Poyer retiring from library helm
Six years ago, when longtime librarian Jill Poyer was chosen to head the McMinnville Public Library, she knew she would probably be retiring in less than a decade. But she felt she could contribute nonetheless, and facilitate a smooth transition to the next director.
Having done so, and seen her successor gain valuable experience in the process, Poyer is preparing to hand the job off to Senior Librarian Jenny Berg in January. And both said the months leading up to the transition are proving valuable to all parties.
“Jill has been kind of my mentor throughout my career at the library,” Berg noted.
Poyer, who noted Berg had undergone “a very rigorous interview” with City Manager Kent Taylor before being promoted, said the early decision on her replacement “allowed for a much smoother transition.”
She said, “Jenny is so ready to take over,” she said. “It’s going to be a nice transition, with a person who is going to have a really unique style of managing the library. It’s going to be good.”
For her own part, Poyer is looking forward to spending more time with her grandchildren, continuing her running and backpacking hobbies, spending more time with friends and her aging parents, and making time for travel. She also is president-elect of the Sunrise Rotary Club, and has signed up to work with the Library Foundation on some fundraising events.
“I’m going to be sitting in front of a computer screen for maybe half an hour a day instead of eight hours,” she said.
Berg, 41, has worked for the library for 11 years, moving from a career in the winemaking business.
“I started as a volunteer, and then I started going to library school to get my MILS,” she said. “I interviewed for a Sunday position, four hours a week, and got my foot in the door.”
Over the years, she managed to add more hours, until, on acquiring her master’s degree, she was able to obtain a full-time position. She worked her way up from there.
It has proven the perfect fit, she said.
Poyer found herself taking over at a difficult time, as the library began embarking on a series of first small, and then increasingly larger, budget cuts. Nonetheless, she was able to do the things she most wanted to.
“I wanted to be open on Sundays, and that was the first thing I did,” she said. “We had been, until 2003, and then we had to make some cuts.
“So in 2007, we opened again on Sundays, from 1 to 5 p.m. That was an enormously popular thing.”
She also said, “I wanted to increase adult programming.”
With money tight, adult programming had been cut back, she said. And she wanted to restore it.
Poyer found a solution by turning to the community. The library now allows nonprofit, non-political groups open to the general public to hold meetings and events in its Carnegie Room.
“We had an increase of 9 percent in attendance this last year,” she said.
The Native Plant Society holds monthly presentations there, she said. Slow Food Yamhill County periodically meets or offers presentations. And local psychologist Jan Iversen conducts workshops on a variety of topics, currently scheduled for Tuesday evenings from 5:30 to 6:30 though Dec. 18.
This year, for the first time, after finding a variation of creative alternatives, Poyer had to cut library hours. The library now closes at 8 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday evenings, instead of 9, and opens at 1 p.m. on Saturdays, instead of 10 a.m.
To salvage what she could, she found a way to lock the doors connecting the Carnegie Room to the library, and obtain a different key to the front door of the Carnegie Room. Now, the library allows groups to meet there even when the library is closed.
“To me, library access is the most important thing,” she said. “If you’re not open, you can’t be circulating books. We’d love to be open Monday afternoons.”
With the current staff, however, she said, there simply isn’t time. It needs Monday to catch up on the backlog of behind-the-counter work.
Change over time is an inevitable part of keeping the library current with society and technology, Berg said, but at the moment, she doesn’t have a list of changes she hopes to implement, in part because many of her ideas – such as switching Internet classes to one-on-one appointments with a librarian – have already been put into place.
Poyer has been planning her retirement for more than a year, to allow for plenty of advance preparation.
“It’s been incredible to work with Jill,” Berg said. “I feel like we’ve been working as a team.”
She said she’s especially excited because “the kind of personalized service I like to give is a very good fit with McMinnville — the city government and the size of the community.”
Berg herself may see some difficult times ahead. She noted that the budget is currently in a “hold the line” stage, as the city continues to struggle with increasing expenses and flat or declining revenue.
However, Poyer said she is likely to find support from the rest of the city management team.
Although the library has seen budget cuts, Poyer said, it “has never been cut arbitrarily.”
She said, “They’ve never balanced the budget on our backs. They do, in some cities, because they consider it not an essential city service.”
McMinnville has always believed the library an essential service, Poyer said.
“All the department heads completely buy into that,” she said. “It’s a pretty unusual group of people.”