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Helen Plum Library director to retire after 25-year run

Published: Tuesday, April 8, 2014 12:08 p.m. CDT • Updated: Tuesday, July 29, 2014 9:51 p.m. CDT
Caption
(Matthew Piechalak)
Bob Harris, director of the Helen Plum Memorial Library, talks to Marlene Stratton, youth services associate, on Wednesday. Harris, 68, will retire in August after 25 years as director of the library. Matthew Piechalak - mpiechalak@shawmedia.com
Caption
(Matthew Piechalak)
Bob Harris, director of the Helen Plum Memorial Library, stands in front of the library on Wednesday. Harris, 68, will retire in August after 25 years as director of the library. Matthew Piechalak - mpiechalak@shawmedia.com

LOMBARD – As technology continues to alter the way libraries function, the need for outstanding service has remained consistent, said Bob Harris, director of the Helen Plum Memorial Library, 110 W. Maple St. in Lombard.

“We are still helping people connect to a world of information,” said Harris, who will retire on Aug. 15 following 25 years as director of the library.

“This is a wonderful library that deserves someone with new ideas and new energy,” said Harris, 68.

“Bob has done a good job running the library,” said Ginny Carlson, president of the library’s board of trustees. “He is ready to retire and it will be good to have new leadership.”

The library board last month hired John Keister and Associates as a consultant to find a replacement for Harris, Carlson said. The board is scheduled to meet with the firm this week to discuss criteria of their search, Carlson said Tuesday afternoon.

A library director needs to be a problem solver who is knowledgeable and experienced about services and procedures, Harris said. Above all, a good director needs to be a people person, he said.

“Most of my work is dealing with people,” Harris said. “You have to understand what motivates them and be compassionate and fair.”

Harris said the library’s next director should be someone who is willing to get out in the community and be a good face for the library and the village, Harris said.

Harris, of Bloomingdale, describes himself as “bookish” and said he was more interested in learning than sports and parties at a young age. As a teenager, he was a page at a library in Detroit.

“I just really loved the environment,” he said. “People don’t go into library service unless they love libraries.”

After earning his master’s degree in library science from the University of Michigan, Harris began his career at the Chicago Public Library.

Upon retirement, Harris said he has a “specific plan” that involves working on his physical and spiritual health by attending more lectures, museums and theatre performances.

“It’s a journey inward to develop more of my strengths,” Harris said.

– – – –

Career timeline: Bob Harris

• 1970-77: Librarian, Chicago Public Library

• 1978-79: Director, Bartlett Public Library

• 1982-88: Director, Bellwood Public Library

• 1989-present: Director, Helen Plum Memorial Library

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