by Aila Boyd
After spending the last 33 years as the director of Botetourt County Libraries, Steve Vest has decided to call it quits.
“I feel like I’ve done all that I can do,” Vest said. He added that now is a good time for someone new to come in and breath new life into the library system.
Despite spending his entire adult life employed in libraries, Vest didn’t always want to be a librarian. He loved libraries and was a fervent reader, but just didn’t see how to translate the enjoyment he got out of reading into an actual career.
Originally, he planned to pursue a career in the sciences. While studying at Virginia Tech, he took an aptitude test. It told him that he was cut out to spend all his time surrounded by books, something that hadn’t registered as an option up until that point.
After taking the aptitude test, he started working at the Bedford Library, his hometown library, during summer breaks.
His first job out of college was at the library in Patrick County. He served as the branch librarian, a job that required him to drive the bookmobile one day of the week. He said that he looks back on his time in Patrick County fondly even though the bookmobile broke down on him on more than one occasion.
His next job led him north to Shenandoah College, where he worked in circulation and references.
After that, he accepted his first job as library director with the Galax-Carroll Regional Library. He spent three and a half years there, before accepting his current position.
When he first arrived in Botetourt, the county only had two libraries. At the time, the Fincastle Library was located in the old jail. The only other library was located in Buchanan and was only open on a part-time basis.
Since then, both libraries have changed locations, which has allowed them to offer more programming and materials.
Eventually, libraries in Eagle Rock and Blue Ridge were added.
Vest explained that the format of materials offered by the libraries has changed the most during his tenure.
“Technology has changed a lot in terms of what libraries can do,” he said. “The Internet has revolutionized the way people receive information.”
He said that libraries are “always in a state of evolution.”
Library staff has also changed drastically during his time as director. When he first started, there were only six library employees in total. Now, there are 30.
“There has been a lot of expansion,” he said
When considering who will eventually assume his position, Vest said that the next director will have to decide what direction he or she wants to take the libraries in.
“I’m grateful to have been here for 33 years,” Vest said.
A successor has yet to be named.
He explained that during his time as director, both the Board of Supervisors and the county administration has been very supportive of the mission of the libraries.
“I’m very happy to have met so many people,” he said. “It has been a pleasure to offer people a service they like and to have relationships with them.”
Vest said that he plans to spend more time at home doing things that he otherwise wouldn’t be able to do if he continued on in his current position.
He said that he plans on continuing to read on a regular basis. His favorite book is “The Moviegoer” by Walker Percey. He said that he likes it because it “has a lot of philosophy woven into it.”
A retirement open house will be held for Vest on Feb. 27 from 4 to 6:30 p.m. at the Blue Ridge Library.