STRATHAM — Well-wishers at a farewell meeting on Friday for Wiggin Memorial Library director Lesley Kimball tapped into a deep vocabulary to talk about how much they appreciate her and how much she will be missed.
On a sunny day, in the shade of a tent, friends, officials and colleagues lined up to sign their “Goodbye” and “Good luck” on a white billboard.
“I feel overwhelmed,” Kimball said. “It’s been such an incredible few weeks. I got a lot of support. A lot of people have told me about (great) experiences in the library that I didn’t even know – it was just so enriching.”
After 23 years as director of the Wiggin Memorial Library, Kimball will step down as associate director of public relations at Chelmsford Public Library in Massachusetts, where she will focus on larger community projects.
You can be proud of that
Kimball’s introduction to the information services industry began “completely by accident”. During her college years, she was presented with two very different options.
“[My mom]said I should get a law degree, and I said, ‘I’m not going to law school, no way,'” she recalled. “Then she said, ‘Well, what about working in a library?'”
Her curiosity led her to her first job at Pelham Public Library.
“I got to follow all the different departments and really fell in love with them,” she said.
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From there, Kimball rose from a children’s librarian to a youth librarian and reference librarian before joining Wiggin in 1999 as a director.
Over the past two decades, Kimball has played an important role in making the library what it is today, including an expansion and renovation in 2009, a pop-up library, and a voter information resource. She described the latter as her proudest achievement.
“We’re the only organization in the city that’s available for civic events,” she said. “(Voter Information Night) is an event where candidates come and are asked questions and the city discusses everything that is voted on at city meetings.”
Kimball said the one thing she will miss the most is “all the people.”
“I don’t have to classify (what I have with people from the city) as a friendship or a working relationship,” she said. “I just feel like I have these great relationships and real connections (with everyone).”
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She will be missed
Stuffing your shoes will be “without a doubt” a significant task, said Cindy Rivers, one of the library’s staff.
“I don’t know how (the board of trustees) will find anyone better,” she said.
After 14 years in the library, Rivers first transitioned into the information services industry after ending an 18-year career in technology.
“When I came here,[Kimball]was willing to give me a chance to do something I’d never done before,” Rivers said. “(Kimball) is encouraging and so good to our employees.”
Rivers said Kimball brought a lot to the table.
“She’s a great person,” Rivers said. “She’s committed, she loves the community here and she’s been a huge asset, it’s been great to work for her.”
“Bittersweet” was the word collaborator Tricia Ryden used to describe the director’s departure.
“We will miss her terribly,” Ryden said. “But she has laid a good foundation here.”
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For Ryden, their 19-year stint at the library turned a working relationship into a lifelong friendship.
“There is a closeness when you work with someone for so long. We’ve been through so many life changes together,” Ryden said. “I started here as a children’s librarian and Lesley saw something in me and encouraged me to take on more and more responsibility – she really changed my life.”
Because of their energy and enthusiasm, Kimball and Assistant Director Scott Campbell have been dubbed the “dynamic duo” by many.
Campbell said he’s known Kimball for a long time and always wanted to work with her. A year ago he did.
Their departure is not only a loss for the city of Stratham, but also for the Seacoast region, he said.
“She’s so professional,” Campbell said. “She wants to share her knowledge and constantly learn from everyone – she always volunteers on committees.”
Kimball is also a member of the Seacoast Area Libraries Organization as well as the New England Library Association.
Even without a director, the library will be in full swing, Campbell said. He said Kimball helped the library grow and laid the groundwork for future growth.
Board of Trustees Chair Susan Wilbur said Kimball was missing.
“She had come this far when I joined[the Board of Trustees]in 2018,” Wilbur said. “Your leadership has been a great asset to the community and to the creation of this wonderful library, and we are saddened to see you go. … We wish her the best in her new venture!”