As the downtown public library anticipates the official opening of its new children’s section in a week or so, Irene Macias, director of Santa Barbara’s library system for nine years, announced she will be retiring October 2. She’s leaving after working with nonprofits in a capital campaign to raise the funds to renovate the Children’s Library, which now has the lower level of the library building to itself, with cushioned nooks and comfortable areas in which to sprawl and read or study. Her 34-year career has also spanned the advent of new technology that has changed the way the public reads.
Macias came to Santa Barbara after seven years as the reference manager for Riverside’s libraries, and stints at city of Ontario, Riverside Community College, and CalPoly libraries. Under her leadership, the Santa Barbara libraries — which extend from Los Olivos to Carpinteria — have developed their digital book and magazine collections and improved their computer offerings for the public.
Macias and a group of librarians launched Santa Barbara Reads in 2002, engaging the community in conversations about such titles as The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot and Elizabeth Kolbert’s Field Notes from a Catastrophe. The program expanded to a youth edition with Island of the Blue Dolphin in 2007, and this year’s title, Orange Is the New Black, has been distributed to thousands of high school and college students, as have the past years’ titles.
“While I’ve worked in academic and special libraries, my passion has always been the public library,” Macias said. “I’m honored to have worked with many talented staff members throughout the organization and creative and resourceful individuals in the Santa Barbara community.”
Though Macias may be retiring, she’s not slowing down. Her immediate future is full of plans for photography, traveling, gardening, and, of course, reading books, she says.
The city is in the process of finding a new director for the library system.