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Idea of taking head position just kind of grew on new city librarian

Kendra Antila started working at the Lebanon Public Library 15 years ago, doing preschool story time twice a week.

For about 13 years she has been a full-time library assistant and next month, she will move into her new office as library director.

There are many reasons she has been with the library so long.

“It’s close to home, I’m working right here in my community,” Antila said “I can go home for lunch, let my dog out. Little things like that mean a lot.

“Also, I love my co-workers. I work with fabulous people and it’s not just me who hasn’t left. No one leaves.

“We have a great group. People just don’t go. You retire or just stay. It’s a great place to work.”

She’s also built a connection with library patrons over the last 15 years, and that is one of her favorite parts of working at the library.

“They’re so diverse,” Antila said. “It’s the most egalitarian institution. In an hour, we deal with every level of the social strata at any given time. I love it when my preconceptions are blown out of the water.

I love it when an educated white collar person checks out a trashy romance novel and when some young skater person with an earring and long hair, checks out a book on physics. I love that there’s so much on offer for everyone and everyone can find something that suits them. The patrons are my favorite thing.”

Patrons have shown their appreciation for Antila as well.

“Yesterday I had two flower deliveries from patrons,” she said. “Everyone who’s walked through the door, has walked in and congratulated me and hugged me.”

Antila applied for the position at the encouragement of City Manager Gary Marks. The city’s recruitment process did not yield a candidate that the selection committee could agree on. Antila was part of the selection committee and did not apply for the position, initially.

Marks’ suggestion that she apply took her by surprise.

“I was quite shocked. I had no idea that anyone was thinking of that,” Antila said. “My first thing was I don’t have a bachelor’s (degree) and that’s when he said, ‘I think your experience counts for more.’”

Antila has an Associate of Arts Oregon Transfer degree from Linn-Benton Community College.

“I took the weekend to think about it,” she said of Marks’ suggestion.

She also asked Marks to get feedback from library staff.

“With their blessing, I decided to apply,” Antila said.

Antila has been working closely with Library Director Carol Dinges to learn about her new role.

She’s also switching up some of her reading material.

“I always, at any given moment, have three books going,” Antila said. “I usually have an audio book in my car, an audio book on my phone that I listen to when I’m getting ready in the morning and when I’m cooking dinner and all that stuff, and I have real book by my bed.”

“Excel for Dummies” will be the next book on her nightstand, in preparation for the director position, she said.

“It’s a daunting challenge,” Antila said of taking on the new role. “If anyone stepped in that office and was not nervous, I’d be worried about them. You’re taking on responsibility for the building, for the staff, for everything.”

It’s a challenge she is looking forward to, after being a library assistant for 13 years.

“I know what I’m doing in my current role really well,” Antila said. “I’m incredibly comfortable and confident in my current role. I’m going way out of my comfort zone.”

She can’t pinpoint one aspect of the new job she is most excited about.

“I’m excited about the whole prospect,” Antila said. “Pushing yourself is a good thing, they tell me.”