Georgia de Araujo retiring after 37 years at the library

Published 1:07 pm Tuesday, March 7, 2023

Boyle County Library Director Georgia de Araujo announced her retirement after 37 years at the library, including the past 10 as director. Her last day will be Sept. 1.

Library Board President Lonnie Harp said that de Araujo has been an instrumental force in the library’s growth, building a collection that now gives people free access to almost twice as many e-books as the number of physical books in the building. 

“Georgia has also led us to flourish in about every other way that defines a lively community library,” Harp said. “To see and consider and appreciate everyone, and, as a result, enrich people’s opportunities to learn, explore, and relax.”

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De Araujo joined the library in 1986, when computers were just coming into people’s lives. Her first job at the library was converting the library’s catalog cards to an online database, a project called retrospective conversion.

She said they had one card for every item at the library, and would convert those cards to a digital format and save it on floppy disks. With tens of thousands of cards, the project took several years, and some things from that collection are still in the library’s database today.

After finishing that project, she answered reference questions, helped catalog books as they came in, and added them to the database. In 1991 she became assistant director, which had her working anywhere she was needed.

De Araujo became director in 2013. As director, she maintains all the library facilities, including staff and human resources, providing good working conditions for 28 people; making sure the building functions well; managing paperwork and documenting that they stay in compliance with laws; managing budgets and spending; and other library work like developing programs and expanding services.

Library staff said they will miss de Araujo’s leadership. Libby McWhorter, who works in the library’s outreach program, has worked with de Araujo since 1990.

“She’s a very good public relations person, she’s very calming, very knowledgeable,” McWhorter said about de Araujo. “She’s very good at explaining things in a manner that people understand them, and very good in helping a disgruntled patron. She never changes her voice, it’s very low-key; she’s very good with the public.”

McWhorter said she’s also great at recommendations and helping anyone who comes in, and will work any department where she’s needed.

“She’s been a familiar face for so long, it’ll be hard,” McWhorter said. “She will be missed.”

De Araujo grew up outside of Akron, Ohio, then came to Centre College in Danville. She graduated in 1981 and stayed in Danville for a few years because she loved the town. De Araujo thought she wanted to go to law school, and enrolled in Indiana University. But after two weeks she decided it wasn’t for her and switched to taking library science classes, which she fell in love with.

She knew she wanted to live in or near Danville, so she transferred to UK to get her master’s in library science.

“I just feel like this is home, I love this place,” de Araujo said. “The community supports the library 100%. People are passionate about this library and have been from the very beginning.”

She said board members give a huge amount of their volunteer time to serve on the board; and the Friends of the Library program has been very active for 40 years.

“People give mountains of volunteer time to support the library,” De Araujo said. “I find the whole mission of a public library is so important to the way a community functions, and this one functions well.”

She said the library has changed and expanded quite a bit since 1986, and that it’s due to the forward thinking people who are involved.

In addition to installing computers, changing their automation system twice, and expanding and renovating the building, they have responded to the needs of the community. The library has expanded outreach programs, the bookmobile program, the youth department, programming to adults, and other things.

As the country has seen more economic disparities, de Araujo said that figuring out how to address needs of people in all walks of society has been challenging.

With a huge demand for outreach programs, and transportation being an issue for many people, they have expanded the bookmobile offerings and other ways they go out to the community.

When the library got rid of overdue fines and fees about three years ago, de Araujo said that in just three months time, 100 people started coming back to the library who hadn’t been because of fines on their account.

“We change as our community needs change, and every organization wants to do that because it keeps you relevant and it keeps you useful, and isn’t that what we all want to be?” she said.

De Araujo has been there long enough to see people she knew as children come back to the library with their children.

“You see little kids running around, and then a decade or two later, those people are coming back in with their children, and they talk about the experiences they had,” she said. “We can see this long term impact.”

One story she remembers making a difference in someone’s life is when a man came to the library to learn how a computer works. De Araujo explained that he had worked his whole life operating heavy equipment, but the company went out of business. Places were only accepting online applications, but he had never used a computer.

“He came in and we helped him do some training, and he spent most of a summer working on a computer here in the library, and then one day he came in and said, ‘I did it, I’ve got a job, and I want to thank you all for helping me do that,’” De Araujo said.

She said she is especially proud of how her staff and the library as a whole got through the pandemic. Though it was challenging and they had to make major changes in a short time, she said everyone came together to figure out their priorities.

“We had to do what we had to do to make things happen, to get through it and get through it well,” she said. “I’m proud of everybody.”

In her retirement, de Araujo plans to go on vacations, play the piano, and get involved in local organizations.

As a history buff, she wants to get more involved in local history efforts, possibly in the local Genealogical and Historical Society, the African American Historical Society, or the Forkland Community Center.

“Boyle County is a crossroads for a lot of Kentucky history,” de Araujo said. “Boyle County’s history is really stored in people’s attics, barns and basements. There’s so much out there, so how do we make sure all of that story is preserved in some way?”

Although she knows retiring is the right timing for her life and the library with their future plans, de Araujo said she is going to miss it.

Harp said the board has a selection committee and posted the position on Feb. 1. The 30-day posting has closed, so the committee is reviewing applications and deciding about interviews, which will happen this month. The position begins on July 1, which is a common beginning of budget years for libraries.

“Georgia leaves us in a great position,” he said. “Our library has an energetic and creative staff, a growing number of community partnerships, an inviting facility that is a community treasure, and a solid financial position. She’s also made sure that we are thinking about opportunities ahead. Our library is an amazing place, and Georgia’s chapter in that story is bright and interesting.”