Signal Hill librarian retires after three decades of service

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Signal Hill City Manager Ken Farfsing with retiring librarian Carole Molloy

Photos by Neena Strichart

BY NICK DIAMANTIDES
Staff Writer

After nearly 30 years at the helm of the Signal Hill Library, Carole Molloy is retiring. On Wednesday, June 24, the City of Signal Hill hosted a luncheon to honor the librarian who helped bring 21st Century information technology to the facility. About 60 people attended the event at the Signal Hill Community Center.
During the luncheon, City Manager Ken Farfsing presented Molloy with an official city proclamation that honored her for championing many changes in the library and keeping pace with technology. The proclamation also noted that, under Molloy’s leadership, the library went from 16,000 to a 28.000-book collection.
Later, City Councilman Mike Noll thanked Molloy for her many years of hard work and devotion to the library. “You’ve done a great job,” he said.
Molloy received a master’s degree in Library Science from California State University at Fullerton in 1976. She worked in two different libraries until being hired as Signal Hill librarian in October 1979. About 10 months prior, the library had moved from its location in the lower floor of Signal Hill City Hall to its present site (the renovated former Signal Hill Fire Station).
“The librarian before me had just catalogued everything, so I had thousands of catalogued cards to put away,” Molloy said. “I was the only full-time person in the library when I started.” She explained that the only other library employee was a library aide who worked only on evenings and Saturdays.
During Molloy’s first year, approximately 9,000 books and other items were checked out and returned to the library. In 2008, the number of circulated items was 87,900.
In Molloy’s second year, the city hired a full-time library assistant. “Over the years, we hired more library aides and today we have seven aides, a full-time library assistant and a library specialist,” she said.
When Molloy first began overseeing the operations of the library, it was not much different than a library of the 1940s. “We did not even have microfiche,” she said. “We had a lot of old Signal Hill newspapers that we did put on microfiche and eventually we digitized all the old newspapers back to the 1920s.” Now has digitized copies of local newspapers from the 1920s up to 2003. “We have them on compact discs so all people have to do is ask for the years they want to view,” she said.
Desktop computers had not come into widespread use by 1979 and the library had none. “I did everything by typewriter,” she said, noting that things at the library stayed pretty much the same until 1992. “That year we automated the circulation and got rid of the catalogue cards,” she said. “Now it’s all on our online public access catalogue (OPAC),” she said. “We have two OPAC computers here in the library, and people can also go online from their own computers and look up all of our holdings and reserve materials on the city’s website.” Molloy noted that the library does not just serve Signal Hill residents. Anyone with a valid identification is entitled to apply for a Signal Hill Library card.
Molloy added that the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation gave the library a $25,000 grant in 1999, which enabled the library to acquire six computers and all the necessary software. “Those computers are now here for public use and they are in use constantly,” she said. She added that several years ago the Gates Foundation updated the programs in the computers.
Nowadays, the library has VHS tapes, DVDs and music CDs. “We don’t charge for the educational DVDs but we will soon start charging a dollar a title for the entertainment DVDs,” Molloy said.
During Molloy’s tenure, the library also added a periodical database enabling patrons to look up magazines and newspapers back to the 1980s. “We have a medical database, too, “ she said.
Molloy said that over the years her greatest sense of satisfaction came from working with people. “I have really enjoyed talking about books and recommending books,” she said. “Working with children has also been very important to me.” She explained that the library offers reading programs, storytelling and entertainment events for children.
While the library has greatly increased its collection of materials and vastly improved its services to the public in the past 30 years, Molloy said the time has come for the city to build a new library. “We definitely need a larger facility,” she said. “The city’s population has just about doubled and more people than ever are using the library. We need a separate children’s room and a lot more space for the adults.”
The current facility is one big room that encompasses about 4,200 square feet. Molloy said the library needs about three times that much space.
During the luncheon, city officials and staff gave Molloy some going-away gifts. They included a scrapbook with pictures taken during her three decades as librarian, a tree of gift cards, and monetary gifts.

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Molloy lives in Laverne with her recently retired husband Warren. With all the free time they now have, they plan on traveling a lot. “One thing we want to do is visit our son who is in the Navy, stationed in Japan,” she said. “We also plan on just driving to different places here in the United States. We also plan on taking trips with the grandkids. (The couple has a daughter who lives in Redlands with her husband and children.)
“It’s time to retire, but it’s kind of emotional for me,” Molloy said. “Signal Hill is really a great city. I have enjoyed working here very much, and I am going to miss all the wonderful people.”
Molloy’s last day is Friday, June 26. Chan Harris, who has worked as library assistant since September 2006, will eventually replace Molloy. Harris will take on increasing responsibilities during the next six months and will likely be appointed new librarian in January.
“I feel comfortable leaving the library in Chan’s capable hands,” Molloy said. “I don’t think it will really hit me that I have retired until I go home Friday. I know I will come back for visits often.”

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