GENESEO — Deb Wyffels began her career at the Geneseo Public Library in April 1990 behind the circulation desk, and she retired 29 years later as assistant director, a position she was appointed to in January 2016.
Wyffels will continue to be the content administrator of the library website.
The library always fascinated her, Wyffels said, beginning in her childhood years when she would visit the library with her mother, the late Evelyn Loucks.
“My mom was an avid reader, and I remember going to the Hammond library building as a child,” Wyffels said.
She is married to Steve Wyffels, and the couple’s daughters, Emily and Jenni, visited the library with their mother in their childhood years and were part of the library’s summer reading program.
Her library career began at the George B. Dedrick building on State Street, and she can recall the days when patrons were issued a library card that had a unique metal numerical plate attached that was inserted into a machine by library staff to copy the person's number onto a check-out card.
Wyffels saw numerous updates and changes at the library during her tenure.
“I also learned to process books and catalog books when we still had the old card catalog files, in addition to my circulation duties,” she said. “A cataloger’s job is very detail-oriented and has always appealed to me, and that has never changed.”
The job became more exciting for Wyffels in 1992 when computers were installed at the library. She took classes in computer networking and helped maintain the computers at the library, both for staff and patrons, with a server on-site.
The patrons’ cards also were updated from the use of punch cards to barcoded cards.
“The reference material changed from book form to online information in order to keep up on the fast, ever-changing information available out there,” she said. “Now the reference section in the new library has become almost nonexistent due to internet use.”
Media content at the library also has changed. Wyffels said she did not recall having a large collection of movies when she first began working there, but added, “That grew remarkably over the years.”
“We had cassettes for music and audiobooks, and then CDs took their place. Now downloadable media is available via the library website and apps.”
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Wyffels launched the library website in 2000 after completing classes to learn about coding and web design. In 2016, the library switched the web design and hosting duties to a local company.
“Many people are not aware that the Geneseo Public Library is a district library, not a city library, and also is a member of a system of consortiums,” Wyffels said.
“Our library, due to computers and membership, had access to collections at other libraries, and we received deliveries for inter-library loan material two days a week in the beginning. As our requests for more materials from other libraries became larger, we increased to five deliveries a week, and that is true today at the library.”
As she reminisced about the plans for a “new” library, Wyffels said that has been a topic of discussion for as far back as she can remember.
“We were landlocked and bursting at the seams in the location on State Street,” she said.
“I have worked for four library directors during the years of my employment, and it was during the administration of Brenda Fowler that the discussion became more of a reality. Plans were being made and designs were discussed. I became involved in the interior design as blueprints were taking form with the board of trustees and architect at that time, and then with the new director, Claire Crawford.”
In commenting about Wyffels' career at the library, Crawford said, “Deb is one of the most organized people I have ever met in my life. She also possesses a wonderful sense of design and color. We would not have had this library built if it weren’t for her. She picked out the colors of the new library and contributed greatly to its design.”
“She has a wonderful knowledge of computers and databases,” Crawford said. “She taught the card class and the knitting class. We always told her she should have been an architect or an art teacher. Her sense of design is truly amazing. We are very grateful for her knowledge, and we wish her a wonderful retirement with lots of fun.”
Wyffels said she loves the concept of the public library. ”You walk in the door, and it is a world where you can choose to gain knowledge from books or media of all ages. You can escape reality through printed works, enjoy the arts from the displays of artwork or patron collections. You can connect with the outside world via fiber optics. You can go back in history with information in the history room. You can attend informational programs, historical programs, exercise programs, musical programs, storytelling programs, and mini-plays or portrayals. ... All of this is available without an admission fee or service fee of any kind.”
“A library is for the love of freedom and information. There is no censoring; there is complete privacy; and there is no discrimination. It is nurtured by a staff that cares and values these core rights for all individuals. I encourage everyone to discover their local library and all it has to offer.”
She said she learned something new almost every day during her career at the library.
“I have met so many people over the circulation desk while working, and I have watched their families grow. I have many happy memories of patrons, many funny, unusual stories, and I have enjoyed getting to know co-workers who have come and gone. I have made lifelong friends with other co-workers, and I plan on continuing that friendship in retirement.”
“There is so much more to learn and do. Learning never stops until you do,” Wyffels said.