Random Questions: Paula Barnes

Paula Barnes - Sequim Gazette photo by Matthew Nash
Paula Barnes
— image credit: Sequim Gazette photo by Matthew Nash

This week saw the retirement of Paula Barnes, the North Olympic Library System’s executive director for the past seven years. She wrapped up a 45-year career in libraries. She moved to Sequim with her husband Aaron Barnes, a retired NASA astrophysicist, in 2006.

Barnes was born in Vallejo, California and raised in San Francisco Bay area, Minnesota and Montana. After her husband retired, the couple decided to move from Palo Alto to Sequim because he had fond memories of the area, including vacations in and around Olympic National Park.

Barnes came to Sequim with the idea she’d never be a library director again but the opportunity came up after she started volunteering at the library. For her last day (June 30), she did a road trip with incoming executive director Margaret Jakubcin to all of NOLS’ branches to say goodbye to staff. Barnes said she plans to make the most of her retirement by  exploring our area more and looking for meaingful volunteer opportunities.

Question 3: Did you always know how to pronounce Sequim?

Barnes: Since my husband had visited here before, and I’d heard about it from him, I actually knew how to say it before I could spell it.


Bonus question 1: How did you become a librarian?

Barnes: My first library job wasn’t really a job. I was in eighth grade and my little brother and I started a comic book library in our garage because the nearest library was too far away for the neighborhood kids to get to. I made myself the director and he was the clerk. We ran it for several summers. We had all kinds of comics, from superheroes to Disney to “Classics Illustrated.” During my last year of high school I worked as a shelver in a library and during college I continued to work part time in the local public library. I worked my way through graduate school by working in that same library system on a full-time time basis.


Question 10: What is one thing people might not know about you?

Barnes: I’m a major Rolling Stones fan. I’ve been to many concerts. At the “Bridges to Babylon” show our seats were so close to the stage Mick Jagger sweat on me. It was really cool.


Question 11: What is a guilty pleasure of yours?

Barnes: Watching “House of Cards” with popcorn and butter. (Kevin Spacey) is incredible. I’m a bit of a political junkie and I’ve read that the show gets it right, which is kind of scary.


Question 28: If you were a professional in another field, what would it be in?

Barnes: I’d love to be an artist, either painting or drawing or both. I’d like to be able to create beautiful things.


Bonus Question 2: Who is your favorite artist?

Barnes: Jan van Eyck. He’s an incredible technician and there’s a lot of beautiful symbolism in his paintings.


Question 49: If you were stuck in the same day over and over, what would you do?

Barnes: I’d spend time with my husband, two dogs and we’d be outdoors somewhere it’s not raining,, exploring a beautiful place.


Bonus Question 3: When did you know you wanted to be a librarian?

Barnes: I’m one of the lucky ones who always knew – remember that comic book library I mentioned earlier? For a while I thought I wanted to be a reference librarian but I’d take too much interest in people’s research and why they wanted to do it. Fortunately, I had a few bosses who recognized I could be a good manager.


In Random Questions, members of the community each draw five random questions (sometimes more) out of 50 from a bag. With suggestions for random interviews, e-mail Matthew Nash at


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