Westbank Libraries: Remembering Flo Macklin
Whether or not you have met Flo Macklin, if you are a patron of Westbank Libraries, your life has been touched by hers. Flo died on September 5. While we could fill an entire book with memories of Flo – her great personality, the lives she touched and the ways she made our library and community a better place – this column is a small tribute to her. . and the invaluable work she has done.
Soon after I met Flo – around 1994, about 10 years after she helped start the library – I told my sister that I wanted to be like Flo when I grew up. She impressed me as someone who channeled her energy into getting things done. She expected no less from those around her, but she softened that expectation with her sense of humor.
Lyle Thormann, who volunteered at the library for six years before serving on its board of trustees for 16 years, remembered Flo as one of a kind.
“She had a mean spirit and a way of her that would never make you want to disappoint her.” When I first started volunteering at Westbank, I have to admit that she scared me a little, until I realized she had a heart as big as Texas.
Ruth Chiego, now director of the Grapevine Public Library, worked with Flo at Westbank in the 1990s and early 2000s. She spoke of Flo’s irreverent candor.
“One of the main strengths of his job at the Westbank referral office was his progress with a question about what to read next. While she often tried my recommendations, my favorite part was when she hated one of them. She smiled wryly and told me exactly what she thought. I adored him. No hidden agenda ever, shamelessly honest and hilarious.
Beth Fox, the former head of the library, remembered how much loved Flo was.
“She had dozens and dozens of friends. Imagine being such a special person that people’s faces light up when you say their name. And almost everyone will laugh and tell you a story of Flo.
As the library’s first volunteer coordinator, Flo recruited people to serve as the workforce that got things done in the beginning. When the library had no stable source of funding and relied almost entirely on community volunteers, its goal was to find people it could rely on.
It was a balancing act. On the one hand, the library needed reliable workers. On the other hand, she wanted people to know that they didn’t need special skills to help.
Fox recalled the test that Flo did on the new volunteers.
“Can you see this book? Good. Can you bend down and pick it up from the ground? You are engaged.”
If volunteers became stressed about their jobs, she would put it in perspective for them with her oft-cited classic, “This is not the neonatal unit.”
At the same time, she struggled to enlist dedicated library volunteers – and luckily, her dedication was contagious. In turn, the volunteers respected and admired her.
Fox recalled a volunteer who called once a long distance from Alaska, apologizing for forgetting to have a submarine while he was away. Another time, a volunteer called from the emergency room to say he had been in a car accident and couldn’t volunteer that day.
“Sure,” Fox remembers, “they also said,“ Please don’t tell Flo. “”
Flo held to the same standard. When she was admitted to the hospital herself this month, she was sure to text the library to renew her library book.
Thormann summed it up for all of us. “The Westbank community owes a debt of gratitude for all that Flo has given us through her volunteerism. She will be sadly missed by all who knew her.
Maureen Turner Carey is the Civil Service and Public Relations Librarian at the Westbank Community Library District.