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End of a chapter: Decatur’s storied librarian moving on

By Kristen Tribe | Published Wednesday, October 10, 2012

GOING AWAY – The city is hosting a going-away reception for librarian Cecilia Barham. 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 18, at the Decatur Civic Center.

Decatur librarian Cecilia Barham is about to turn a page in her career. She has accepted a post at the North Richland Hills Public Library and begins work there Oct. 29.

Barham, who has been with Decatur’s John A. and Katherine G. Jackson Public Library for seven years, said she wasn’t looking for a new job, “it was just one of those perfect storms.”

“North Richland Hills contacted me,” she said. “I had never looked for another job and didn’t go looking for this one.”

After giving it serious consideration, she decided that although it would be incredibly hard to part with the community, it would be a good career move.

“There were definitely a few weeks where I wasn’t sleeping and was crying a lot,” she said. “I have loved working here. It’s been my favorite job.”

Barham said she is most proud of the ways she and her staff found to better serve the community.

“We became fully community-oriented, and everything else came from that,” she said. “Any award or grant we received. Hopefully, the legacy I leave is a customer-service oriented library.”

Since she started at Decatur, library circulation has increased, she secured more computers for public use, various programs are now available for all ages and she secured several grants to expand or improve facilities and programs. Her efforts have also garnered more volunteers, not to mention awards and recognition.

The most renowned honor was last year when the library was named Runner-up Best Small Library in America. Other awards have included North Texas Library Project of the Year in 2011, a $150,000 grant from Priddy Charitable Trust in 2010 and Texas Municipal League Award for Excellence in Library Services in 2006, 2008 and 2009.

Library board member and longtime volunteer Martha Hughes said she felt like Barham’s biggest contribution was grant writing and “getting those special things that are out there for public libraries.”

“She was so very good about finding out about these things and striving to write the grants and present our library in such a way that we had lots of good things to happen because of her knowledge and enthusiasm about getting what was out there for libraries.

“I can’t say how great she’s been for our library program,” she said. “… it was kind of my baby, and I love what she did and has done.”

Board member Althea Forbis said Barham is always looking for something new.

“She’s brought in so many community activities, and we have programs that we didn’t have before .. and so many more people are involved, which is great. [North Richland Hills] will be really pleased for sure.”

Barham said programming is one of the things she will be implementing in her new position.

“It’s one of the things I love,” she said, “and they need it for all ages. I’m also looking at some new technological applications for them.”

Barham said she hasn’t had time to give much thought to the new position because she’s been busy wrapping up things here and preparing the way for a new director.

“It matters to me where things go from here, and I don’t want to walk away without thinking I’ve done everything I can to make sure it continues to be a service to the community,” she said.

Decatur City Manager Brett Shannon said there are already a few candidates interested in the position.

“Hopefully we can find someone who can carry on the tradition and vision that she’s got started,” he said. “I’m very appreciative of all her efforts. She’s a wonderful asset, and we’ll miss her.”

The city invites the public to a going-away reception for Barham 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 18, at the Decatur Civic Center. Her last day with the Decatur Public Library is Oct. 26.

“The last couple of years, every time we got named something or got an award I would cringe. Things like that make the phones ring,” Shannon said. “But I’m tickled to death for her. (Her new job) is about the same commute from her home (in Haslet). But I told her the last three miles will be a lot harder going to that library than getting to ours.”

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