After 21 years as the manager of the Clinton Library, Debby Colfer is ready to turn to the next chapter: retirement.
Since the library opened in 2000, Colfer has been the heart and soul of the 1,300-square-foot library. She is the first and so far only manager of it.
That’s about to change soon, as Colfer’s last day on the job is June 25.
Colfer’s advocacy for libraries on Whidbey began in Freeland. After moving to South Whidbey in 1989, she was instrumental in helping the Friends of the Freeland Library raise enough money to purchase the land for the Freeland Library.
Betsy Arand, the current manager of that library, said it was quite the accomplishment for the whole community. Locals raised a total of $220,000 through fundraisers such as book sales and barbecues.
Colfer often appeared in the newspaper advertising the book sales.
“She was just really, really involved with all the fundraising and felt really strongly the importance of libraries,” Arand said.
Arand has known Colfer for several years. Their sons acted alongside each other in the same Whidbey Children’s Theatre plays. Colfer’s son was just in preschool when she joined the Friends of the Freeland Library. She predicted that the library would be built by the time her son graduated high school.
But the building was dedicated only three years later in 1994, and her son got to grow up with the library.
“To me, I hadn’t been on the island that long but I just felt like that was such an amazing example of what a small group of committed people can do,” Colfer said, reflecting on the famous quote by Margaret Mead.
Besides being involved with the Sno-Isle Library system, Colfer has also been an active community member. She was a family support advocate for Readiness to Learn for two years. She also volunteered for the South Whidbey Elementary PTA Board.
Sno-Isle Libraries hired Colfer as the children’s liaison for the Freeland and Langley libraries in 1998. She led preschool story times, among other special events, for kids at the South Whidbey libraries.
When the Clinton Library opened in 2000, she became its manager.
Patrons will remember most her friendly demeanor, her selection of books and the extensive amount of programming she planned for all ages.
Pat Brunjes, a past president of the Friends of the Clinton Library, said people have always loved the little library. Colfer is to thank for that.
“We saw books we never would have read otherwise,” Brunjes said. “Debby and crew were really good at picking books to put on their shelves, even though their shelves were really tiny.”
Colfer also expanded programming at the library, moving beyond just children’s events. Before the pandemic, there were regular painting, business and writing programs.
“I’m going to miss her because she was really good at putting together programs that interested the majority of people in the community,” Brunjes said.
During her time with Sno-Isle Libraries, Colfer won two awards. She was given the Managerial Excellence Award for her leadership and innovation in her current position. She also received the Trustees Award for being part of a team that worked with staff to identify appropriate books for various age groups, reading levels and languages, and then working with community partners to distribute books to families.
Over the years, Colfer has seen many changes and much growth — for example, the evolution of technology and the emergence of the ease of streaming audio and e-books. Reference resources are also available through Sno-Isle Libraries 24 hours a day, which wasn’t always the case.
Colfer has always loved libraries, and has even (unsuccessfully) tried to get her son Gregory interested in the profession.
“Where else can you go and hang out and get all kinds of wonderful resources without having to spend a bunch of money?” she said.