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Book Lover Leaves
Peter Kaye | Ocean View Avenue

    Gretchen Schmidt. Photo Thomas Pierce, library staff.  Click on image to enlarge.

While doing double duty as librarian in Solana Beach and Del Mar in 1998, Gretchen Schmidt was offered a choice. Did she want to manage the new library in Solana Beach or the recently refurbished facility in Del Mar? With no hesitation she took the branch less traveled:“Del Mar is where I wanted to be. I liked the community and saw an opportunity to make myself useful.”

Gretchen ended her career as a librarian last month. She began 40 years ago by ignoring the advice of her father who worked for Hewlett Packard.

“When I graduated from Stanford,” she recalled, “he told me to go into computers. ‘You’ll never make any money in libraries,’ he said.”

Instead, she turned her back on Silicon Valley and became a librarian for life. Accompanying her first husband, an Army helicopter pilot to Germany, she managed two small libraries on military posts near Nuremberg. Later she worked in city, county and university libraries in Texas and Nevada. In 1984, she served as president of the Nevada Library Association.

Gretchen came to San Diego County in 1996 and it was Del Mar’s great good luck that she ended up here. Under her leadership, the library has been transformed from a house of books into a vital community resource. While its per capita book circulation is the second highest among county branch libraries, Del Mar Library has also become a total information center with computers, DVDs and on-line literature.

In 2009, the library added a community room that’s become a magnet for such varied classes as bridge, yoga, Chinese, investors and citizenship. More recently the library acquired a new roof, carpet, furniture, shelves and landscaping. While other branches cut back services during the recent recession, Del Mar was actually able to add an hour. Gretchen credits introduction of computerized checkout equipment, the dedication of her staff and support from Friends of the Del Mar Library.

As librarian, she touched the community in many ways: partnering with local schools and village merchants, setting up children’s programs and sponsoring talks by authors at the library or Powerhouse. I remember her most fondly doing what librarians do best – helping people. Whether it was a writer seeking an obscure document, a visitor needing directions or a tenth grader desperate for information about 19th Century England, Gretchen had endless patience and the right answers.

In retirement, her priorities start with her first grandchild, Adalynn Marie Nute, born January 4. Then she hopes to travel, deal with her husband’s attempts to make her a golfer, and, if we’re lucky, to occasionally volunteer at our library.



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