Spring Valley Public Library director Dianne Sikkink is retiring today (Wednesday) after eight years of service to the library.  GRETCHEN MENSINK LOVEJOY/SPRING VALLEY TRIBUNE
Spring Valley Public Library director Dianne Sikkink is retiring today (Wednesday) after eight years of service to the library.  GRETCHEN MENSINK LOVEJOY/SPRING VALLEY TRIBUNE

Now that she knows where the book drop goes, it's time.

"It's time. So many people have always said that 'You'll know when it's time to retire,' and they were right," said Spring Valley Public Library director Dianne Sikkink, whose time as "Mrs. Rafferty" comes to a close on Wednesday, April 30, after eight years of service.

She recalled being a little girl small enough not to understand where books go when they're deposited in the book drop, but big enough to understand that going to the library is a wonderful privilege, and never imagined that she would someday be the person showing other children how borrowed books get from the drop to the shelves again.

"I remember being a little girl and going to the library when Mrs. Rafferty was here," she said. "I was about 6...the library has always been a part of my life. When I was little, I always wondered where the books went when I put them in the drop, like down into the basement or someplace like that."

The lifetime Spring Valley resident was gone from her hometown only three years - to attend college - then returned, volunteering at the elementary school after her son, Tim, began kindergarten. She started out as a volunteer and officially started working at the school library in 1988, first at the elementary and then the high school, under Judy Rose and Cindy Alford, whom she called great teachers.

Sikkink remained at the high school until 2006, when administrators and friends on staff encouraged her to apply for the public library director's position, which she wasn't sure she could take on without a college degree in library science.

"The board members didn't think I needed a degree," she remembered, "because one of them said, 'Eighteen years in a library is nothing to sneeze at.' I didn't know a lot of things when I started here, but I had a lot of help from the board and the staff...I learned that it's OK to ask questions."

That's a good thing, because at the library, there are a lot of questions asked and answered each and every day, from where to find the most recent copy of a novel to how to find a wastewater treatment plant in a town six zip codes away, as well as who's related to whom and how, and exactly why the sky is blue.

"The biggest change is watching technology change," Sikkink remarked, "not just here at the library, but in my 26 years of library experience, the World-Wide Web is 25 years old...the first year I worked at the school, there was no 'www-dot,' and change is inevitable. Libraries are going to be changing, they'll be different...there will be new tools, but libraries will always have good books, too."

"Good books," either print or downloadable, are what still draw people young and old to the library, and people are what Sikkink has enjoyed about being in charge of the local library, a place "where you can tell people cared enough to dig into their piggy banks for $1.2 million...you can tell by the gold letters over the door.

"It's the people. I love people. This is a great place. It's a window to the area - when new people come to town, or young people, schoolchildren, right from the very young to the senior citizens," she said. "It's the excitement of watching the little ones coming into the library, getting all into place for the summer reading program, and their eyes lighting up as they pick up books to take home...so many things you can't put into words that warm your heart. You get close to your patrons, you watch the kids grow and the generations bring their own kids into the library. Being a part of their lives has been an honor."

She's made the way for a new library director to take over as soon as the library board determines just who that might be, and has set up the summer reading program, leaving room for the new director to make changes if necessary.

"I feel like the library is in good shape. It's hard to leave and hard for the staff, but I really feel in my heart that it's in good shape," she explained. "I've been busy, busy, busy, but I feel that the transition has been good, and the library will continue to be here to serve the community like it has been since 1904. I'll miss seeing people in the library, miss the little discussions over the library counter, and I'll miss the staff...they've done a really good job."

She assured her patrons that she and her "unbelievably supportive best friend and husband," Lance, will be found volunteering around Spring Valley, though she has to find him some new slippers for retirement since she borrowed his for the "Hot Reads for Cold Winter Nights" adult reading program the first year she was library director.

"I'm just going to slow down and enjoy life, sit in the back yard, volunteer maybe for Meals on Wheels, be with my grandkids, spend more time with my best friend, Lance, take time to smell the roses, appreciate what's around me," she mused.

That might even mean using the mysterious library book drop - from the outside once aga