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Sequim's new librarian welcomes change

The young girl was in love with books. Her father, a teacher at a vocational school, urged her toward something more practical.

But after years of working as a systems analyst, Lauren Dahlgren made up her mind to return to her roots.

Now, after leaving the business world for libraries in Arizona, California and her hometown of Seattle, Dahlgren is the Sequim Library's newest manager.

"I like how people are really friendly," said Dahlgren after a little more than two weeks on the job. "(I like) how you see the same people at the store and at work. The area's absolutely beautiful."

And, oddly enough, the people in Sequim seem to use their libraries much more than in a relative metropolis like Phoenix.

Born in Bellingham and a Seattle resident during her formative years, Dahlgren graduated from Roosevelt High School and earned her undergraduate degree in business at the University of Washington. She transitioned that education into systems analyst jobs for Boeing and a utility company in Arizona.

But words, not numbers, were her true calling.

"(As a child), I read so much my mom worried I'd never leave my room," Dahlgren recalled.

So she took a part-time job as a library assistant for the Phoenix Public Library. Soon she received a scholarship to further her education and eventually earned a Master of Library Science degree from the University of Arizona in Tucson.

Dahlgren moved back to Washington state in the early 1990s - "It's too hot down there," she said - and worked for the King County Library System for 12 years.

When she needed a full-time position, Dahlgren left the state once again to take a job in Bakersfield for two years, then was promoted to head of adult and reference services for the library system in Lompoc, Calif.

It was her mother's recent move to a nursing home that brought Dahlgren back north to Washington last September and she lived in Bothell until the position in Sequim opened up.

Earlier this year, the

Sequim branch of the North Olympic Library System underwent a renovation that fine-tuned - rather than added to - the branch's 6,000-square-foot building. It reopened in late April.

Dahlgren said the changes made the library quite welcoming.

But the branch still faces challenges, she said.

"We're just so busy; we have a little space problem," she said.

"We're almost as busy as Port Angeles."

Beyond this branch, Dahlgren said libraries must change with the times to keep up with user demands, serve people in ways other than checking out books.

"We're going to have to keep people thinking it's the place to go for information, no matter what format it's in," she said.

The Sequim library, she notes, already is well on its way with changes from just a few months ago: self-checkout stations, users able to pick up their own holds, a bigger focus on newer technologies.

As a librarian, Dahlgren gets to be more of a guide, training people not just where to look but how to learn.

"I like the variety. You never know what you'll be doing every day," Dahlgren said.

She said she hopes to see more combined programs between the library and community groups such as teens and Sequim Senior Activity Center users.

And what does Sequim's newest librarian like to read? Mostly fictional thrillers, with some nonfiction books about knitting and beadwork.

Dahlgren said the best book she's read in the past year is "The Eight," a 500 page-plus suspense novel by Katherine Neville.

Dahlgren lives a few minutes from downtown with her dog, a terrier mix named Murphy.

Reach Michael Dashiell at miked@sequimgazette.com.

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