I met Josie Barnes Parker soon after she became director of the youth department at the Ann Arbor District Library in 1999.
She was friendly, charming, knew children, and was a perfect fit for the job.
Two years later she became director of AADL. With her strong leadership and excellent staff, we were soon on our way
to a great renaissance of the library. Before she retired in February, Parker had replaced or expanded all four
of the library’s branches and added programming that has made them community gathering places.
I watched it happen as a member of the Ladies’ Library Association. I created this “scrapbook” to recall some high points from her tenure.
In addition to southern charm, she was steely and had mettle—as a thief who’d stolen from a bookstore learned.
At work, she made herself accessible to all comers, in person, by phone, and most recently via Zoom.
Pandemic Zoom meeting of the Ladies’ Library Association. Since 1866, the LLA has funded purchases related to the visual arts,
such as books, artwork, the print collection, and most recently, the huge “lobbitron” screen in the downtown library.
Storyteller La’Ron Williams on the lobbitron. With moveable shelves and the big screen, the library now hosts
major public events. This one was Parker’s good-bye party.
Parker replaced all four branch libraries. Here she’s breaking ground for Malletts Creek branch, one of five.
I admit I became complacent about being named a Library Journal Five-Star Library after fourteen years in a row!
It wasn’t until it became time to say good-bye that I realized what a special honor it was.
When the downtown branch was renovated and the sidewalk was blocked, Parker was out front, cane in hand,
exhorting all library patrons who might be tempted to jaywalk to cross at the light I laughed, but I crossed at the light.
The Traverwood branch was built in an area where ash trees had been decimated by the emerald ash borer.
Draft horses hauled off the logs, which were repurposed as architectural and design elements.
When it was time to move to the new Traverwood building, Parker enlisted families in a “Library Caravan”
to help move the children’s books from the old branch in Plymouth Mall.
She has left us with more paths forward for what promises to be an ongoing caravan.