TOOELE — Peggy Erickson, the Tooele City Library director for the past two years, has been named the Utah Librarian of the Year 2000 by the Utah Library Association.
The honor was announced March 14, and Erickson will be formally honored at an awards dinner on May 3.
"It was a big surprise," Erickson said. "It was an honor just to be nominated."
She grew up in Tooele and has worked for the Tooele library for the past 14 years.
"We've always known she's the best librarian in the state," Tooele City Mayor Charlie Roberts said. "Now everyone knows it."
She led the transition last spring from the city's 90-year-old "Carnegie" library building to a new $2.3 million facility that was four times larger, with twice the staff and room for future expansion.
Roberts said Erickson masterminded an innovative way to move 40,000 books from the old library into the new facility two blocks away last year — a human book chain. She also got the new library staff and facility operating smoothly, even on its first day.
"She's pretty modest," Roberts said. "But her leadership has been critical."
He said that when city officials conducted a statewide search for a new head librarian two years ago, they were pleasantly surprised to find Erickson was the best candidate.
With the new facility, circulation has tripled in the past year, with about 1,000 items checked out each day. The non-fiction department has also increased in size by 70 percent.
Another credit to Erickson is that the city's summer reading program now involves the entire family, and not just kids.
The library's operating hours were also increased in the past year, by 24 more total hours a week. The facility is now open Tuesdays through Fridays from 10:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. and on Saturdays from 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.
She said the support of her staff, the library board and the city are main reasons for her success.
"We're almost the center of the community now," Erickson proudly said of the new library, which has the theme "A new library for a new millennium." The facility is wired for possible future technological advances.
She said if there's one behind-the-scenes fact that may surprise people the most about a library, it has to be all the time and effort it takes to get just one new book on the shelf and keep it there.
"It's a big process and involves a lot of people," she said — ordering, cataloguing and later even cleaning and repairing.
Still, she loves her work and is herself a fan of human interest stories.
"This has been the funnest job I could ever have," she said.