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For the love of books

Former librarian finds dream job in retirement at Wind Crest

Created date

November 26th, 2013
Joan Wagner

When Joan Wagner was just three years old, her great-grandfather took her to the Robert Briars Library and Museum in Philadelphia, Pa., where her young eyes were opened to the wide world of books.

“I remember this bronze elephant statue. I was fascinated by it,” she recalls.

She frequented the Robert Briars Library and, once her children started attending school, she got a job there as an assistant librarian and learned the ins and outs of cataloging and shelving books. She continued her education by taking night classes in library science and eventually became head librarian and facilities supervisor at Robert Briars.

Now, nearly 40 years later—and with a few detours in-between—she’s back to managing a library all her own.

The path to Wind Crest

Though Joan had her dream job at Robert Briars, she and her husband Edward found their dream home in Colorado.

“We had vacationed there a few times, and we fell in love with it. On one of our trips, we bought a house,” she says. They moved west without jobs but with confidence.

However, Joan hadn’t finished her degree by the time they moved. Without a master’s in library science, no library would hire her. So, back to work as a secretary she went.

“I went back to work as a secretary for 30-some years—until I found Holly Creek and then Wind Crest,” she says.

Joan began volunteering in the library at Holly Creek, a retirement community in Centennial. When Molly Thorne-Dhieux, sales counselor at Wind Crest, introduced Joan and her husband to the Highlands Ranch Erickson Living community, they decided to move there once it opened in June 2007.

“When I moved here, it was a few weeks after it opened. They asked for volunteers for the library. About 20 ladies came to the first meeting, and we ended up with a small, core group of volunteers,” Joan says.

Leisure library

As the only volunteer with library experience, Joan became the ringleader. Together, the 12 or so volunteers accept books donated by neighbors, sort and catalog them, re-shelve them, and track circulation.

“When we first opened, we had 600 cartons of books donated by people moving here! Two of the first residents, Clarence Burton and Bob Weertz, separated all the fiction from the nonfiction so our committee could then organize them,” Joan says.

Now, thanks to all that hard work, the library is neat, clean, and organized—a fact Joan and her crew are very proud of.

Residents can check out a print book, audio book, CD, or DVD any time, day or night. A “leisure library,” as Joan calls it, the Wind Crest library contains current fiction, general nonfiction—“nothing too technical,” Joan says—and “no hate mail. It must be reasonably written.”

“I have a big responsibility because I decide which books stay,” she says. “I choose books our residents will enjoy reading.”

And enjoy them, they do. “I can never get out of here without taking a book—or two,” Gene Corrigan says as he settles in the library rocking chair with a book.

And that makes Joan happy. “I love what I do. I truly feel this is where the Lord wants me to be, and this is my reward for all those years working as a secretary,” she says. “I love the residents. They appreciate the library, and they tell me so.”

Working together

The books Joan passes up end up in the book sale, where they are sold for 25 cents and 50 cents to support the library. The library committee uses proceeds—usually about $100 per sale—to purchase supplies and large-print books, which Joan buys at a discounted price from Center Point Large Print, a publisher out of Maine.

They also recently used funds for new shelves, built by none other than their own neighbors—the community woodshop. With additional funds raised by the community’s Women’s Club, the woodshop was able to build new shelves for the library.

“Our community really works together,” says Joan. “It’s a beautiful thing.”