When Laureen Riedesel took the director position at Beatrice Public Library in 1977, she told the Daily Sun that libraries are the most important sources of information, and that her goal is to make it accessible to the people.
After 43 years of serving the Beatrice community, Riedesel announced that she’s retiring at the end of October, and is reflecting on her time here.
Riedesel said she grew up wanting to be a librarian. She started her career when she was in elementary school, opening her school library in Peru before classes started.
“I got to go into the principal’s office when the school wasn’t really open, get the key and run that library for a half an hour one or two days a week,” Riedesel said. “I started then, and I never wanted to stop.”
For three years, Riedesel worked as a youth services outreach librarian at the Dunklin County Library in Kennett, Missouri, but wanted to move back to Nebraska to be near family. She said she drew a 100-mile circle around Omaha, where her family lived, and that when she moved to Beatrice, the distance from her house to her parents’ house was 100 miles exactly.
Riedesel said her job is different every day, and that she’s always found a new opportunity or something else to learn here.
“I was really taken with the Homestead story to begin with,” Riedesel said. “I thought it would be exciting to be the public library director in a town that has Homestead National Monument, because there would be author opportunities, and joint program opportunities, just shared opportunities that we can do. I’ve gotten to do a lot of those things, thanks to the programs that go on at Homestead.”
Riedesel said one of the biggest changes she’s witnessed over the years, as well as some of her favorite memories, involve fundraising and moving the library from the Carnegie Building to its own location in 1991.
“People washed cars, sold Christmas trees, had auctions of merchandise, just all kinds of wonderful things happened during that time…We had about a six month period when people just gave us ideas of what they wanted for the library, and being able to build those into this building, to have that really be part of the community’s wishes and actually be able to make those happen,” Riedesel said.
The library is planning a farewell event for Riedesel on Saturday, Oct. 31 during regular library hours to allow for social distancing.
Riedesel said her retirement plans include teaching her homeschooled granddaughter literature and language arts, working on her family genealogy, and organizing and documenting local history that she’s collected over the years.
“I have accounts of things where I don’t know if they’re documented elsewhere,” Riedesel said. “I want to get those pulled together and not be the only person who knows this story, or the only person who has this information, and make sure it’s documented.”
Riedesel said her original accessibility goal was particularly met with the library’s recent response to the COVID-19 pandemic, noting that more people used the online resources or the curbside pickup while the building was closed. She said the biggest change she’s seen in the library over the years is the use of technology.
“The first computer we had here, our friends group bought for us from RadioShack,” Riedesel said. “So the public had access to a computer before the staff did. I remember when we were talking to people who were going to fund us, saying ‘we really need to have computers at the library’ and they were like ‘what would a library do with a computer?’ And today, we are the place that people expect to have a public access computer.”
Riedesel said when she first started working in Beatrice, somebody told her they thought libraries were where people sat, read a book and waited to die.
“I certainly hope that we have become a more integral part of the community,” Riedesel said, “so that when people are making plans for the future, or if they are saying where should we meet to get a group together and talk about something? If they’re talking about what Beatrice is going to be, that they think ‘oh, the library has role in that.’”
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