Friday In The Library With George

For 23 years he’s been an “amazingly steady, careful, considerate” — and friendly — face at the Westport Library.

Now, George Wagner is retiring.

George Wagner

The assistant director heads south — to Asheville, North Carolina — leaving behind one building, and thousands of library users.  He served both with tremendous devotion.

As staff liaison to building projects, George helped open the “new” library, then saw it through a renovation.

As a technology person he assisted with website designs and  renovation, and a transformation of the catalog.

In many ways, says director Maxine Bleiweis, George helped the staff make the move from a 20th century library, into the 21st.

Always, she notes, he made everyone — colleagues and clients — “feel very, very comfortable.”

Maxine is only 1 of George’s countless fans.  A staff member says that during the annual Book Sale, he does “everything from stringing hundreds of feet of phone wire across Jesup Green for the credit card machines, to making multiple trips to the bank to be sure there is plenty of change available.”

That’s one small part of George’s greatness.  The staffer continues:

He’s always the last one to leave an event liked Booked for the Evening to get the Library back in shape for the next day.  Sometimes he works late into the night, waiting for trucks to come and pick up the rented chairs and tables, or moving the piano back down to the McManus Room.

He fixes telephones, websites, email problems, book drop boxes, invoice issues, vendor problems, and budgets!

And the best thing about George is he doesn’t complain.   He must have a special place where he goes to let off steam, but we never see it.  He is steady at the helm, imparting confidence in the rest of us.

The library is not letting George go without a celebration.  This Friday (Jan. 21, 6-8 p.m.), there’s a reception in the McManus Room.

That’s very fitting.  The event will be the 1st in the renovated space — it’s got new paint, new carpets, and the black-and-white drawings by Westport artists have been re-hung.  The project is the last George supervised at the library.

The renovation was underwritten by the Friends of the Library.  That’s fitting too, Maxine notes:  George oversaw all the Friends’ book sales.

The public is invited to say “goodbye” to George on Friday.

And, of course, a very heartfelt “thanks.”

7 responses to “Friday In The Library With George

  1. George Wagner is one of those rare people of sterling character, of seemingly effortless civility, who combines a personal modesty with a brisk efficiency-in other words, one of those noble people we usually talk about, if we are lucky, as having been in our past, in a simpler world. It will make him blush to realize how many people in this town adore him, me included.
    Our loss is Asheville’s gain, no doubt about it.

  2. Ann Marie Flynn

    Maggie’s comment is so, so true!
    George is our ‘Man For All Seasons” and has been unflappable with all that has come his way.
    On many occasions, while a member of Fairfield County’s International Committee, I would make a panic call to him:
    “George, 7 guests from xxxxcountry just arrived and would enjoy a tour of our library…”.
    George, in his wonderful calming voice, would suggest I bring them over “now”.
    I often wondered how many of his ‘works in progress’ were put on hold so he could accommodate our visitors.
    One guest, after her tour, mentioned that our library was ‘super great’…and, added shyly, “so is George”.
    I echo her words and say….thank you for being our ‘super great’ George all these years. You will be unbelievable missed.

  3. Linda Gramatky Smith

    I love reading the comments about George Wagner. He is all that and more. A great guy and so incredibly talented. Ken and I are looking forward to celebrating him and his long tenure on Friday night at the Library (open to all!). We’ll miss him, but Asheville is so lucky to be getting him. Here’s a big toot for you, George!

  4. Here’s to George Wagner:
    G is for GREAT!
    E is for Energetic
    O is for Omnipresent and Omnitalented
    R is for Ready to help
    G is for Glad
    E is for Elegant

    W is for Watchful and Wise
    A is for an Accommodating, Animated, Agreeable Administrator!
    G is for Generous
    N is for Neat and just plain Nice
    E is for Economical, Efficient, and Enterprising,
    and R is for Resourceful, but alas, now RETIRING (but never to be forgotten)!!!

  5. Best of luck, George! I’m sure your retirement will be full of many great books, travel, food and culture – enjoy every minute! It was a pleasure to work for you.

  6. Well said, indeed. I have to echo all of the comments made so eloquently above. George Wagner is a spectacular person and we have all been so fortunate to know him. It is hard to imagine walking through the library without George around….knowing that he was there always provided a unique comfort and confidence– you just knew that George was taking care of everything, from the smallest details to the big picture basics. He was always conscientious and kind and had the perfect tone in dealing with anyone he came across. There is no question that George has earned this retirement and I wish him all the best in whatever he chooses to pursue!

  7. When we first moved to Westport our small children thought the library was George’s house. Fifteen years later I know they were right. George has always balanced regard for “his” library with respect for everyone who visits his house, regardless of age, interests, or any other characteristic that might be considered important in the world outside, but not within the true democracy of the Westport Public Library.

    Perhaps most surprising to me is that George is an advocate and an agent of change; his optimism seems to be driven by the conviction that tomorrow will present another opportunity to improve the library, and the day after yet another. It is hard to believe that his 23 year mission of daily improvement is actually coming to an end, at least here. I, too, envy the citizens of Asheville.