Mid-Columbia Libraries’ West Richland Branch Manager Tom Moak to Retire After 41 Years of Library Service
When you still love your job and the organization you work for, it can be a good time to leave.
That’s the feeling Mid-Columbia Libraries’ West Richland Branch Manager Tom Moak had a few months back when he made the decision to retire after more than 41 years as a librarian at Mid-Columbia Libraries (MCL). March 4, 2021 will be his last day at the library. He chose March because it would give a new manager some time to get settled before the rush of summer. And, he didn’t fancy working another March, one of the longest months of the year, he says.
“We are thankful for the commitment, community focus, and zeal for knowledge Tom has given to MCL and our customers for over four decades,” says MCL Executive Director and Chief Librarian Kyle Cox. “Tom’s mark on life in the Mid-Columbia can be seen within our libraries and in so many other organizations. He is the personification of a life lived in service, believing life can be made better through effort and intention.”
While he has a plenty of mixed emotions about retiring, Moak has many ongoing commitments—from another part-time job and volunteer leadership roles, to home improvement projects—to fill his time.
“I don’t think I’ll be bored,” he says. “It’s a good time to look afresh at things.”
Moak serves as a Port of Kennewick commissioner, a position he has held since 2014; his current term lasts for four more years. He is president of the Kennewick Housing Authority, vice president of his Kiwanis club, and he recently became president of the Benton-Franklin-Walla Walla Good Roads and Transportation Association.
Moak has a long history of community involvement and volunteerism. He served for 12 years on the Kennewick city council and was appointed and briefly served as a state representative for the 8th District. He was president of the East Benton County Historical Society, where he’s proud to have implemented historic home tours and installed historic marker plaques on city sidewalks. In the 1990s, Moak served as chair of the by-laws committee for the Washington Library Association.
“If you’re doing things that you feel are rewarding to you and the community, you keep doing them,” he says matter-of-factly.
With potentially more free time in retirement, he looks forward to being able to travel again (post-pandemic), to reading more often (he is a big fan of genealogy and family and local history), to taking naps, and to attending library programs.
“I want to enjoy being busy doing the things I want to do, when I want to do them,” Moak says.
And, he’s been quite busy at MCL for four decades. Growing up in Tacoma, Moak’s first library job was as a page at a local Tacoma library branch. He had attended Western Washington University with the intention of becoming a Spanish teacher and also worked as a substitute teacher for several years. But, he enjoyed his work at the library and decided to pursue a master of librarianship at the University of Washington.
After completing his degree in the fall of 1979, Moak moved to the east side of the state to begin his job as head reference librarian at the Kennewick library, what is now called the Keewaydin Park branch, in downtown Kennewick. MCL consisted of just five branches at the time—in Benton City, Connell, Kennewick, Pasco, and West Richland—and the Bookmobile. While MCL founder Neva LeBlond Bequette had already retired by then, Moak got to know her well and would later be the emcee at her memorial service in the library she built in 1964.
He recalls the early years before internet and online databases. There were no library cards; customers signed a three-ring binder when checking out books and materials. There were 16mm films (mostly educational), and it was unheard of to watch a feature film at the library. There were art prints and 33 1/3 classical records for loan. The speed and accuracy with which he can currently do his job seems almost limitless.
With the opening of the new Kennewick branch on Union Street in 1999, Moak served as branch manager there until 2016. With his years of MCL knowledge and expertise, it’s no wonder Moak was the library jeopardy champ (by a long shot) at all-staff training day in 2019.
“That’s what I live for,” he says with a smile.
Since taking the helm at the West Richland library five years ago, Moak has embraced the West Richland community and staff. He has built positive relationships and has seen customers embrace their library, with usage increasing especially since the remodel of the building in early 2019.
“The staff have risen to the challenge of meeting the needs of the West Richland community, which really supports their library,” he says. “Staff go the extra mile. They make me look good. It really is the people who work with me—with their great community service attitude—who deserve a lot of the credit. There’s a framework here for the next manager to do even better.”
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