By Katta Hules
Mary Beth Hayes, Director of the Arcadia Public Library and Museum is retiring. “I just felt that it was time. I felt that I have done what I want to do here and I feel like the library and the museum are both doing well and that it was time to hand the baton off to somebody else,” says Hayes.
Though she always loved reading and libraries, Hayes did not set out to become a librarian. “I fell into it,” she says. In fact, Hayes was working in another field with a Bachelor’s degree in Music Therapy when a position opened up at her local library in Michigan. She decided to give it a try. “It was the first job I’d ever had (where) I just felt like it was a good fit for me and that it was where I belonged.” Hayes then went back to school, got her Master’s Degree and began training to be a librarian.
After becoming a librarian, Hayes and her husband moved across the country from Michigan to Arcadia so he could finish up his degree, only intending to stay for a year. But, she says, “We were captured by the California lifestyle and weather.” That was 1979 and they have been here ever since.
Hayes began working at the Arcadia Public Library 27 years ago. She remembers that at the time they only had one computer. “We were really a traditional library (in that) we had books—and that was really about it.”
Hayes points to one of the highlights of her career as been being a part of the evolution of libraries from being focused entirely on books to a “community gathering place” with many different programs. “Over the years I feel like I’ve been part of the process where libraries in general… have changed and evolved so that we are much more than just books.” And, she adds, “We certainly have a lot more than one computer now.”
Hayes has borne witness to the sometimes controversial changes in reading and information technologies and methods over her long career. However, she views its effects in a positive light when it comes to libraries. “Libraries have changed so much and it has been really interesting and challenging to be part of that change. I feel like the change has been for the better, that we are providing what the community now needs, whereas back 27 years ago we were providing what that community needed.” She is proud of not “pushing our vision on the community” but instead “we went to the community and said ‘what do you need and what do you want from us?’ and then we went about meeting the needs of the community.” This way, she says, “It felt like it all happened when it needed to happen.”
Though she is retiring, Hayes calls it an “exciting time to be involved in libraries and museums.” For those who are interested in working in the field she says it is, “an opportunity to experience a lot of different people.” But more than that, she says, it is a calling to educate people and help them be heard. “We are often the voice for those that have no voice. And if that’s something that’s important to you, then I believe that libraries and museums are the place to be.”
The Library Board of Trustees and the City Manager will pick Hayes’s replacement. The process that is ongoing. Though the incumbent is yet unnamed, Hayes has some advice for the person who will soon fill her shoes. “It’s important to be involved in the community. One of the most important things that I believe the director does is be the face of the library and the museum in the community and to be available and to market the library and museum services and to be able to be out there and listen to the community to see if we’re still meeting their needs.”
Hayes does not have any concrete plans for her post-retirement years, and is instead looking forward to “some unscheduled time” for relaxing. She plans to mull over her options and “see what will be important to me in this next phase of my life. I think the only thing that I really know is that throughout my career and my personal life, I have always wanted to make a difference in the lives of others and I do intend to find meaningful opportunities to continue to do that.”