A librarian bids adieu

Hester Kremer in front of the library. - Natalie Johnson/Staff Photo
Hester Kremer in front of the library.
— image credit: Natalie Johnson/Staff Photo

For the past 12 and a half years, Hester Kremer has brought a quiet passion for books and community to her job as site manager of Vashon’s library, standing watch as Islanders browsed the stacks and flocked to attend a multitude of programs presented at the bustling facility.

In many ways, Kremer is the perfect picture of a librarian, with a pair of rimless glasses perched sensibly on her nose, beneath a head of curly red hair — a persona that projects a mix of keen intellect and a fiery commitment to her work.

It’s a presence that will soon be missed: In January, Kremer will leave her position on Vashon to work at the Burien branch of the King County Library System.

Kremer said she’s sad to be leaving Vashon’s small, community-oriented library, but she’s also begun to look forward to a new job with new responsibilities.

“I think it will be very interesting and challenging,” she said, noting that Burien has a diverse and under-served population that she looks forward to working with.

The transfer is part of a pilot project launched by the library system, aimed at ensuring that the specialized skills of senior librarians are dedicated to professional activities, such as in-library services, outreach to the community and online content development. Until now, library site managers like Kremer have not only had to perform these duties, but they have also been responsible for handling the day-to-day operations at their branches.

The pilot will also bring a few other staff changes to the Vashon library. Most notably, long-time staff member Jan Riley will take on a new role as operations supervisor at the branch.

Kremer, who was informed about the pilot project and her impending transfer last summer, admits the idea took some getting used to, because she’s grown so fond of the job she’s had for more than a decade on Vashon.

“The biggest thing I’m going to miss is the people,” she said. “I’ve worked with the absolute best bunch of people I could have ever imagined, who are hardworking and dedicated and funny.”

She has also enjoyed getting to know so many library patrons.

“It’s been wonderful seeing new babies come into the library, and then watching them grow up and come to story time, and then helping them find books,” she said. “That’s been so gratifying.”

Kremer, 62, moved to the Northwest in 1998, after spending 11 years working as a librarian in Las Vegas, where she grew up. She came to her career as a librarian rather late: She returned to school to get a master’s degree in library science at age 38, after working many years at office and restaurant jobs.

Kremer’s tenure at Vashon’s library has been eventful, coinciding with a technological shift that has brought banks of computers into to the library and two major renovations of the facility.

Several innovative programs were also added to the roster of activities under Kremer’s watch — including LateNight @ the Library, which she created with Rayna Holtz and Leslie Moore in 1999 in response to a spate of vandalism on the Island.

“It was explained to me that the kids on the Island didn’t have anything to do,” she said. “We wanted them to feel a sense of ownership of the library.”

The program, which opens the doors of the library for a youth-only evening get-together six times a year, is now one of the longest-running teen programs in the King County Library System.

“It has been a haven for middle-school aged kids in particular,” Kremer said. “The kids just wanted a safe place to hang out on a Saturday night.”

The program will continue after Kremer departs — a legacy to her skill as a librarian and commitment to community building on Vashon.

Luckily, Kremer plans on continuing to live on the Island, and she said she’ll still be around.

“I’m sure I’ll stop by the library lots,” she said.

Library hours will change

The Vashon Library will close 30 minutes earlier on weekdays and open two hours earlier on Sundays in 2011 because the library generally has more patrons on Sundays than on weekend nights.

The new hours are Monday to Thursday 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., Friday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Saturday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

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