Eva Calcagno, who came to Washington County in 1990, says libraries have 'matured' during tenure

HILLSBORO TRIBUNE PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER OERTELL - Longtime director of Washington County Cooperative Library Services, Eva Calcagno will retire next year.When Eva Calcagno first came to work in the libraries in Washington County 27 years ago, the cooperative library system looked a little different.

"We were a teenage group," said Calcagno, the longtime director of the Washington County Cooperative Library System. "Now, we have matured into responsible adults. We think of ourselves more as quality library services, not just suburban reading rooms."

Calcagno plans to retire in February, closing the book on a local library career spanning three decades. Libraries have sprung up in new locations and several expanded under her watch, including major renovations and a two-story building in the Hillsboro library system.

When the Beaverton Public Library opened in 2000, it was one of the first large-scale public library projects in Washington County in years, Calcagno said, but it wasn't the last.

"That just kicked off a whole domino effect in the system and we've seen new branches open," she said. "Hillsboro has two locations now, Beaverton has two locations, Cedar Mill has two, we just added Aloha and added North Plains in 2007."

The expansion of the library system has ridden a wave of population growth in the county, but even as the cross-section of the libraries becomes more contemporary, Calcagno said the identity remains the same.

"I would say a few fundamental things haven't changed, and those are our free resources for families," she said. "That's still the bread and butter of what we do every day. How we do things and the types of materials we offer have changed dramatically."

The addition of computers and advent of the Internet have driven the libraries from a house of books to community centers, Calcagno said. Hillsboro's two libraries offer access to the "Library of Things," a special collection of household items patrons can check out, including board games, beach umbrellas and cooking equipment. There are classes and seminars and events where kids can read to therapy dogs to improve their confidence with books — and all of that takes space, Calcagno said.

"One of the conversations we're having with [WCCLS] is to add some remote storage so libraries can move some of their material from their buildings and free up shelf space," Calcagno said. "We won't get rid of the books — they'll be available at our courier warehouse — but it gives us flexibility in how we use our buildings for programs."

Calcagno has had to evolve along with the library system, she said. She worked at the University of Washington library in the 1980s while studying English and learned how to format catalog cards.

"Shortly thereafter, life changed dramatically," she said, when libraries began using computers to keep track of collections.

Calcagno said she will be laying the groundwork for increased warehouse storage in the remaining two months of her tenure, but there are other big projects in the works for the library system — namely, a new library building in Cornelius. The three-story, $18 million building will include room for 40,000 books, a meeting space, computer lab, coffee bar and other amenities.

Calcagno said she hopes to spend more time with her family and plans to enjoy cooking, gardening and hiking more often in retirement.

By John William Howard
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