ROSWELL, Ga. – Lu Conti has spent 37 years as a librarian, 32 of those years as the Roswell Branch Library manager. She has watched two generations of Roswell grow up as they walked through her stacks.
Now Lu – short for Louise, but also her family nickname Lulu – is stepping down for a well-earned retirement.
“I’m looking forward to sleeping late. And I plan to clean my house from top to bottom,” she said with a smile. “Then I’ll take a trip to Ireland in the spring with my sister.”
Conti has seen some changes during her time in Roswell. She remembers her first year here when it was still in the little white building about 100 yards from the current 20,000-square-foot library.
“Then we went to the mall [now Roswell Town Center Mall] for about eight years. So I have been in three libraries here – baby bear, mama bear and poppa bear,” she said.
But that is just part of the growth she has seen in the city since she came here in 1980.
“The city has grown incredibly since I moved here. I can remember seeing cows in pastures not far from where we are now,” she said. “And now we are getting a sister library out where some of those pastures were.”
Conti speaks of the new library promised in the county’s library bond.
“I know those people need it, and I know it will be used,” she said. “So many people who come here say they can’t wait.”
Conti has made many friends in her years among the stacks. She has watched children come to story hour, only to bring their own children to the library now.
“Libraries are an important part of the community. They bring culture, education and they are meeting place where people can gather,” Conti said. “Businesses looking to move to a new community look for strong library systems. They signify a literate community and that means people who will make good employees.”
But libraries, like the rest of the world, must adapt to change. And Conti has seen plenty of that in the Information World. With the Internet and the World Wide Web, libraries have had to keep pace, and Conti says they have.
“We used to have books and microfilm and records. Then came cassettes, videos, DVDs and CDs. We still have the books – including e-books. We will always be at the front of media changes,” she said.
But the need for libraries is still there, Conti said. There will always be students and children who want to learn. The library will always be offering services – job searches, literacy and language classes and people still need a place to gather.
Conti said what she will miss most is her staff and the patrons – the people who come to the library every day.
But she takes plenty of memories with her. At her retirement party, plenty of staff, ex-staff, family and friends came to wish her well.
Margaret Bradford, herself a veteran of 25 years and assistant manager at Roswell, said Conti was a leader and a mentor to all who served there.
“She was a manager and a friend. She made this branch what it is today,” Bradford said.