Will Ravenstein

Wellington Daily News

For 11 years the children of Wellington have lived, laughed and created memories in the Wellington Public Library with Librarian Lisa Vargas.

The hard news came last week that a farewell reception will be held Thursday, July 27, from 1-3 p.m. in the library for Vargas.

Vargas accepted a position as the new Blackwell, Okla., Library Director beginning Aug. 1.

“It’s very hard,” Vargas said. “It’s the hardest decision I’ve made in my life.”

Vargas admitted that though the decision to leave the Wellington Library, she felt that it was a great move for her professional life.

The ironic part for Vargas is that 28 years ago she moved to Wellington on Aug. 1, from Oklahoma, now she will begin a job in Oklahoma on Aug. 1.

With nearly three decades of professional and personal life in Wellington she stated that her personal connections to people here runs deep.

“I know so many people,” she said. “These people have just become part of my existence, they aren’t just casual acquaintances. I’m closer to some of the people here than some of the people I went to high school with or grew up with.”

The hardest part according to Vargas, as she fought back tears, is leaving her kids and families.

“I know a lot of those kids that are seniors, and I remember when they started coming in for story time back in the day,” she said. “I’ve watched so many kids be born and grow up, this is tough. There are no two-ways about it.”

While Vargas has adapted to small time life, with husband Darren, Vargas grew up in the college town of Stillwater, Okla.

“When I came in, I had not been living in a small town at all,” she said. “It’s a total different culture. I’ve just grown to love living in a small town. It’s meaningful and I care about the whole culture around here. I keep up with babies born, deaths and the happenings, I’ve seen a lot of changes in the 28 years I’ve been here.”

Wellington Public Librarian, Jo Plumb, confessed that she is both happy and sad for Vargas.

“It’s kind of a sweet sorrow,” Plumb said. “I’m happy for her success, but we are also losing a very valued staff member. She is not someone I can easily replace. With her being from the Wellington community and her love of children’s programming, you just don’t find that kind of combination in everyone.”

Plumb explained that over the 11 years Vargas has been at the library, she started out as just the children’s librarian. Over time, the Library Board made her e-services director, and in January was made Assistant Director thanks to a campaign by Plumb.

Plumb stated she expects good things from Vargas in Blackwell, and hopes to see their Summer Reading program expand, like it has done in Wellington.

“I look for Blackwell to have a blooming Summer Reading Program, if not next summer the following one,” she said. “Lisa has built up our Summer Reading program to where it is. One of the top programs in southwestern Kansas. We have people from Argonia, Conway Springs, all these other locations come to the library. We have more activities going on, and every year she has built that a little stronger.”

The library in Blackwell will become a project for Vargas, with support of the Library Board and City Manager who look to take the library in a new direction.

“I would like to be able to go down to Blackwell and turn that into the hub of the community,” Vargas said. “Where people come to find out what’s going on, be able to have new programs and to network with each other. I’ve seen great things come out of the friendships that have been made here at the library. I would like to be able to do that on Blackwell too.”

The board and City Manager were looking for someone with fresh ideas and were excited about the things happening in Wellington according to Vargas.

Though there will be big shoes to fill as the new Children’s Librarian, Vargas passed on some advice to her future replacement.

“Just, what I think has made us successful in this department in Wellington, is the fact that we kept it personal,” she said. “We know our people. We know our patrons. We get to know them on a more personal level. To treat everyone the same and to respect everyone and provide. I don’t just say that I love my kids, but we have been very open and caring.”

She was also confident in the new person, whoever it should be.

“The next person is going to be awesome, with his or her own ideas,” she said. “They will be excited about the kids, excited about the programs. They are going to keep some of the programs and they are going to change some of them. As long as they do what we need to do for the children or families here in Wellington, they will be successful.”