By Rosemary K. Otzman
Debra Green, Belleville library director for 28 years, submitted her letter of resignation on Feb. 11 to the Belleville Area District Library Board, announcing her decision to retire on May 15.
Board Chairwoman Mary Jane Dawson announced the retirement to the public on behalf of the district library board.
Dawson said Green has been director for 28 years: Initially the director of the Fred C. Fischer Library within the Wayne County Library System and then as the director of the Belleville Area District Library on April 17, 2010 when the library changed from a county to a district library.
Dawson said Green told her when she began working as director of the Fischer Library two of the amenities were a card catalog and a heavy black rotary phone without a “hold” button.
Dawson said during Green’s tenure as library director, the size of the building tripled, the circulation and usage of the library collection and services quadrupled, the library became automated, and the internet was made available to the community. All of the current employees of the library were hired by Green.
“On behalf of the BADL Board, I would like to publicly thank Ms. Green for her outstanding work as the director of the library, as well as commend her for the devotion and commitment she has unselfishly given to the tri-community for so many years. We wish her the very best as she begins her retirement,” Dawson said.
On Saturday, Green sat down with the Independent to talk about her decision.
A big family trip is coming up with seven family members traveling to Lyon, France for the Race Walking Masters Championship in which some of her family members are competing.
The family did that in Italy and Spain in the past and, “I was working,” she said. “This time, I’m going.”
She said her parents are 83 years old and they are going and the family will rent a home to stay together.
“The library is in good shape,” she said. “I really like the new board members. It will be fine.”
Green will turn 61 in June and she said it’s a good time for her to leave. The library will be in good hands and she will be able to travel, work in her half-acre garden, see more of her grandchildren, and enjoy her parents while she can.
She really enjoyed the three international walking trips she took with her church, Trinity Episcopal, and would like to do something like that again.
“It’s time for someone else,” she said. “I felt like the luckiest person in the world having this job – except for the past five years. Young people need jobs.”
She said after her daughter Claire was born and she was still nursing her, she went to work at the Inkster Library. Eight-week-old Claire changed her eating schedule, refusing the bottle, waiting for her mother, and staying up all night.
Claire got married on Strawberry Festival week end 10 years ago because that was the only time Green was available because the library closed for the festival. Now, Claire and her husband will be celebrating their tenth anniversary and Green will be able to attend without a problem because she’ll be retired by then.
“She’s been dictating my schedule all her life,” Green said of her daughter.
“I worked while my daughter was young and now I’m working while my two grandchildren are young. That’s not right.”
Claire and Marcos Cabrera have two children, Matthew, 7, and Sofia, 4, and “both are smart as can be, and exhausting,” Green said. They live in Traverse City.
Green said it was hard to retire. She’s been thinking about it for a long time, with Marcos claiming she’s been saying she was retiring for each of the past seven years.
As to whether she is retiring because she is disappointed in the voter rejection of the library on the lake project, Green said, “I would have retired if it would have passed, anyway. It would have been fun to leave on that… I want it visible and it would be visible there. No one would have to ask where the library was. Main Street would be nice, but the city doesn’t want to give up that valuable commercial space.
“As employees, we like being able to walk to the Bayou, Andrew’s, and the bank,” she said.
“I spent almost my entire adult life here,” she said.
She said her blood pressure went up during the last few years and now she can relax.
As to her replacement, Green said the board will talk about whether to go out for a search. Deputy Library Director Mary Jo Suchy is interested.
“I’m not in charge of this,” she said.
Green was a prodigious reader in elementary school and worked at the local public library shelving books. She graduated from Schaefer High School in the now-dissolved Heintzen district in the Southgate area. She went to Wayne State University and worked in the catalog department in the university’s library. She earned a bachelor of science in anthropology and graduated with honors. She earned a master’s degree at the University of Michigan in 1978.
Green was children’s librarian at the Inkster library for three years and then children’s librarian and first assistant at the Trenton Library before coming to Belleville in 1987.
By Rosemary K. Otzman