Glendale — From his place among the stacks, North Shore Library Director Dick Nelson has seen the world transform throughout the course of his four decades in the library business.
Where there was once a sprawling card catalog to track the library's collection there is now a countywide digital system at anyone and everyone's fingertips. In place of the phonograph records and the room-filling, card-fed computers of old are desktop PCs, DVDs, CDs, e-book readers, audiobooks, and, of course, rows upon rows of books on almost every topic imaginable.
All-told, the North Shore Library's collection contains more than 121,000 items. About 25,000 physical items are checked out each month. When digital media are included in the count, roughly half a million items circulate annually between the North Shore Library and its member communities of Glendale, Fox Point, Bayside and River Hills.
"You name it, we've got it," Nelson said.
After 20 years at the head of the ever-growing, ever-changing collection, Nelson is retiring on March 17. A public reception will be held in his honor at 5 p.m. Feb. 28.
Nelson thanked the Friends of the North Shore Library, North Shore Library Foundation, library board of directors, and Fox Point staff — which act as the library's fiscal agent — for their help and support over the years.
Hopes expansion becomes reality
"I can't say enough about those groups," Nelson said. "I've been lucky enough to have an excellent bunch of people on the library board. They're very committed, and now they're looking into an expansion project, and I hope the public gives every indication of being interested and seeing it come about."
Unsurprisingly a bookish type, Nelson already has his eye on several area book clubs and plans to audit local college courses in his free time.
He also plans to take educational, "Road Scholar" vacations with his wife, Cathy, — coincidentally, the retired 20-year director of the Brown Deer Library — go fishing, volunteer with the Kletzsch Park Friends, and spend more time with his six children and seven grandchildren.
Always happy to help
Head of circulation Kathy Manning described Nelson as a "shirt-off-his-back type of guy" who has always been there to help library staffers and customers.
More than anything, Manning said his legacy will be a place that the community finds welcoming and useful.
"He's a fixture around here and I truly hope he enjoys retirement," Manning said. "He completely deserves it for what he's put into our library, and the profession."
IF YOU GO
WHAT: Communitywide reception for Dick Nelson
WHEN: 5 p.m. Feb. 28
WHERE: North Shore Library, 6800 N. Port Washington Road
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