RUMFORD — A routine perusal of The Boston Globe resulted in a nearly 30-year relationship with the Rumford Public Library for library Director Karl Aromaa.
At the end of the month, Aromaa will retire from the position he has held for almost three decades.
At age 62, he believes it is time to begin the next chapter of his life.
“We're in the same home we bought when we moved here, and there was never any question about staying,” he said.
His wife, Rita, retired from her teaching position with Western Foothills Regional School Unit 10 at the end of the school year.
The couple also owns a camp on Howard Pond in Hanover.
When Aromaa accepted the library directorship position in 1982, he had a manual typewriter to work on in his office located right across from the circulation desk. He's still in the same office, but he now has computer to work on.
Libraries have been filling a new role thanks to technological changes. He has seen reading patterns change, from voracious readers who were always interested in the latest fiction, to more emphasis on using the library's computers, fax machines and copiers.
The major task of library employees used to be checking out books. The library was pretty much self-contained, he said.
Now, employees must be computer savvy so they can help patrons, and virtually any book can be borrowed through a state-wide network.
The community room had been used occasionally in the past, but now, the light, airy room that overlooks the river is booked more than 200 times a year by groups, clubs, performances, workshops and for other events.
“We realize that it's important to offer the public a gathering place,” he said. “We're more of a community center now, and we'll see more expansion in the future.”
One new outreach program has a hook-up two days a week for people to contact a Social Security representative.
The community room and other services are ways to get people into the library, just as the computers are.
He said many young people spend hours in the library communicating with their friends electronically.
Of all the responsibilities and tasks a library director experiences, Aromaa said he will miss the young people the most.
As a young man, growing up in Massachusetts, his intention was to become an English teacher.
“Becoming a librarian was purely by accident,” he said.
While he was looking for a teaching job, he needed to work. He walked into the Sudbury, Mass., library that was in need of a part-time employee and discovered that he liked working in a library and helping people. He worked at that library for eight years, eventually working his way up to reference librarian while studying for a master's degree in library science. From there, he became library director at the Hudson (Mass.) Public Library.
He and his family had visited Maine many times, including traveling through Rumford, so when he saw an ad in The Boston Globe for a librarian, he jumped at it.
On Friday, July 30, a reception for Aromaa will be held at the library.
After that, he's not sure what the future will be. He hopes to spend more time with his antique power tool collection and perhaps create furniture with them. He may even find a club with a similar interest.
He hopes to read more books — with his job, he has not had the time he wanted to do that. And at the top of his list are books written during the 1930s.
“There's been an unbelievable transformation of the library. When I arrived, the only electric device was a stapler. Once computers arrived, a flood gate opened,” he said.
And more will be coming, he said. The next step will be electronic books.
For now, though, 40,000 books and more than 100 periodicals circulate in the area from the 1903 Carnegie Library.