Friends, family and City of Oak Ridge staff filled the auditorium inside Oak Ridge Public Library on Friday, June 15, to celebrate Library Director Kathy McNeilly’s amazing career. After more than 47 years of service to the City, 19 of those years as Library Director, McNeilly is retiring.
Kathy McNeilly received a Master’s degree in Library Science from the University of Tennessee. She was hired by the City of Oak Ridge in 1971 as a reference assistant just a few months after the library’s new location opened its doors in the Civic Center. Since then, she has served as head of the Reference Department, head of Technical Services and Assistant Library Director before taking on her role as director nearly 20 years ago.
In her time with the library, McNeilly has watched services change from print-based to computer and was instrumental in guiding the library through many technological changes. Most recently, she helmed the library’s inclusion of e-books and streaming video. McNeilly is perhaps most proud, however, of the library’s work with COROH (Center for Oak Ridge Oral History). Under her guidance, the library has been able to collect, bind and make available online the oral histories of more than 800 Oak Ridgers whose lives and work helped create the Oak Ridge of today.
McNeilly also witnessed one of the most beautiful cosmetic upgrades at the library beginning in 2003 with the addition of stained glass windows. Individual windows, funded by donations from private citizens, local companies and other groups, now grace transoms above the entrances and replaced the windows in the magazine area. Windows titled “A Lifetime of Reading” circle the clerestory in the center of the library and gorgeously celebrate the value and pleasures of reading.
At the retirement celebration on Friday, McNeilly was gifted cards and mementos, including a piece of pottery by a local artist and a necklace presented by Interim Library Director Julie Forkner. The necklace’s charm, engraved with McNeilly’s years of service, is a tradition among long time library employees, presented to those who have given 25 or more years of service. During the gathering, City Council members Kelly Callison and Jim Dodson also read a proclamation honoring McNeilly that had been presented at their most recent meeting.
Kathy says she and her husband, Greg, plan to stay in Oak Ridge during retirement. They are looking forward to traveling and enjoying more free time together. Kathy also plans to continue her work with the library as a volunteer, particularly with the COROH project.
Please join us in thanking Kathy McNeilly for her many years of service to our wonderful public library and wishing her well in retirement.