By HEATHER WHITEHOUSE
When Liz Stella was offered the job of director at Stair Public Library, she wasn’t even looking for a job.
“I was 50 years old at that time. My husband was going to retire in a few years,” she said. “They came after me. I really had no intention of going to work.”
Fortunately for the residents of Morenci, she accepted the offer.
Twenty years and two new buildings later, Stella stepped down this week.
For some, imagining the job of a librarian conjures up images of a humorless woman in reading glasses, seated behind a massive desk, eyes on a book and ears on the alert for noisy patrons deserving of a “SHHH!” However, anyone who believes this is an accurate description of a Stair librarian hasn’t been paying attention.
A motivating force
As director, Stella set the tone for an exciting, active library and library community. For almost 10 years she (with the help of her husband, Giovanni) led a troupe of volunteers in a massive fund-raising effort to garner the roughly $400,000 needed to build a new library.
The primary fund-raiser was the Wakefield Park concession stand, where the Stellas and Friends of Stair Public Library gave up their summer weekends for years, serving hungry ball players. The concession stand, along with other fund-raisers (e.g. magnet sales, penny drives, silent auctions), raised approximately $40,000 over seven years. The remaining funds came from donations and grants, many of which required a record of consistent volunteer support for the building project as a condition of receipt.
“We had a lot of diligent, loyal volunteers,” Stella said. “The whole community made this happen.”
The new Stair Public Library, more than three times its original size, was completed in 1997. A few years later, the old library was fully remodeled into an annex and made barrier-free by leveling the multi-floor, mezzanine design. Due largely to a generous donation by the Fay Foundation, the aptly named “Liz Stella Annex,” opened to the public in 2003.
A generous heart
Though Stella will no doubt be remembered by the city for her tireless efforts in making these buildings a reality, library patrons will remember her kindness and generosity on a day-to-day basis. Always friendly, always welcoming and always accommodating, Stella truly made the library the heart of the community.
She will be missed for her spontaneous exclamations of, “Isn’t this fun?” as she helped patrons find just the right information. She will be missed for her ingenuity and willingness to tackle any craft, art or holiday project (though rumor has it, the Christmas Fantasy Village will continue). She will be missed for her way of making every patron feel important and every request seemingly a delight. She will be missed for her obliging gentility—to everyone aged 5 to 85.
The Big Send-Off
A special library open house is planned in honor of Stella’s retirement Saturday, July 12, at 6:30 p.m. Entertainment will begin at approximately 6:45 p.m. with cake and other refreshments served after the event. The public is welcome to join in the celebration and in honoring Stella and her 20-year contribution to the City of Morenci.