Carol Tefft died last year. There was only a small notice (Town Crier, Nov. 6), because she had moved from Los Altos to live near her children a few years after her retirement as head librarian at the Los Altos Library. We have had several head librarians since, all professional and very competent, but none like Carol. She formed and guided our library during most of its existence. For those who knew and worked with her, Carol was the face of the library.
Carol became head librarian in 1962, shortly after moving to Los Altos with her family. We didn’t have a dedicated building at that time, though the current one was under construction.
Carol joined the small American Association of University Women group that formed Friends of the Library in the early 1960s. She worked as a Friend to support the library in addition to running it, and she never missed a book sale in 37 years.
In the early years, Friends meetings were held in Carol’s library office, and the Friends reciprocated with assistance whenever needed. When Carol retired as head librarian, she became a regular Friend of the library and sorted books every Thursday.
Carol tapped into the community whenever the library needed something, and the community never failed her. When computers replaced the card catalog, she realized that many cardholders would need assistance learning to use them. She recruited a group of volunteers, taught them how to use the new catalog, then scheduled the 70 volunteers to cover all the library hours. No library had ever called on the community like that before.
Nothing demonstrates Carol’s innovation, library skills and community involvement better than “Carol’s Friday Humor.” She had quickly become the personal computer maven of the community. As we became computer users, we began to receive “Carol’s Friday Humor” via email. Carol collected and organized amusing tidbits sent to her during the week. The consummate librarian cataloged the articles and distributed them Friday evenings via the Internet in what may be one of the first blogs.
An article published in the Town Crier April 21, 1998, the year Carol retired, demonstrated how well she understood the community and stood ready to innovate. Our library was always the first in the system to receive the latest technology. We were the first to have a personal computer available to the public, the first to have a computer checkout machine and, continuing in her spirit, we are scheduled to be the first in the Santa Clara County Library system to have a 3-D printer.
For this reason, we propose that the “Innovation Space” that will house this printer would serve as an appropriate memorial to Carol. Other devices may come and go, but we innovate because of her inspiration. The plaque for this space could read: “Dedicated to Carol Tefft, Los Altos Head Librarian, 1962-1998: Innovator, Inspirational Leader, Beloved Member of the Community.”
Elayne Dauber is a longtime member of Friends of the Library of Los Altos and Community. For more information, visit losaltoslibraryfriends.org.