2007.02.28: February 28, 2007: Headlines: COS - Ethiopia: Libraries: The Herald: Ethiopia RPCVs Mark and Shiela Nesse retire from Everett Public Library, where he's been library director for 30 years

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Ethiopia: Peace Corps Ethiopia : Peace Corps Ethiopia: Newest Stories: 2007.02.28: February 28, 2007: Headlines: COS - Ethiopia: Libraries: The Herald: Ethiopia RPCVs Mark and Shiela Nesse retire from Everett Public Library, where he's been library director for 30 years

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Ethiopia RPCVs Mark and Shiela Nesse retire from Everett Public Library, where he's been library director for 30 years

Ethiopia RPCVs Mark and Shiela Nesse retire from Everett Public Library, where he's been library director for 30 years

The couple met in the Peace Corps. They served in Ethiopia from 1965 until 1967, and married before returning home. Back in Tacoma, where Mark Nesse grew up, they worked as teachers before buying an old school bus and traveling the country.

Ethiopia RPCVs Mark and Shiela Nesse retire from Everett Public Library, where he's been library director for 30 years

Librarians ready for life's next chapter

By Julie Muhlstein
Herald Columnist

Caption: Mukilteo reference librarian Sheila Nesse greets A.V. Merkley during a visit in January 2006. Nesse and her husband, Mark, director of the Everett Public Library, are retiring today. Photo: Kevin Nortz / Herald file photo

It is a rare and lucky man who can say some of his favorite places are at work. Mark Nesse can.

Walking around the Everett Public Library, where he's been library director for 30 years, Nesse stopped Monday to savor several spots he loves.

"This is a favorite place to people watch," he said from a second-floor rail overlooking the lofty maple arch of the library's long reading room.

"It's fun to be downstairs and see children dash for the fish tank. And I really love the coffee shop now. At different times of day, there are all kinds of people. It's a place for people to meet," he said.

Today is Nesse's last day on the job. In June, he announced plans to retire. In November, after a national search, a five-member library board of directors unanimously chose Eileen Simmons, assistant director of the Everett library, to fill Nesse's shoes.

"Eileen is a top person. She's going to be really good," the 63-year-old Nesse said.

One high point of Nesse's long tenure was the 1991 library renovation that more than doubled the size of architect Carl Gould's landmark 1933 art moderne design.

He is proud, too, of the library's Northwest Room, where historians David Dilgard and Margaret Riddle do research and engage the community by presenting historical programs and collecting oral histories. "It's really kind of unique, and one of the things we do really well," Nesse said.

With his career planted in the tradition of a library as a brick-and-mortar presence in civic life, Nesse isn't sure how libraries will look a decade from now. "I can't imagine," he said. "Google and the Internet have significantly changed how we get information. That's never going to replace books and reading."

With retirement stretching out like a long, sunny day, Nesse will have time to read. He'll start with "Giants in the Earth." Ole Rolvaag's classic tale of the hardships of settlers on the American prairie is a high school reading list perennial.

For Nesse, there's a personal connection. As newlyweds, his paternal grandparents lived in a North Dakota sod house. In June, he and his wife, Sheila, will take a road trip and hunt for the site of that sod house.

A vintage car fancier, Nesse also hopes to find and restore a World War II-era jeep.

The Everett library director isn't the only one in his family retiring today. Hours after her husband ends his work day, Sheila Nesse will retire as a reference librarian at the Mukilteo Library, part of the Sno-Isle Regional Library System.

"I'll finish with the Wednesday evening book group," Sheila Nesse said Monday. While her husband's role has meant overseeing a staff of 44 and going to lots of meetings, Sheila Nesse described herself as "a front-line librarian."

Since coming to Sno-Isle in 1990, she has worked in collection development, in outreach through the bookmobile, and in adult and teen services.

Lately, staying ahead of technology has been a challenge. "Unless you're a tech junkie, it's hard to keep up," she said.

While Mark Nesse has a stack of books to read, Sheila Nesse, 64, looks forward to writing. She's written short stories and claims to have enough rejection slips to wallpaper a bathroom.

Does she have a novel in her? "I might," she said. There'd be no shortage of novel-worthy material.

The couple met in the Peace Corps. They served in Ethiopia from 1965 until 1967, and married before returning home. Back in Tacoma, where Mark Nesse grew up, they worked as teachers before buying an old school bus and traveling the country.

For several years, the bus was their home. Sheila Nesse recalled that it needed new tires in Durham, N.C. They stayed on, and she worked at Duke University, while her husband landed a job at the Durham library.

Mark Nesse was later a library director in Beverly, Mass., before coming to Everett in 1977. "I was 33 years old and had three little kids," he said. They now have two little grandchildren, Peter and Violet, in Olympia where their daughter, Rachel, lives.

Everett is home.

Raised in a military family, Sheila Nesse said she moved often and attended 11 grammar schools. She loves walking around their Rucker Hill neighborhood. Mark Nesse is on the board of the Greater Everett Community Foundation and belongs to the Rotary Club of Everett.

Running a library - a place of peace, quiet and learning - may be a dream job, but not always an easy one. Twice, Nesse said, tight budgets cut Everett library hours. Those living outside Everett are now charged a fee for a library card.

"If something goes wrong, you deal with it. I threw out the drunks," said Nesse, adding that libraries all over the country are affected by homelessness.

The Nesses are ready to turn the page, to start a new chapter.

"Our calendars are open," Sheila Nesse said. "It feels wonderful."

Library farewell

A farewell celebration for Mark Nesse is scheduled for 7 p.m. March 16 at the Everett Public Library, 2702 Hoyt Ave. Nesse, the library director for 30 years, retires today. The celebration is open to the public.

Columnist Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460 or muhlsteinjulie@heraldnet.com.

Links to Related Topics (Tags):

Headlines: February, 2007; Peace Corps Ethiopia; Directory of Ethiopia RPCVs; Messages and Announcements for Ethiopia RPCVs; Libraries

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