By Anne DeGrace
When June Stockdale took up the chief librarian’s mantle in April of 2008, there was a goodbye event for outgoing chief librarian Charlie Kregel in which she memorably said, “don’t think I’m going to be another Charlie.”
June was referring to the six-month whirlwind that was Charlie, who in a ridiculously short amount of time changed everything. It was exhilarating, exciting, inspiring, and not a little exhausting. By the time he left we had a new staff structure, $80,000 worth of brand new library materials, and a whole lot more sunlight: Charlie would come in at 5 a.m. to reposition shelves using a come-along and some sort of magic elbow grease. Nobody could relax in that environment, and we worked like beavers to keep up.
But June lied. Or, maybe she was just lowering our expectations, the better to take us by surprise. Whatever her nefarious plan, she did give Charlie a run for his money, albeit over a longer time period.
June, who retires at the end of July, oversaw migration to not one but two new Integrated Library Systems bringing us nicely in line with the larger library community.
She initiated our library expansion and, thanks to a huge community fundraising initiative, city and Regional support, and some savvy grant-writing, cut the ribbon on mega-renovations and a brand new children’s library on the lower level.
And she spearheaded a service expansion, working with the regional directors and the city on a referendum initiative that resulted in the Nelson Municipal Library becoming the Nelson Public Library, with Areas F and south H included in the service area.
All of this with plenty of community consultation along the way. “Finding out what the community wanted, that was biggest thing,” she said. “Then working with our highly skilled staff to meet those needs,” she added, looking at the columnist sitting across her desk. Which was astute, considering.
June’s background is in computer programming, skills acquired in the early days of the Machine that Runs Our Lives. She built systems to track data and other good things, while her earthy side embraced the country life: with her husband Bill she raised all sorts of kids — human and ungulate — on her Salmo homestead, back-to-the-landing her way into the hearts of local cheese consumers.
A stint of work to bring the Village of Salmo and the Salmo Library into the digital age resulted in a job — the only job, actually — at the Salmo Library. Eventually, June accepted the chief librarian position in Castlegar before taking up the gauntlet in Nelson. Where she tried to convince us, at the outset at least, that things would be low-key.
Since I started work at the library in 1987 I’ve seen a lot of chief librarians, and a lot of changes. In the June era, I’ve seen the library move from a collection-focused facility to a true community hub. The library is full of people of all sorts: reading, working, playing, learning, and engaging with one another all the time. That’s a pretty good place to leave things.
I asked June (with just a smidgen of envy) what she plans to do in her retirement. She looked up, her eyes just this side of deer-in-the-headlights. And then she laughed.
“I’m such a planner so this is hard for me, but the truth is, I really don’t know. I just have to trust that it’s going to work out. I just want to be open to whatever comes along.”
June’s replacement isn’t yet confirmed, but I promise to report in full when the contract’s signed. What I know is this: if the new chief says, “I’m not going to be another June,” we’re all going to have to brace ourselves.
Anne DeGrace is the Adult Services Co-ordinator at the Nelson Public Library. Check This Out runs every other week.