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Book lover starting next chapter of life, retirement

Sonny Long

By Sonny Long
Feb. 14, 2011 at 5:03 p.m.
Updated Feb. 13, 2011 at 8:14 p.m.

Information librarian at the Victoria Public Library, Janet Kent, said that her favorite part of being a librarian is the people. "They are so amazingly varied. They've kept me interested all these years," Kent said Friday afternoon. After working at the library for about 15 years since the 1980s Kent will retire at the end of February.

Janet Kent loves to read.

That comes in handy in her position as an information librarian at the Victoria Public Library, where she often recommends titles to readers.

But her love for books runs deeper than workplace duties.

"I am an avid and passionate reader," said Kent. "I will read until I can't read anymore. I love reading. I love books in any format, e-books, print books, it doesn't matter. I find reading entertaining and relaxing."

Kent, who turned 62 on Feb. 7, is retiring later this month. She has been with the library more than 15 years, from 1982-89 and again beginning in 2001. Family matters took her back to her home state of Colorado in 1989 and she worked in public and school libraries there and in Nebraska and Arkansas before returning to Victoria.

"Obviously things had changed some, with all the great refurbishing and reorganization of the collections," Kent said about her stints at the library 12 years apart.

Libraries in general have changed, too.

"Technology has just blossomed," she said. "When I was first here in 1983, we still had the card catalog.

"We were automated in our circulation. At the service desks, we had computers to access the catalog, but the public couldn't," she recalled.

The biggest change she's seen has been in electronic publishing, said Kent, who often uses a Kindle to read e-books.

"I don't think the printed page will ever leave us. The e-book is just another tool," she said. "It's becoming more popular now because more people are becoming more comfortable with the technology."

"I still use the library - a lot - for fiction reading and we are getting the capacity to do e-books here, too," she said.

Kent will soon be leaving the library again. Her last work day will be Saturday.

A surprise birthday and retirement party was held for her last week.

An obviously surprised Kent, who is a graduate of Adams State College in Colorado and has a Master's Degree in Library Science from the University of Denver, was "tickled" at the gathering.

Many of those in attendance were members of the Brown Bag book discussion group that Kent first organized in 2002.

"She's been inspiring," said Pat Godfrey, a Brown Bagger since its inception. "She's a book lover and exudes enthusiasm. We love books, too, and we love Janet."

Kent was a bit apprehensive when the group began.

"I had never led a book discussion group," she said. "I tried to put one together that would be both entertaining and beneficial."

Thirty-two book lovers showed up at the first Brown Bag meeting. The group now averages between 20 to 25 at noon on the first Wednesday each month.

"We get off on tangents. It's the fastest hour there is," Kent said. "It's been fun. I encourage others to join. These people are wonderful."

Some people think Kent is wonderful, too.

Friend and former Brown Bag member, Ken Dreymala called Kent "incredible."

"She knows where everything is in this library. If you want to know where a certain book is, she's the one to go to," he said. "If you want to know about a certain book, she's either read it or knows the author.

"She also gives a lot of her time," he said. "We're losing a very valuable person."

Library director Dayna Williams-Capone acknowledged Kent's wealth of knowledge.

"Janet has been a wonderful resource for us. She had a lot of knowledge of what had been happening in this library over the years," she said. "She's a reader. She reads widely and she reads everything. She's taught me a lot. I learned a lot about authors and books I haven't read and helped me broaden my reading."

Kent is also helping others broaden their love of books.

She's a committee member for the Lariet List, a program of the Texas Library Association that recommends 25 adult fiction titles each year.

"Last year, we read 200 books to narrow the list down to 25," she said.

With retirement looming, Kent's plans are simple.

"I believe it's time," she said. "I am just going to enjoy my reading. I plan to read myself silly, maybe until 3 a.m."



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