Because Jean Markert has always enjoyed reading and books, the next chapter in her career could not have been better scripted.
Markert, previously an instructor at Skagit Valley College and manager of the Northwest Workforce Council, has been named the new director of the La Conner-Swinomish Library set to open on Morris Street in mid-October.
The La Conner resident had served for just over a month as interim library director. That interim label is now lifted from Markert’s job title, library board member Jim Airy confirmed last Thursday.
Markert had served seven years on the library panel prior to the summer appointment.
The Burlington native succeeded Jared Fair, whose 30-month tenure at the library ended abruptly in August.
Markert brings to the position an extensive background in education and an affinity for literature with tastes running to historical fiction.
At present, however, her focus is on the future.
“The staff and I want to make the new library a hub for the community,” Markert told the Weekly News. “We want it to be a place where everyone is welcome.
“Everybody can be part of the library,” she added, “because we want it to be a vibrant place where people of all ages and backgrounds can come and learn. We’re going to work hard at making that happen.”
Markert and the staff have crafted a specific playbook to achieve that goal. They plan to use the library’s human and material resources to encourage lifelong learning, cultural literacy, innovation and community engagement.
“We have a small staff with big ideas,” Markert said of library employees Char Langendorfer, Katryna Barber and Mat Wend.
The ongoing mission, said Markert, will be for the library team to achieve its vision by creating a safe, supportive and welcoming venue.
Markert said the library will value diversity, equity and inclusion. As an institution devoted to learning and literacy, the library will likewise promote intellectual freedom, individuality, the natural environment and dedication to a spirit of service.
If anyone has the stamina to see such an ambitious approach bear fruit, it is Markert, whose patience is borne out through her devotion to gardening and who regularly tests her endurance with distance running.
She has a half-marathon on her resume to go along with shorter road races, including the Smelt Run in La Conner.
“It was pretty cold, nasty weather,” she recalls of the race day.
The library, on the other hand, will offer patrons a warm and cozy haven, assures Markert.
A graduate of Western Washington University with a degree in elementary education, Markert is especially excited for the children’s area in the new library, a space to be anchored by a replica tugboat highlighting the impact of Dunlap Towing and the maritime industry on La Conner’s development.
Markert’s and husband Kevin’s son and daughter, now adults and both La Conner High grads, spent much of their youth engaged in the local library’s summer children’s programs.
“Our kids,” Markert reflected, “were always involved.”
It was, after all, in their DNA.
“I’ve always been interested in libraries,” Markert noted. As a college student she worked in the WWU research library.
Her desire is that others will share her love of libraries in general and the La Conner-Swinomish Library in particular.
“We want this to be everybody’s place,” she stressed. “We want everyone to feel at home here.”