Woodruff retiring from ‘best job in the world’
After nearly nine years in the stacks, Twisp librarian Dawn Woodruff is retiring from what she calls “the best job in the world.”
Woodruff, who took over for longtime Twisp librarian Terry Dixon in January 2015, said she spent years volunteering and substituting in both the Twisp and Winthrop public libraries prior to being appointed librarian. “I was consciously on that path,” she says. “Becoming the librarian was my plan the whole time. I got to know the patrons and I got to know the job. I was trained by the best: [retired Winthrop and Twisp librarians] Sally Portman and Terry Dixon.”
Working as the Twisp Librarian “has become something I love more and more over time, even more than when I started the job in 2015,” Woodruff says. But it’s not because of the books, she said. “It’s all about the patrons. They are so happy when they come in and they’re even happier when they leave, having found what they’re looking for.”
Woodruff says that one of her daily goals is “to make everyone who walks in the door feel seen and welcome.” She wants patrons to know that she’s happy they’re in the library and that she is excited to figure out what they need and how she can help them get it, whether it’s a book, a periodical, a quick check of their email, or another resource.
Woodruff’s tenure at the Twisp library included the COVID-19 pandemic shutdown in the spring of 2020 when, after a few weeks of reconfiguring, the libraries in the North Central Regional Library (NCRL) system resumed services in a hybrid capacity. Until the libraries fully reopened, patrons could request books remotely and pick them up in a no-contact system.
Woodruff remembers opening the library window and talking to patrons from a safe social distance. Some of them asked her to select reading material for them.
“That was really fun,” she recalls. “I’d pick a book I thought they’d like, or which might expand their horizons. If they had kids, I’d throw in some kids’ magazines. I’d hand them a brown paper bag with a die-cut label with their name on it. It was like giving out birthday presents.”
Doing her thing
Woodruff says that the Twisp Library is “perfectly positioned” in the community. “It’s in the Methow Valley Community Center, which anchors Twisp,” she says. “Kids come to the library before and after music and dance lessons; farmers market patrons visit during the market on Saturdays; people drop by after shopping at the Senior Center. And you can’t discount that big awesome parking lot — you can always find a place to park to visit the library.”
During her years on the job, Woodruff had the chance to visit all 30 libraries in the NCRL system. “It was so fun to meet my fellow librarians in their spaces, in their communities,” she says. “Some of them I had only known through ZOOM, without the context of their library and community, but when I got to meet them in person and see their spaces, I realized that all of these little (and big) libraries in the NCRL system have ‘their thing’ in their community.”
What has been Woodruff’s “thing”? Well, she has a few, but they all relate to connecting with readers. Woodruff says she has become very emotionally engaged with children during story time, including a weekly adventure reading session with homeschool kids. She also reads aloud to residents at Jamie’s Place, where she recently completed reading some of the “Little House on the Prairie” series by Laura Ingalls Wilder. “Many of the residents can relate to that subject matter,” Woodruff says. “A less mechanized lifestyle, hardships from an earlier era.”
“We had the best summer together,” Woodruff says of her time at Jamie’s Place. She plans to keep reading with the residents even after her retirement.
Another of Woodruff’s “things” has been the adult storytelling program, which, along with her other community engagement programs, earned a nod from the NCRL administration. Speaking on behalf of herself and other NCRL leaders who have worked with Woodruff over the years, NCRL Deputy Director Kimberly Nehr wrote, “Of particular note have been Dawn’s innovative ‘My Story’ programs, and her incredible preschool storytimes — held at the Twisp Library and, thanks to COVID, virtually. When Dawn reads a book, she fully embodies the characters, the author’s voice, and the twists and turns of the plot — bringing each story alive for her audiences.”
Attending to needs
Woodruff refers to the Twisp Library patrons as “best in the world,” saying that “people are so curious in this valley — they’re just committed to lifelong learning.”
But Woodruff derives equal enjoyment from helping those who use the Twisp library to meet needs unrelated to books. “Someone might come in just to print a shipping label,” she says. “It takes five minutes, but they leave having gotten exactly what they came for. That’s very satisfying.”
NCRL acknowledged Woodruff’s attention to excellent customer service. “In her role as the Twisp Librarian, Dawn Woodruff has served her community and our organization with passion and creativity. Her dedication to providing high-quality programs that serve a variety of ages, interests, and backgrounds has been the hallmark of her service. She leaves a legacy based on her deep understanding of the history of her community and her compassionate appreciation for the personal stories of its residents,” Nehr wrote.
Nehr added, “NCW Libraries is immensely grateful for Dawn’s years of service to her community and our organization!”
Why is Woodruff leaving a job she loves so much? Her husband, Kent Woodruff, retired from his position as a wildlife biologist with the U.S. Forest Service six years ago. “We want to go on adventures together,” Woodruff says.
She’ll have more reading time in retirement, but she says she reads all the time anyway, and doesn’t have any books she has been putting off for retirement. “I’m just going to keep on reading,” she says.
Woodruff’s last day as the Twisp Librarian is Friday, Sept. 8. Coincidentally, it’s also her birthday. She’s going to celebrate by doing what she loves most: connecting with library patrons and community members. “In the morning I’ll go read at Jamie’s Place,” she says, “and then from 1-6 p.m. everyone is invited to drop by the Twisp Library for a cupcake and to say goodbye.”
Woodruff is not leaving the community, but she won’t be the librarian behind the desk anymore. Her replacement has been selected, but as of publication date her successor’s name has not been released.
Woodruff leaves her position knowing that she has loved coming to work every day. “There’s a really nice vibe when you love what you do,” she said. “People feel it and they give it back to you.”