Carolyn DeAre is a familiar face behind the reference desk at Wheaton Public Library, where her role has shifted from helping patrons sift through a catalog system to assisting people with new technology and other modern needs.
"When I first began here, we had very in-depth, difficult-to-answer reference questions because we didn't have computers," she said. "We have an extensive print reference collection that we're really downsizing now because it's just not needed anymore. So many things we can find with just a few keystrokes on the computer."
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Those changes haven't eliminated DeAre's job. In fact, it's made it more interesting.
But after 35 years, she's retiring April 30 from her job as assistant library director and head of the reference department.
That day the library will host a brief presentation and recognition of DeAre's service to the library at 1:30 p.m. on the main floor. The public is welcome to stop by then or anytime during an open house for DeAre, which will run from 1 and 3 p.m.
"It's been an enjoyable and varied career," DeAre said, adding that she will miss her co-workers and patrons. "A lot of people have (already) stopped in to thank me for being here all these years and have told me they enjoy working with me."
DeAre worked as a school librarian at a high school in Shabbona, Ill. after graduating from Northern Illinois University. She spent some time at Elk Grove Village Public Library before starting at the Wheaton Public Library in September 1978.
During her time in Wheaton, DeAre has seen the library undergo an addition and a full renovation. She remembers the onerous task of putting a bar code on every book and has fond memories of brainstorming and executing many programs, from book sales to summer concerts.
"I was always learning something new," she said.
In recent years, she said, the reference department focuses a lot on helping students access reliable information while doing research. She stresses that they should learn how to use computer databases instead of just doing Google searches.
DeAre said she's also found that more and more she helps patrons simply discover new fiction books to read based on ones they've already enjoyed.
"We still help people find things," she said.
DeAre said it appears the assistant director position is being eliminated and her responsibilities will be split between an interim head of reference and a librarian who will focus on programming.
In her retirement, she said she is looking forward to gardening, sailing on Lake Michigan with her husband and spending more time with her grandchildren
"I've just really enjoyed working in the Wheaton community," she said. "It's a wonderful city and a wonderful group of library users."