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Longtime librarian closes book on 35-year Wheaton career

Wheaton Public Library Assistant Director and Reference Department Head Carolyn DeAre is hard at work, but she will retire Wednesday. The library is hosting a free open house that day from 1 to 3 p.m.
Wheaton Public Library Assistant Director and Reference Department Head Carolyn DeAre is hard at work, but she will retire Wednesday. The library is hosting a free open house that day from 1 to 3 p.m.

WHEATON – A lot has changed in the 35 years Assistant Director Carolyn DeAre, who also is head of the reference department, has worked at the Wheaton Public Library.

She remembers the library getting its first computer and email system and having to go through all the books in the collection to put barcodes on them.

But during those decades and shifts in the life of a librarian – particularly a reference librarian in the age of Google – the focus and appeal of the job has stayed the same, DeAre said.

“It is still the joy of helping people,” she said. “Now we might spend more time helping somebody download an e-book or navigating a website ... But it is still very much a service profession.”

She will leave the job at the end of the month. The library will host a public gathering Wednesday afternoon to commemorate her upcoming retirement.

Longtime friend and coworker Beth Rupert said the library will lose one of its most devoted and generous employees.

“I think Carolyn is a very good example of what it means to give good public service,” she said. “She really goes the extra mile for the patron on behalf of the library. And she has a great sense of humor, which is important for that kind of work.”

Rupert said DeAre’s dedication during the library’s nearly $20 million reconstruction process in 2007 made the undertaking both possible and bearable.

Nancy Castellanos, her interim successor in the reference department, said DeAre is appreciated by library patrons, many of whom asked for her by name.

“I’ve really gotten to know how much the community really appreciates her,” Castellanos said. “Everybody knows her, she’s so involved. She’s a face of the library (and) there’s going to be a void left – to do as much as she does, we’re definitely going to need more than one person.”

DeAre is the library’s second longtime higher-up to retire in recent months. Former Director Sarah Meisels left in September 2013 after 47 years.

In retirement, DeAre will spend time sailing with her husband, gardening and visiting grandchildren in Colorado.

She also plans to volunteer with the Friends of the Library group, which holds fundraisers for the library, including its annual book sale.

DeAre said she believes that, despite an ever-evolving technological culture, there always will be a place for libraries and the written word.

“I know that ever since I have been in this field, they’ve always said ‘Oh, it’s the end of the book, the book is dead,’ ” she said. “But I just don’t think that the printed book is going to totally go away – at least I hope not. I still like the look and feel of a real book.”

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If you go

What: Open house retirement party for Carolyn DeAre, assistant director and head of the reference department at the Wheaton Public Library

When: 1 to 3 p.m. Wednesday

Where: Wheaton Public Library, 225 N. Cross St.

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