STRATHAM – Well-wishers at a Friday farewell meeting for Wiggin Memorial Library Director Lesley Kimball tapped into a deep well of words to say 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 bulletin board.
“I feel overwhelmed,” Kimball said. “These weeks have been so amazing. I received a lot of support. Lots of people were telling me about (great) experiences they had in the library that I didn’t even know about – it was so rewarding.
After 23 years at the helm of the Wiggin Memorial Library, Kimball will leave to become assistant director of outreach at the Chelmsford Public Library in Massachusetts, where she will focus on larger community projects.
What to be proud of
Kimball’s entry into the information services industry began “completely by chance”. During his undergraduate years, he 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, it’s not possible,'” she recalled. “Then she said, ‘Well, what about working in a library?'”
Her curiosity led her to her first job at the Pelham Public Library.
“I followed all the different departments and completely fell in love with it,” she said.
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From there, Kimball rose through the ranks of children’s librarian to teen librarian and reference librarian before coming to Wiggin as director in 1999.
Over the past two decades, Kimball has played a major role in transforming the library into what it is today, which includes an expansion and renovation in 2009, the creation of a pop-up library and a source information for voters. She described the latter as her proudest achievement.
“We are the only organization in town that is available to organize civic events,” she said. “(Vote Information Night) is an event where candidates come to be asked questions, and the city goes over everything voted on at town hall meetings.”
Kimball said the one thing she will miss the most is “everyone.”
“I don’t have to classify (what I have with people in the city) as a friendship or a working relationship,” she said. “I just feel like I have these great relationships and real connections (with all of them).”
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She will be missed
Filling her shoes will be a big task “without a doubt,” said Cindy Rivers, one of the library workers.
“I don’t know how (the board) is going to find someone better,” she said.
With 14 years at the library, Rivers first transferred into the information services industry after leaving an 18-year career in technology.
“When I came here, (Kimball) was ready to give me a chance to do something I’ve never done before,” Rivers said. “(Kimball) is encouraging and so good to our staff.”
Rivers said Kimball brought a lot to the table.
“He’s a great person,” Rivers said. “She’s engaging, she loves the community here and she’s been a huge asset, working for her has been great.”
“Bittersweet”, was the word used by Tricia Ryden to speak of the director’s departure.
“She will be missed terribly,” Ryden said. “But she laid a good foundation here.”
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For Ryden, his 19 years working at the library have turned a working relationship into a friendship.
“There’s a closeness that comes with working with someone for so long. We have been through so many changes in our lives together,” Ryden said. “I started here as a shelf and Lesley saw something in me and encouraged me to take on more and more responsibility – she really changed my life.”
For their energy and enthusiasm, Kimball and assistant director Scott Campbell have been dubbed by many the “dynamic duo.”
Campbell said he has known Kimball for a long time and always wanted to work with her. A year ago he did.
His departure will be a loss not only to the town of Stratham, but also to 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 for the committees.”
Kimball is also part of the Seacoast Area Libraries organization as well as the New England Library Association.
Even without a director, the library will still operate at full capacity, Campbell said. He said Kimball helped the library grow and laid the foundation for future growth.
Board Chair Susan Wilbur said Kimball will be missed.
“She had already come this far when I joined (the board in 2018),” Wilbur said. “Her leadership has been a great asset to the community and to the creation of this wonderful library, and we are sad to see her go. … We wish him the best in his new adventure!”