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updated: 2/28/2014 2:27 PM

Helen Plum Library director retiring after 25 years

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  • Bob Harris

    Bob Harris
    Courtesy of the Helen Plum Memorial Library


Bob Harris says it's time for Lombard's Helen Plum Memorial Library to have a youthful leader with new fire, new energy and new ideas.

"The town and the library needs that, and they deserve it," the 68-year-old said Friday.

Harris announced in mid-February he is retiring after serving as the library's director for 25 years. His last day is Aug. 15.

"It's been a real honor for me to work here," he said. "I've been incredibly lucky."

During his time as director, Harris helped lead the library into the electronic age. He noted how four years ago the library underwent a major remodeling that included, among other improvements, the conversion of typewriter rooms into more modern areas like a study room and a local history room.

"We took a 1978 model of doing library service and made changes to the building and the services to bring it up to date in the year 2010," he said.

Harris said he is proud of the library's welcoming culture, which is due largely to the staff's enthusiasm and good customer service.

"This is a great library," he said. "We have a wonderful staff. We have a wonderful board. Things are running really well. There's no big fires to put out."

One recent accomplishment Harris highlighted is the use of text messages to notify cardholders when items are due or become available. He said it has been well-received.

"When you achieve something new that people really want, that's really gratifying," he said.

Prior to working at Helen Plum, Harris was the director of the Bellwood Public Library from 1980 to 1988 and director of the Bartlett Public Library from 1978 to 1980. He also worked for the Chicago Public Library for eight years.

"This was a chance to work in a larger library with more challenges," he said, adding that he felt the library was already running well when he arrived. "I think I just helped to kind of, in many ways, make it more businesslike. There's always room for improvement."

This week, library board members agreed to interview search firms that will help them select a new director this summer. Search firm candidates will be present at the board's March meeting.

While he is having a hard time envisioning life without a job, Harris said he is looking forward to spending more time with his grandchildren and growing intellectually by visiting museums, picking up new hobbies and enrolling in some classes.

"It's been a blessing I would have never even imagined when I started working in libraries in 1970," Harris said of his tenure as Helen Plum's director. "It's time to move on and that's OK."

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