By Kate Kozlowski Peake
After working for several decades to usher Patagonia Library into the 21st century, while preserving its local heritage and meeting community needs, Abbie Zeltzer has retired. But not before helping the library earn national attention by winning Honorable Mention in Library Journal’s Best Small Library in America competition for 2018.
The Patagonia Library caught Library Journal’s attention due to its use of innovative programming and community responsive collections to reach Patagonia’s unique local demographics: more than half of the residents are over 62 years of age, with a large minority under 14. With over 1,100 members, Zeltzer and the library staff get creative to deliver relevant services to this diverse population.
Zeltzer has played a key role in the growth and modernization of the library, overseeing the restoration and two expansions of the library building, creating the Legacy Garden, and providing community computer and internet access at the library. In addition to her dedication to fulfilling the information needs of library users, Zeltzer was instrumental in establishing the Patagonia Museum, developing their Collection Development Policy and ensuring the preservation of the town’s print local history collection.
Even though she has retired, Zeltzer will continue to help modernize the library’s collection by preserving digital local heritage materials through the Internet Archive’s Community Webs project. Out of the 27 libraries chosen to participate, Patagonia Library is easily the smallest, working and training alongside libraries such as the County of Los Angeles, which serves an area of 3.5 million users.
Working with the Friends of the Patagonia Library and other local partners, such as the Patagonia Creative Arts Association, the Montessori school, and Borderlands Restoration Network, among others, the library staff manages to provide a wide-variety of programs and services on a limited budget and only three staff members. Zeltzer was instrumental in creating unique programming that connects various members of the library, such as the Semilloteca seed lending library, which provides seeds, education, and community engagement activities.
In ensuring the library is responsive to community needs, Zeltzer guided the library to expand its outreach events for seniors through cultural heritage speakers and related pop-up libraries at the senior center, as well as an increased large-print collection. She also expanded the youth programming by updating the kitchen to commercial standards and expanding its summer youth lunch program, serving around 1,000 lunches in 2018.
As Zeltzer retires, Laura Wenzel, who has worked with Zeltzer for several years, steps into the role of Director. Wenzel has been instrumental in expanding the library’s youth programming including the engaging Voices for Young Authors program, story time with Ms. Laura, and the upcoming Storywalk in the town park. Readers can stay current with library developments as new programs, collections, and services are constantly in development, by reading Wenzel’s monthly article in the PRT.