Longtime Liberty Lake Library director Pamela Mogen will bring her 43-year career to a close later this month when she retires, but she has no plans to sit in a recliner and put her feet up. Instead she plans to write, teach, volunteer and play music.
“I’m going to be busy,” she said.
Liberty Lake City Administrator Katy Allen said she has enjoyed working with Mogen and is impressed by how far the library has come. “Pamela is a legend for our city,” she said.
Mogen has added a variety of public events and services at the library over the years, Allen said. “She has really transformed the library from a place of books and computers to a place where people gather,” she said. “It touches so many elements of our community.”
The city has already hired a new director, Jocelyn Redel, who was previously a branch manager at Sno-Isle Libraries, which serves Snohomish and Island counties. She starts work on Monday so there will be time for Mogen to work with her before her retirement.
Mogen earned a bachelor’s degree in education with a library major. It was an experimental degree Pennsylvania created in response to a school librarian shortage that would allow her to work as a school librarian in any K-12 school, Mogen said.
She got her first job as a junior high librarian in 1975. She took a few years off to raise her three children, then took a job at the University of Illinois library, where she earned her master’s degree in library and information science.
She worked for several private and public schools, creating libraries from scratch at four of them. She moved to the area in 2003 to be near her future husband, Michael. Later that year, the city of Liberty Lake advertised for a director for its new library and Mogen jumped at the job.
“Building a library from scratch was no big deal to me,” she said. “I’d done it four times before. This was not a very scary thing to me at all.”
Liberty Lake contracted with the Spokane County Library District when it first incorporated, then decided to begin its own library. It started with a few volunteers and boxes of donated books. Mogen was hired in December 2003, and the library opened in January 2004.
“It was enough together that we could lend books, but there were problems,” Mogen said.
The library had 3,200 square feet in a strip mall. As the number of users and books grew, the library expanded to a 1,900-square-foot space two doors down, but space was still at a premium. “My office was basically a stand-up closet,” Mogen said.
Things got brighter in 2008 when the city bought the building at 23123 E. Mission Ave. to house the library and the police department. The renovated space opened in 2009. “We were in heaven,” she said. “It was wonderful.”
There was space for seating and a room for community meetings. But as the library continued to grow, space again became tight. The building was supposed to be a temporary home, but voters failed to pass two bonds that would have included money for a new library, Mogen said.
“We ran out of space,” Mogen said. “It had gotten to the point that we could not put new books on the shelf anymore.”
Mogen took several measures to free up space. The library got rid of about 5,000 books, and it now rents best-sellers for the shelves. “Most best-sellers are yesterday’s news after six months,” Mogen said. “We’ll rent them while they’re hot. We did it as an experiment last year, and it seemed to work really well.”
A library is not just about books anymore. It’s a gathering place, a digital hub, a tutoring center and a classroom. Staff members proctor exams and offer STEM classes. “Basically, we’ve been called on to be a community center,” she said. “The mission has expanded and it continues to expand. There’s no space to do that here.”
It is in the face of those changes that Mogen has decided to retire. “Libraries are changing so much I would almost have to go back to school,” she said. “I’m kind of old school now, and I don’t have the time or the energy to catch up. Now seems to be the right time.”
Mogen is already a published author. She self-published a trilogy under the pen name Pamela Aidan that retold “Pride and Prejudice” from the perspective of Mr. Darcy. She self-published the series by creating her own publishing company, Wytherngate Press. The books sold in the thousands, selling enough to catch the attention of publisher Simon & Schuster, which purchased the rights to the book.
“I haven’t written anything since 2010,” she said. “That’s one of the things I’m looking forward to in retirement is writing. I have lots of ideas.”
She’ll continue to teach writing classes for a home-school co-op and plans to make some music. She plays the piano, guitar and hammered dulcimer. Her husband also plays multiple instruments. “We always figured if worse comes to worst we can always busk on the sidewalk,” she said.
But she will miss the people she has met through her job. “This was my dream job, to be able to start a library of this size basically from scratch,” she said. “I just love working with the community of Liberty Lake.”
A farewell ceremony is scheduled for 4 p.m. Oct. 16 at City Hall. The library will host an informal open house all day on Oct. 26, which is Mogen’s final day of work.
“It’s been absolutely great,” she said. “I couldn’t ask for a better end to my library career.”
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