Love of people, books made job rewarding

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It may seem remarkable that such a small, nondescript building could have such an enormous heart.

The small building is the Snoqualmie branch of the King County Library System (KCLS) and Loretta Herman, after three decades as the heart and soul of it, retired last week.

"I loved working here because of the people," Herman said. "Snoqualmie has some of the best people around."

Last Tuesday former bosses, old friends and handfuls of children packed the Weyerhaeuser Room at the Snoqualmie Library at which Herman has worked for 30 years. Close to 50 people, including Snoqualmie Mayor Fuzzy Fletcher, made their way in and out of the room to reminisce and bid a fond farewell to a person as central to the library as the books.

"When we lived in Fall City, I never made it to the library much," said Fletcher, who declared Jan. 8 "Loretta Herman Day" in Snoqualmie. "But since we moved to Snoqualmie, it's been a pleasure to come to the library because of Loretta."

Herman said she always loved books, even before she could read well enough to understand them. She remembered going to her first library when she was 6 years old and living in the former mill town of Snoqualmie Falls.

"I would always take home the big books," Herman said. "Then I saw one of my girlfriends with a Beatrix Potter book and I thought of how good she looked carrying it, so I started to bring home the Beatrix Potter books. But I always brought home the big books as well."

Herman raised her family in the Valley and was an active volunteer in the library system. In 1971, she was approached by the director of the Snoqualmie Library who wanted Herman to work for her. Herman said she had her hands full with her kids, but was able to come in for about four hours a week.

She became more involved through the years, seeing the library move from what is now the home of the the Snoqualmie Department of Public Safety-Fire Division, to the library's present home right next door at 38580 S.E. River St. She was made the manager of the Snoqualmie branch 12 years ago and has helped to create many stories and memories for the generations of people who have grown up with her as their librarian.

"This job requires intellectual curiosity and a willingness to serve others," said Esther Rickelton, a former KCLS associate director who hired Herman as the manager of the Snoqualmie Library. "She has both. Loretta can connect with anyone."

Although Herman never worked full-time at the library (like all Snoqualmie librarians), she was regarded as a permanent fixture and personality.

"She is the most friendly, most down-to-earth person you'll meet," said Kris Kirby, a Snoqualmie Elementary School teacher and member of the city's Library Board. "She's a very real person and you always feel comfortable around her."

Children, many of whom make the library their after-school hangout, had their turns thanking Herman for being almost a second mother to them.

"I'll miss her and wish she would stay," said 12-year-old Lisa Martinez.

Although questions of what one does after retirement arose, Herman was unsure of what is in store. She said she will not work in a garden because she never has had one, but she is eager to finally get her turn on one of the most coveted items in the library.

"It's my time to use the computer," she said.

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