By JOHN T. WARD
Elizabeth McDermott, who guided the Red Bank Public Library through perhaps the most turbulent chapter of its 81-year history, will retire at the end of June.
An ex-software industry consultant who changed careers well into adulthood, McDermott announced her retirement in the spring issue of the library’s newsletter, out this week.
“I guess I did what I needed to do,” McDermott told redbankgreen. “The library’s pretty successful.”
A former globetrotting employee of software giant Oracle, McDermott was pursuing a Masters in Library Science when she landed a part-time job at the borough library in 2008.
She became library director in 2014, and helped steered the institution past a period of tumult that included layoffs and a mass resignation by nearly all of the library’s trustees.
Throughout, McDermott projected an air of calm, developing a strategic plan to attract private-sector funding beyond the statutory amount provided by borough taxpayers and reorienting the facility for coming years.
The library emerged from the crisis with a much smaller staff and curtailed operating hours, both of which have been bolstered under McDermott’s tenure.
“The building didn’t fall down,” McDermott told redbankgreen in early 2015, alluding to earlier predictions of fiscal doom. “In fact, we’re growing.”
At the same time, she elevated the library’s commitment to preserving local history, in formats ranging from recorded interviews with elderly residents to digitized high school yearbooks.
In the Internet era, “providing a place of learning, of stimulation, of comfort and culture requires quite a juggling act,” she wrote in the newsletter.
McDermott got a standing ovation at Wednesday’s council meeting.
“You stepped up to the plate when things were really sketchy,” Council President Ed Zipprich said to McDermott from the dais. “We wouldn’t be where we are today without your leadership.”
McDermott said she has “some big European travel plans” and expects to volunteer at the library beginning in about six months. Her successor will be selected by the trustees.