Franklin Library director Oaks turning the page after 23 years

Debbie Oaks, who has been at the Franklin Public Library just shy of 30 years, talks outside the library recently. Her last day is today. (By Richard Sayer)

By Marissa Dechant  Staff writer

After 23 years, Debbie Oaks is retiring from her position as director of the Franklin Public Library.

In her time as director, Oaks has created programs for all ages, undergone the transition to online databases and experienced the partnership of Venango County Libraries.

“I am grateful and have been blessed to have this job as long as I’ve had it. It’s been an opportunity to try new things and meet a variety of people,” Oaks said.

Oaks, who is originally from Altoona, received her bachelor’s degree in psychology from Penn State University. She worked numerous jobs as an intake counselor, retail sales associate and resident assistant at a girls boarding school before deciding on her career path.

“I’ve always had a positive experience in libraries,” Oaks said. “I’d always spent time in libraries and loved them, so it was a natural transition to make it my career.”

Oaks returned to school for her master’s in library science at Clarion University and graduated in 1986.

Having moved to Franklin after marrying her husband Dennis Oaks, she began volunteering at the Franklin Public Library after graduation and became the assistant director in 1987. By May 1994, Oaks became the library’s director.

“I was shy when I was younger, and it was a push to get me to accept the director position,” Oaks said. “But it’s been a good thing. I’ve grown with the job. That is one of the rewards I’ve gotten out of it.”

Oaks has organized public programs and developed the collections for both children and adult books. She said her method is customer-driven, and the library has grown out of patrons’ requests, with the addition of programs like book clubs and craft classes.

“What we focus on has changed. We’ve become more of a community center,” Oaks explained.

The addition of public computers throughout the years has aided in this process, she said, by allowing people of all ages and walks of life to access the Internet for both business and leisure.

“With computers, now there are a number of reasons why people come in – from sending their job resumes online to chatting with friends on Facebook,” Oaks said.

Oaks has also been around to see the beginnings of the partnership of the Franklin, Oil City and Cooperstown libraries. The collaboration allows the libraries to share resources and grants library card users access to all three collections.

“I’ve enjoyed working with the public, and I’ve gotten to know the regulars. I’ll miss the people,” Oaks said.

Oaks’ last day is today, and Zoe Oakes will take over as the new director.

The new director, who lives in Oil City, graduated from Gannon University in 2008 with a degree in radiological sciences. She previously volunteered at Cooperstown Public Library.

Oaks plans to take the summer off and said she wants to spend more time with her two granddaughters, ages 2 and 4.

“It’s been a good career, but it’s time to change gears and hand over the reins,” she said.