Toledo’s Library Leader

. February 28, 2019.
Interview with Clyde Scoles

The following interview was conducted with Clyde Scoles on February 11, 2019, a few weeks after he announced his intention to retire, on June 30, from his position as Toledo Lucas County Public Library Director. This profile captures Scoles’ thoughts as he prepared to move on to retirement.

On February 15, four days after this interview, Mr. Scoles died at age 69.

Presented here is a look at a man who was genuinely proud of his work and excited for all he hoped to do with his future.

Clyde Scoles served as the Toledo-Lucas County Public Library’s director since 1985, overseeing the growth of the area’s libraries through years of expansion, renovation, changing information technologies and the eternal struggle for better funding. At age 69, Scoles announced his planned retirement from the post on January 24.

Over 50 years of library work

“I think it’s time… (with) over 50 years of library work— I started when I was about 16 years of age… I didn’t have any real objective of continuing library work. I was going to go in a different direction, actually into law. But a series of circumstances came about, and when I graduated from college… the opportunity arose for me to consider library work. So I’ve been in it now for 50-some years, and I think that it’s time to do some other things, and begin a new normal, so to speak.”

Scoles dedicated the whole of his adult life to working in Ohio libraries, with decades of service predating even his lengthy term as Lucas County director.

“Before that I was director of the Muskingum County, in Zanesville, Ohio, Library System for about four and a half years. And before that, I was at the Columbus Metropolitan Library in various roles there. I’ve remained in Ohio. I’ve had opportunities to leave, but Ohio is the cradle of libraries in many ways, and (I) decided to stay in the Ohio library community.

Over the course of his term as director in Toledo, Scoles has overseen a wide variety of projects including the opening of new branches (new Mott Branch Library, opening in June) and the renovation and revitalization of existing ones (Main Library, expected to reopen this fall). But Scoles said seeing the library embrace new technologies has made him proud, as well.

“Certainly, with all the things that libraries are about, in terms of literacy, and education and recreation, and certainly, with our one foot in a 500-year-old publishing industry and another foot in technology, and all the things that technology has been able to give us and provide to us, in terms of access to other libraries— not only in this country, but also around the world,” he said, explaining what he still found exciting about the field.

Embracing new technology

“For years, you had to have a special pass from a senator or a congressman to be able to actually use the Library of Congress. Now we can provide that window right into that library, and along with the presidential libraries and the archives, I think it’s provided a whole new vista for what we would call ‘access’ to library information, or to information in general.

Scoles was not expected to have a role in choosing his successor— that process is being handled by the Library Board of Trustees— but acknowledged that whoever follows in his footsteps will face plenty of challenges as they work to maintain the level of excellence area patrons have come to expect under Scoles’ leadership.

“I think, certainly, funding will be one (challenge). Funding is always a key. Certainly I think staffing will be another challenge. And I would say also maintaining the facilities, the physical facilities, that Lucas County taxpayers have put their dollars in over many, many years, obviously those will want to be kept upgraded. These libraries are used heavily, and the wear and tear that happens on a daily basis, obviously over time requires immediate attention. And so that will be another challenge.”

Plans Unfulfilled

As for the man himself, Scoles said he was looking forward to the freedom that choosing a new path for his life will provide. “For the next several months, it will be just looking over what the possibilities are. I have been offered to teach or to consult, and I don’t think I want to do either of those anymore,” Scoles said with a laugh. “I did teach at the University of Michigan and I taught at Kent State, and I just think I’m not going to do that, at least not right now.

“Obviously, there are things I want to do… I have grandchildren now, and they’re spread out all over the place. So, there’ll be time to reconsider. But I think certainly for the next six months it’ll be a time of just recalibrating, so to speak.”

Q & A Session

I have always wanted to… Well, certainly, travel more. My wife has traveled more than I have. And so, that would be one thing I’d like to do more of. I’m not saying I’m going to be a vagabond, or anything like that, but certainly I’d like to do a little more traveling.

What do you admire in people? Honesty, integrity and courage.

What is your pet peeve? People who say one thing and do another.

What is something that most people don’t know about you? I bodybuild.

What are the words you live by? I try to be true, I try to provide the very best. As a librarian, obviously, to provide accurate and true and honest information, with a source in many cases, particularly if it’s a question that I may not know anything about.

What advice would you give to the younger you? Be patient. Don’t get heady. And listen.

Who do you admire most? My wife.

What inspires you? I think, certainly, the staff here, who I have worked with for many years, and many who have since retired before me. They’ve inspired me, in so many different ways. I can’t say enough about our staff here at the library. They are the keys to our services and all the things that we do. It’s the staff that really inspire me, and all the work that they do, which is passionate and honest and true.

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