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Bayfield bibliophiles rejoice

JERRY McBRIDE/Durango Herald

Judy Gotthelf, president of the Friends of the Library in Bayfield, and Chris Brussat, stock shelves in the expansion area at the Lavenia McCoy Public Library. The library now has 4,000 additional square feet of space, including more meeting areas for groups.

By Ann Butler Herald staff writer

More meeting rooms, more books, an indoor-outdoor garden – the Lavenia McCoy Public Library is officially opening Sunday in Bayfield after closing for two months for the final stages of construction of a 4,000-square-foot expansion.

And while a familiar face probably will be on hand to celebrate with her community, she will be doing it as a regular resident rather than as library director.

Donnalee Baxstrom retired after 35 years as director at the beginning of February, but she has been on hand over the last few weeks helping to reshelve books and get the library ready for its grand reopening.

She fell into her work as a librarian somewhat accidentally. After earning a degree in education, Baxstrom agreed to fill in at the library for a librarian on maternity leave.

“She never came back to the job,” she said, “so I stayed on.”

The love of libraries is a family trait. The library is named in honor of Baxstrom’s mother, Lavenia McCoy, who served on its advisory board of trustees for decades.

McCoy remembers the library’s humble start.

“We had two shelves with about 40 books when we started,” she said. “The lady who lived across the street had a monthly subscription, and when she finished reading the Book of the Month, she gave it to the library.”

By the time her daughter took over in the 1970s, it had grown some.

“When I started, we worked in a 1,200-square-foot building on Mill Street,” Baxstrom said. That building now is the location of Mill Street Drug Inc.

In 1999, Baxstrom convinced the library’s board of trustees to go to the voters for a mill-levy override. Bayfield’s new 8,000-square-foot library opened in 2004.

Since then, the library’s meeting room has been booked solid by community organizations, and the library’s many programs, including Movie Night, programs for teens and a book club, have become quite popular, too.

“It didn’t take long for us to outgrow the building,” Baxstrom said. “With all of the growth in Bayfield, our library quickly felt full, and we knew we needed more people space.”

The library advisory board has begun a search for a new librarian, who must have a Master of Library Science or Information Science and at least five years of experience, preferably in a public library.

In the meantime, the board found an interim director who knows the area and already has been through the new library shakedown.

Sherry Taber, who led the Durango Public Library through its new-building campaign and design as well as having been the director of the John F. Reed Library at Fort Lewis College, will take the reins until a new director is hired.

“We have a home in Alaska, and I enjoy living there,” Taber said, “but I also missed the Durango area. When I was presented with this opportunity to work in Bayfield, I couldn’t pass it up.”

The board is delighted that Taber has agreed to step in as interim director.

“Her experience with the Durango Public Library’s building project, in addition to her managerial skill, makes her a perfect fit as we wrap up our expansion project and prepare to reopen,” said Valerie Borge, a library trustee. “It’s difficult to replace a long-term director; Donnalee Baxstrom contributed so much to bring our library to its present level, and Sherry Taber is the right person to help us take our next steps.”

Taber said the search committee’s task isn’t going to be an easy one, trying to fill the shoes of the woman who took the library from 1,200 square feet to 12,000 square feet and made it the heart of the Bayfield community.

“Donnalee’s been here for over three decades,” she said, “and we know it will take a while to find the right replacement. How do you replace 35 years of experience?”

abutler@durangoherald.com

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