SWEET HOME — It all seems to be coming full circle for Megan Dazey.
She grew up in North Bend, Oregon, hearing her mom talk about the town of Sweet Home. After all, her mom was born there and graduated from Sweet Home High School in 1968. She heard tales of the local library that sat in the basement of the city hall.
Now, Megan is taking on the role of library services director in the town she heard so much about. Although the building has since moved to 13th Avenue, the library is still playing a major role in the lives of community members.
Dazey started work on Aug. 11, taking over for longtime director Rose Peda who retired in January. Although she hasn’t been around long, she already feels at home. Growing up around English professors and librarians, words and books were always a part of her life.
“(Libraries) just felt like home,” she said. “But it’s really just being around the books, being around all of the knowledge and everything libraries have to offer that I'm drawn to. It just feels good.”
Growing up on the Southern Oregon Coast, Dazey is comfortable in small town settings. Community involvement is one of the things that drew her to Sweet Home.
The Sweet Home Library is funded by a voter-approved levy that is put on the ballot every five years. Last year, the levy passed with almost 75% approval, which Dazey said is a sign of an involved and supportive community.
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“The fact that the community has passed so many levies that keep the library operating is great,” Dazey said. “They have to consciously think ‘I want to support this library’ every time.”
Dazey is bringing a lot of experience to the position. She has worked in library roles at Oregon State University, University of Oregon and University of Montana. She spent the last 10 years as Library Services Manager in Puyallup, Washington.
Her vast experience is one of the reasons City Manager Ray Towry knew Dazey was right for the job.
“She has a ton of experience from research libraries to small community libraries,” Towry said. “And, of course, Puyallup is a pretty large city. So she brings a ton of experience at different levels, which is what you need.”
Although she’s only been in the position for a little more than a week, Dazey is already integrating into the community. She recalls running into some local library volunteers at Safeway on her second day of work. That small town community feel is what Dazey has been looking for and is what she believes is at the core of libraries in general.
“If you come to story time with your younger kid, your kid can meet so many people who are going to end up going to school with them,” she said. “Parents can have more resources and more help around them and meet other adults that are going through the same thing that they’re going through.”
The Sweet Home Library is more than just a place to check out books and DVDs. According to library assistant Joy Kistner, what was once simply a place to read has been transformed throughout the pandemic. For example, the library became a sort of technology hub shortly after the beginning of the pandemic with community members coming to use computers and get tech assistance. The building was also used as a cooling center during the June heat wave.
For small towns, a library can be a center for connection and bonding. This is a sentiment Dazey hopes to foster during her tenure as director.
The biggest goal for the near future is to get a new building for the library. According to Towry, the current one is structurally outdated and no longer meets the needs of the community. The hope is to have a bigger building that is up-to-date with technology. He thinks Dazey can help the city achieve this.
“We're hoping Megan can lead us through the process of (getting) a new building,” Towry said. “It's certainly going to take time, particularly in our community because of our revenue struggles.”
Dazey is up to the challenge. She can’t help but laugh because the current building she works in is “new” to her mother. The existing library moved out of the city hall basement a year after her mom graduated from high school.
Her vision for a new and improved Sweet Home Library is a place with a bigger play area for kids, a designated area for teens to spend time after school, new programming and more collections to check out too.
“When there is a new building, I want it to be the heart of the community — to be the place where people think about to go when they need information or access to a computer,” she said. “I want them to think of going to the library first before they think of going to Walmart, going to Amazon or wherever. Just think of that library first, because we are such a good resource.”
Bringing the library into the future is what Librarian assistant Diane Golden hopes Dazey will help accomplish. She added that having a fresh set of opinions from someone with a lot of experience will be good for growth.
As for Dazey herself, she wants to bring a little of her own personality to Sweet Home. She hopes to add some fun, pop culture and general “nerdiness” to the community.
“(The library) is not just this quiet and old dusty place,” she said. “But the kind of a place that you can let your nerd flag fly.”
Her favorite book is a biography called Empty Mansions: The Mysterious Life of Huguette Clark and the Spending of a Great American Fortune, but she is also a big science fiction fan and enjoys reading the Game of Thrones book series. For now, she’s focused on getting moved into her home in town so she can settle in.
“Megan fits into Sweet Home,” Towry said. “She’s very witty and she's got a great sense of humor. She's committed to good customer service. And that's really what the library is all about.”
Maddie Pfeifer can be contacted at 541-812-6091 or Madison.Pfeifer@lee.net. Follow her on Twitter via @maddiepfeifer_