Diane Jennings -- who since 1986 has worked on Palo Alto library system challenges, served twice as interim director and for the past four years as director -- will retire in December, she announced Thursday (Sept. 23).
"I am very pleased that, after many years of passionate debate about library service in Palo Alto, we are now in the middle of a marvelous transition for all our libraries," she said of her impending departure as work is about to commence on rebuilding the Mitchell Park Library and Community Center.
She and her husband, John, will leave for Santa Fe in early November even though her official retirement date is in December.
Jennings, who began her library career in 1976 in a community-college library, served her first stint as interim director in Palo Alto following the 2002 retirement of longtime Library Director Mary Jo Levy. Her second stint in that role followed the 2004 departure of Paula Simpson, after a tumultuous term that pitted her support for a single large library against residents favoring the existing branch-library system. The branch-versus-single-library debate had stalled progress on refurbishing city libraries for nearly 15 years.
But Jennings and community campaign leaders were successful in moving past the deadlock and winning voter approval for a $78 million construction bond measure in November 2008, now beginning to be implemented with the reconstruction of the Mitchell Park Library and Community Center.
Jennings sees her major achievements as, among others, developing the library's first online catalog in 1986; working with community members to become one of the first public libraries in the region to provide public WiFi access; managing a multi-year upgrade of library technology; working with a coalition of library-support groups on funding, refurbishing and equipping the historic Children's Library; and spearheading library-improvement projects.