An exit interview with Nick Schenkel, after four decades as WL library director
After 41 years, Schenkel will retire next week. Here, he talks about how libraries wound up thriving in an internet era, the recent push to relegate youth reads to adult shelves and what’s next
Today’s edition is sponsored by Duke Energy, supporting the Wabash River Enhancement Corp.’s invasive plant swap program, going on through July 1. Click the link below for more information.
EXIT INTERVIEW: WEST LAFAYETTE LIBRARY DIRECTOR NICK SCHENKEL
Working his way through the stacks, away from his cluttered office playing a background of that morning’s WBAA classical programming, Nick Schenkel finds the spot, next to the New Arrivals: Non-Fiction shelves, close to the West Lafayette Public Library windows looking out on North Chauncey Avenue.
Schenkel had stood in roughly the same spot 41 years and two major library renovations earlier, posing in a green tweed jacket for a photo to accompany a J&C article introducing him as recently appointed library director. In the story, Schenkel, then 28 and stepping in for longtime library director Lucille Washburn, told a reporter he wanted to show that the library “is not just a place to get Sinclair Lewis.” It was for finding out about, say, toilet repair, too, he’d said.
“I still remember taking that picture,” Schenkel said. “I still remember it felt exciting to have the paper there and getting to tell the library’s story. I still remember that jacket. I loved that jacket. I wish I still had that jacket. … It doesn’t seem that long ago, really.”
Next week, Schenkel, 69, will retire as library director, a job he’s had since September 1981. There’s a reception for him Wednesday afternoon, on his last day. This week, on Thursday, the library board is expected to receive presentations from candidates to replace him as the library celebrates its 100th anniversary.
Question: I was looking back to that story in the J&C from 1982, a few months after you were hired. There's a picture of you. You’re standing in the stacks and the headline said, “Librarian won’t be quiet.” Did it work out that way? Were you able to be loud in this job?