Jensen retires after 24 years at Berlin Public Library

After 24 years, Berlin Public Librarian Denise Jensen is retiring from her "dream job." (PAUL ROBITAILLE PHOTO)

By Paul Robitaille

Denise Jensen, the Berlin Public Library director, will be retiring at the end of November after 24 years of employment at the Carnegie-donated library. 

Jensen said that when she was a young mother she used to come into the library with her children and would think “how much I would like to work here.”

Jensen was hired as a part-time employee by then Director Yvonne Thomas in February 1995.

Eventually she was hired full-time, and in July 2002 replaced Thomas as the director when Thomas retired.

Much has changed since Jensen began.

“In those days we stamped every book and all the books were listed in the card catalogue. Sometimes it would take three of us to stamp all the books patrons wanted to take out,” she said.

Since then the entire book catalogue of 35,000 volumes has been digitized.

“We can get inter-library books loaned to us all through the computer and it takes an instant, where before we had to send requests through postal mail. Now you can even download books from the state library to your own device at home. However, after two weeks that book will disappear from your device, so you need to finish it within the two-week period,” she said.

Jensen is proud of what the Berlin Carnegie library has to offer, “all the city’s history is here. We have copies of every Berlin newspaper since 1894 on Microfilm. I always hoped to digitize the microfilm, but we just couldn’t afford it, perhaps my successor can find a grant to do that.” Denise said, “We get a lot of requests for genealogy information, before those requests would come in in the form of letters, then phone calls, now it is by email.”

The library still has all the Berlin High yearbooks and most of Notre Dame High School’s, too.

"We send out a lot of faxes for the patrons and help with the computers for those who do not have one at home and have difficulty," she said.

Jensen has noted an increase of travelers who stop by who are using the free wifi.

“There are a lot of local people who don’t know about our children’s department or about the many archeological artifacts on display.” She said that she wished “more people would come in and see all the informational services we have to offer.”

There have been challenges, Denise said that the challenges she faced as the director “brought me out of my shell.” Budgets sometimes have been tight and sometimes she has learned “that there are things you did not know you could do but you did them anyway.”

The book budget when she first started was $25,000 a year, it has been $8,000 for the past five or six years.

The library has had a building assessment done recently, and Jensen hopes that will give the trustees the ability to apply for grants to do the repairs the building needs.

“I have had great staff people all these years, people come to work here not because they need a job but because the want to be here.” 

Jensen is appreciative of all the support she has received from the city council and the board of trustees over the years.

“It takes a lot of people to run a library,” she said.

Jensen said that she is planning on spending more time with her family, caring for her mother and with her three children.

One in Alaska is having her fifth child. She has another daughter in Massachusetts with two children and her other daughter is in Maine.

“Not everyone gets to work at their dream job," she said. "This has been mine and I still can’t believe I got to do this.”

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