A special open house reception is being planned for Thursday, July 19 to recognize Miriam Arves who resigned from her position as director of the West Fargo Public Library last month after 31 years of service. The reception is open to the public and will take place from 4 to 6 p.m. at the Library, located at 109 3rd St. E.
"I devoted 31 years to the position trying to do my best and the timing was right now to look for new challenges," Arves said in an interview last week.
Born in Valley City, she moved with her family to Fargo at the age of two, was raised in the community, graduating from Fargo North High, and NDSU with a Masters Degree in sociology and history.
Arves accepted part-time employment with the West Fargo Library in November of 1975 at 401 7th St. E., and shortly thereafter became a fulltime employee because of ill health of longtime director Frieda Hatten. When Hatten retired in 1976, Arves was named director.
What a difference three decades make. During her tenure, Arves saw considerable change in a number of areas, including employees and operating revenues, with the staff numbers growing from three to now 12; and the budget increasing ten-fold from $50,000 to $500,000. One of the original employees from Arve's beginning days is Janice Bober, who still remains on Library staff today.
The change also included building modifications, with a major remodeling project completed in 1984-85 which added approximately two-thirds more operating space. In 1995, there was another expansion by City Hall that saw that facility and the library connected; and in August of 2005 was the grand move into brand-new headquarters in the Clayton Lodoen Community Center, 109 3rd St. E, tripling the Library operating space at a little over 24,000 square feet, and in turn, dramatically increasing the materials on inventory.
In the early days it was obvious that funding was indeed tight, with only $50,000 to work with and purchasing books took a substantial bite of it. "We were usually creatively challenged in how to go about accomplishing things," Aves said. "Most people thought the library got their books free, but that was not the case." At that time, at book cost about $10. "We survived, in part, on people donating things. If we hadn't had donations, we wouldn't have been able to grow the collection we had."
Arves said the biggest changes in her tenure came shortly before moving into the new facility in 2004, when the Library went from a paper system of signing a name on a card to check out materials to a totally computer automated system; followed by a complete switch in software usage two months before moving into the new building.
This proved to be a difficult time, but Arves commended the staff for rebounding well and transitioning into the move into the new library, which presented its own challenges with its much larger defined space. "You don't do anything like this without having the staff and board committed, and everyone on board and I feel we really had that."
Arves said the one thing she is missing the most in relinquishing her longstanding ties as library director, is the patrons. "I don't care if it's a five-year-old kid just getting his or her library card for the first time and seeing those eyes that say 'wow, I can check out a book,' or a 90-year-old that has come in the last 30 years and I could recommend a book to because you know their interests so well, - that's what I'm really going to miss."
All in all, she said her role as library director was a true learning experience, and as soon as she's had the time to savor a little rest and relaxation she will be on the lookout for her next learning experience. "I will be looking for other challenges, but what they are right now, I'm not certain. I'm definitely ready for a change, and when I see it, I'll know what it is."