Laura Wenzel has resigned from her position as director of the Patagonia Public Library to join Borderlands Restoration Network. Photo by Marion Vendituoli

Patagonia Public Library Director Laura Wenzel is moving on, while staying put. Wenzel has resigned from the Library, effective at the end of March, to begin work as a Development Associate for Borderlands Restoration Network. Wenzel has been on staff at the Library since 2013, and became its Director in 2019. 

Ron Robinson, Patagonia Town Manager said, “I think the world of Laura. Her resignation was a complete surprise, but I knew that the pandemic had been very challenging for her and the rest of the staff and volunteers. They underwent a lot, from complete closure and working remotely to the hard work of serving the community with curbside checkout. It changed their world.” 

In Wenzel’s words: “Not many people have the opportunity to speak or write publicly about a job that they are leaving, so it means the world to me to be able to comment, and in the beloved PRT, no less. Patagonia Library is a truly wonderful place. I’m grateful for the knowledge, skills, and experience I’ve gained within these walls over the last nine years and the people that I’ve had the privilege to work alongside. Any successes that I’ve experienced are shared with the former directors, staff, board members, and invested community members who came before me. 

I certainly can’t take all the credit for our exceptional library, although I’m quite proud of my personal accomplishments and the mark that I’ve left here. The COVID-19 pandemic humbled me on both a personal and professional level. I’m now looking forward to remaining in Patagonia and advancing my career in a different direction at Borderlands. I hope that the friendships and relationships I’ve built at Patagonia Library only grow stronger in the future. The outpouring of love and support I’ve received in the last month has meant so much to me, thank you for trusting me to be your community librarian.”

“One of the accomplishments I am most proud of was writing and receiving the coveted National Endowment for the Arts Big Read grant to present Joy Harjo’s book of poetry, “An American Sunrise” to the Sky Islands region in 2021, in collaboration with Cassina Farley at the Patagonia Creative Arts Association. The grant allowed us to enhance our collections of Native American book titles for adults and children, provide quality programming, and bring the community together after 2 years of COVID-19.” 

A search for a Library Director has begun, and Robinson hopes to fill the position, as well as one for Library Assistant, by the end of April. As a new Director comes on board, former Director Abbie Zeltzer has agreed to come back part-time for three months, to act as mentor to a new Director.

Marilyn Miller, member of the Library Advisory Committee, described challenges Wenzel surmounted during her tenure. “As Laura leaves us, 

Patagonia Library looks and feels like the welcoming, busy place it was before COVID19. She was just getting started as our librarian when the pandemic hit and her time and creativity were devoted to protecting everyone’s safety, as well as finding ways to get library books, magazines, and movies to our library patrons. Laura instituted a phone checkout system for our library materials, linked us to an online reading library and the film streaming service Kanopy, enhanced our website, and created (and found funding for) the story boards in the park. The checkout system stands ready if COVID requires it, and the others are permanent enhancements.”