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Chapter Ends: Liz Hildreth Retiring as Chief La Mesa Librarian in March

Mission Hills resident oversaw branch move to new building, where it became No. 1 in county.

Updated at 2 a.m. Feb. 15, 2012

Liz Hildreth is retiring as La Mesa branch library manager after six years to spend time with her two toddler grandsons—one in England and one in San Diego, she said Monday.

“I’m just never going to get the time with them back,” she said, “so it seemed like a good idea” to exit now, she said in her library office.

Hildreth, 63, has two daughters—and their boys are Aloysius, 21 months, here and Findlay, 17 months, in England.

A Mission Hills resident profiled in fall 2010, Hildreth has worked for the county library system for 14 years, including eight years in charge of the Poway branch before moving to La Mesa in December 2005.

Her last day is March 1 in the Allison Avenue branch of 10,000 square feet she saw opened on her watch in June 2008, replacing a cramped library of 7,900 square feet.

County library oficials say her temporary successor—perhaps for six months—will be Ruth Ketchum, principal librarian for North Region branches, including Borrego Springs, Encinitas, Fallbrook, Julian, Ramona, San Marcos and Valley Center.

“I really will miss this branch,” she said. “It’s such a great a great staff” of about a dozen. She also takes pride in La Mesa programs such as book clubs and book festivals, including one Feb. 25.

John Schmitz, president of the Friends of the La Mesa Library, said of Hildreth: “One of the reasons we are having the Readers/Writers event this month is so that it can be sort of a ‘swan song’ for her.”

She leaves the La Mesa library—one of 33 in the county system—as the No. 1 branch the past three months in terms of circulation and No. 3 in the 2010-2011 fiscal year (after Vista and San Marcos).

In December 2011, La Mesa loaned out 70,000 items—including books, music, videos and magazines, Hildreth said.  In the year ending June 30, the La Mesa branch recorded 805,071 loans, according to county records.

Hildreth has several theories on why La Mesa has been the top-ranked library in San Diego County the past three months.

The smaller size of La Mesa’s library is more inviting, and its schedule—open 56 hours a week—is more convenient to nearby San Diegans, where the city system has cut back its hours. 

“As their city libary hours have decreased, our usage has increased, particularly computer usage,” she said

La Mesa’s 16 public computers are “constantly in use,” she said, and many people come for the newspapers as well.

No successor to Hildreth has been announced.

Hildreth, a widow who lives with a 10-year-old dog Chili in Mission Hills, also is looking forward to travel, including a trip in August to a flower festival in Medellin, Colombia, called La Feria de las Flores

She also has other plans for retirement.

“I have a lot of books on my shelf to finish … and read on my iPad,” she said.

Gloria Laube February 07, 2012 at 04:31 PM
It's wonderful to be welcomed with Liz' smile at the library. My collie and I started the library dogs program at La Mesa Library in 2005. Sunny retired in October, and I wish Liz could be here to see my new pup become a Reading Education Assistance Dog. Liz deserves the best, and I hope she has many years of fun with her grandchildren.

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