Winona Phillabaum was ready for a change. The three-hour round trip commute to and from her job as community library manager at the Malibu Community Library was long, the mudslides in the city were bad and the fires scared her.
So when she was offered the community library manager position at the Los Angeles County Lloyd TaberñMarina del Rey Library in February, she gladly accepted.
“It was a great experience at Malibu,” said Phillabaum, who was there about three years. “I made the changes I wanted to see there. I did what I could do, but it was time for a change.
“We had really bad mudslides. The library was closed once for two weeks [as a result], which is a long time to be closed. We had some very dicey times. The week I left they had a fire less than a mile from the library.”
Now Phillabaum, who lives in Lawndale, is at the Marina Library. And she spends about an hour in her car total each day getting to and from work instead of three.
Of the one-story, 7,443-square-foot Marina Library, which faces the Marina del Rey harbor, she says, “I came in here and fell in love. Most libraries donít have that history, but this one does.”
Phillabaum, who has been a librarian for ten years, was nervous when she started in mid-February.
“I was the new kid in the library,” she said, pointing out that some members of the staff have many years of experience. “Ten years in the library business is nothing to someone with 20 or 30 years experience.”
Phillabaum replaced Susan Baier, who took a position in Torrance as Youth Services Librarian.
One thing thatís new for Phillabaum is coming to a library thatís already “pretty much complete” and doesnít need major changes or reorganization, she said.
“Itís a really excellent library,” she said. “Iíd just add a little more color to it, thatís about it. We have a lot of programs, a film club, a book club. Itís really neat to see so much energy.”
Phillabaum received her bachelorís degree in English from Eastern New Mexico University and her Masterís of Library and Information Sciences from the University of Tennessee.
From Tennessee, she came straight to California for her first job as a librarian, in El Monte.
She had been to California only once before, to visit Disneyland, “but it seemed like a fun place,” she said.
Phillabaum recalls her days at Manzano High School in Albuquerque, where she took honors classes.
“I was horribly studious, quiet, shy,” she said, but working as a librarian has made her come out of her shell.
“You canít be shy when your job is to help people find things and do things,” she said. “All that stuff makes you confident.”
In high school, Phillabaum realized she wanted to be a librarian and started volunteering at the local library with summer reading programs.
“I wanted to share the love of books with kids,” she said. “I wanted to connect books to children, like Charlotteís Web. Everyone should read these books. I didnít think I could be a good teacher, but I could be an excellent librarian.”
In her days as librarian, Phillabaum has had plenty of interesting experiences, but a particular one that comes to mind is an outrageous library fee — over $700 — that a woman had accumulated when she worked in Malibu.
“She just wrote the check like it was nothing,” Phillabaum said of the woman who owed the fee.
The woman had been in Europe for half a year and had lost some of the books she checked out from the library and returned others very late, Phillabaum said.
“We sat around in the back saying, ëDid you see this check?í” she said.
In the first two months she has been at the Marina library, Phillabaum has been welcomed by the Marina community and staff, which she calls “very friendly, very appreciative and very welcoming.”
“I really like Winona,” said Cindy Wilson, childrenís librarian at the Marina Library. “Sheís a good leader. She steps up to the plate. Whenever we need something, sheís there.”
Virginia Harms, president of Friends of the Library, says the same.
“The Friends are so very pleased to welcome Winona to our library,” Harms said. “It is so nice to have the input of the community and they are so happy to have Winona as our new library manager. Itís nice to have someone with the experience that Winona has.”