public Library now has a director with glowing credentials.

Christine Siegel's husband, Eric Siegel, was hired by Willamette University as director of prospect research, which was an impetus for his wife to move from their San Diego, Calif., home to join her husband in Oregon.

It was Siegel's husband who advised her of the city of West Linn's need for a director with an impeccable reputation.

Siegel discovered that West Linn's library had a matching reputation.

'This library has a fantastic reputation,' she said. 'It is a well-loved library. This community really has a treasure in this library. That's a testament to the staff and the work they've done.'

Siegel comes to West Linn from the San Diego library system, where she has spent about one-half of her nearly 30-year career.

But her credentials begin much earlier, when she graduated from the University of California - Davis and completed her master's in library science at the University of California at Los Angeles.

The first half of her career was devoted to medical, scientific and academic libraries - part of that was with the Veteran's Administration, where she moved up to chief of the VA's medical research library in Los Angeles. She also worked as a science and engineering librarian in Monterey, Calif., for the Naval Post-Graduate School.

During the public-library portion of her career, Siegel spent a year opening a new library in Williamsburg, Va., but the majority of her public career was at San Diego's huge Central Library. Siegel describes the library as 'gigantic,' the size of a city block with five levels: three for public use and two for non-public use.

Within the public levels, she worked in several departments, each with its own staff: departments on topics such as science and industry, government documents, social science and business reference and local history. She also supervised the entire Central Library each Sunday.

After a while, she was asked to develop an environmental library for the city of San Diego, which became a library devoted to specialty materials on environmental issues for professionals and the public.

She also served as that library's environmental education program manager, focusing on outreach to school children.

Moving to the city's branch library system, Siegel became manager of the larger Rancho Penasquitos branch and a couple of years later was promoted to manage the city's highest circulating branch at Rancho Bernardo.

When she knew she had to end her work at San Diego, she had been working as area supervisor, where she supervised 12 of the city's 35 branches and had several city-wide administrative tasks, including staffing all 35 branches and opening a new library branch.

'I have been through a lot of different library experiences in my life,' she said, 'In the library field, we talk of specialties such as academic, public and special librarians. I have been all three.'

Siegel saw the opening at West Linn as an opportunity to help shape a library's future - something she has done several times.

'I know there are issues with funding libraries in Clackamas County,' she said. 'There's change afoot, and I'd really like to be in a position where I can help to shape the direction this library is going.'

Siegel will be pursuing ways for local residents to be informed of planned giving, and she expects to form a non-profit foundation to benefit the library.

'I want to really increase the level of private donations,' she said. 'A foundation is very important because public money is always scarce. Every public library needs public money, but to be an exceptional library your need more than public money.'

One of the changes in West Linn's library to be seen soon is more computers for public use.

Siegel also said she will spearhead West Linn's involvement in a statewide literacy program in February, entitled 'Oregon Reads,' which would have the entire community reading and discussing the book 'Fahrenheit 451' by Ray Bradbury.

Siegel describes herself and her husband as 'typical empty-nesters.' They have two children: a daughter about to graduate early from Ohio's Oberlin College and a son at the beginning of his studies at the University of Southern California Film School.

Outside of her profession, she has strong interests in the outdoors, hiking in the mountains and walking on the beach.

Siegel says she had heard from her husband while she was still in San Diego that everyone he had contacted in town really loves this library.

'What a wonderful position for me to be in: to come to a community where the library is well-loved,' she said. 'And I had a feeling of tremendous pride in this library and in this staff - before I even set foot through the door.'