Library Director Closes the Book on 40-year Career in Newton
Forty years ago, Nancy Perlow started as a part-time reference librarian at the Newton Free Library. Last month, she retired from her position as director.
Since she graduated from college in 1972, Nancy Perlow has been a familiar face at the Newton Free Library.
Now, after four decades at the library and four years as director, Perlow has closed the book on her career at the Newton Free Library.
"I'll miss all the wonderful people I worked with and as much as the people, I will miss the dynamic changes the library goes through on an almost daily basis," Perlow said in an email to Newton Patch this week. "Finally, I will miss the wonderful people of Newton who have come by the thousands to use this fabulous facility."
Perlow retired from her position as director this month and soon she will be packing up and moving to her new retirement spot in California.
A true tale of working through the ranks, Perlow started as a part-time reference librarian following her graduation in 1972 from Simmons College Graduate School of Library and Information Science.
Perlow climbed the ladder and eventually made her way to assistant library director in 1994, a post she served for 14 years.
Then in 2008, more than 30 years after she first started at the library, Perlow was named director. The day the Library Trustees gave her the news, Perlow said, is her fondest memory from the library.
Over the years, Perlow said she's seen the library evolve, both in its physical form and with the technology it offers to patrons and employees.
"The library has completely reinvented itself and must continue to do so," Perlow said. "Those of us who graduated from library school 40 years ago had to learn the new technologies, teach our colleagues and our patrons."
In recent years the library has added self check-out stations, e-books, updated computers, a text message question service and online databases through its website.
Since the website first launched in the mid-90s, it has evolved to offer a number of resources and more than 80 databases for residents, including the recently-launched Digital Newton. In fiscal 2011, the library's website had nearly 600,000 hits, according to the library's 2011 annual report.
In a press release issued by the Newton Free Library, Mayor Setti Warren offered his thanks to Perlow for her hard work and dedication to the library over the last 40 years.
"It has been a real pleasure knowing and working with Nancy Perlow,” Warren said in the release. “Her long term dedication to the City of Newton and the Newton Free Library inspires us all. We're going to miss you Nancy, wishing you all the best in the years to come."
Even with the large number of patrons, new technologies and the move from Newton Corner 20 years ago, Perlow said the biggest challenge in her time at the library has been finding funding for programs while the state of Massachusetts faced financial difficulties.
When she first became director in 2008, Perlow said the library faced tough budget decisions.
"We had to ensure our budget remained at a high enough level to maintain our state certification and at the same time have the funds to stay current with technology to purchase computers, the self-check workstations, e-books, etc.," Perlow said.
Despite budget constraints, the library has continued to flourish under Perlow's leadership. With a circulation of nearly 2 million and more than 700,000 visitors in fiscal 2011, the Newton Free Library ranks as the busiest library in the state and in past years has been listed as one of the top five libraries in the country.
The library also had nearly 40,000 people attend its programs last year, of which there were more than 1,500.
“Nancy is a gifted leader who has extensive knowledge of library operations," Library Board of Trustees President Barbara Lietzke said in a statement. "She has always been sensitive to patrons’ needs and has brought out the best in the staff. Under her directorship the library has flourished and she is leaving it in outstanding shape. The Trustees want to thank her for her many years of remarkable community service. She will be greatly missed.”
Perlow's last day is May 18 and she will be heading off to California later this month with her husband, where they will spend time outdoors, golf and explore new parts of the country.
"...And never pick up another shovel again," Perlow added.