By Tia Lynn Lecorchick (Managing Editor)
Steve Schaefer, the long-time director of the the Uncle Remus Regional Library System (URRLS), has announced his retirement, set to take effect in July of 2015. “I have more years under my belt as director than any other library director in the entire state of Georgia,” said Schaefer. “I am ready to retire.”
“It was an honor to serve all nine of my communities and my heart and soul will forever be with Uncle Remus. It will always be “my” system, ‘my’ community, and ‘my’ people because it was ‘my’ passion and ‘my’ pride. The ten library boards trusted me to provide quality library service and I took that responsibility very seriously. This was not a job; it was not even a profession; it was my life,” said Schaefer.
Schaefer, who became director in 1980, is looking is proud of all he has accomplished during his time and is looking forward to enjoying his retirement with his beloved wife, Rita Barrio Schaefer. The Schaefers moved to Madison in 1981 and have no plans to relocate.
“My wife and I plan to live the rest of our lives in Madison. We aren’t going anywhere,” said Schaefer.
Rita Schaefer’s is looking forward to the opportunity to travel once her husband retires. Steve Schaefer is looking forward to simpler everyday pleasures retiring affords.
“But to tell the truth, staying up late and sleeping in are number one and number two respectively on the list [of priorities]. Being able to turn the phone off is number three. And number four is not obsessively reading and answering 75-100 emails and texts a day about library issues,” said Schaefer.
Schaefer believes significant progress has been made during his time as director of the URRLS, which is now comprised of nine libraries in five counties.
“When I came to Uncle Remus Regional Library System there were four counties and it was one of the poorest systems in Georgia. During my tenure, I created a model for the regional library system which attracted two counties and (the model) is copied by many systems in Georgia,” explained Schaefer. “We no longer are the poorest system in Georgia, but there is plenty room to grow.”
Schaefer is proudest of his role in the development of the PINES system.
“I suppose my proudest accomplishment is that I was the organizer of a pc-based network that evolved into the PINES system, which—we claim until refuted—is the largest public library network in the world. As the pc-system phased out, I became the first chair of the committee that designed the PINES system,” said Schaefer.
Steve Schaefer was raised in Des Peres, Missouri, graduated from University of Missouri-St. Louis and then earned a Masters in Library Science at Florida State University. It is there that he met Rita, a fellow library student. He worked in various librarian positions in Brunswick, Tifton, and Vidalia, Georgia before being named director of the Uncle Remus Regional Library System in 1980. The System serves nine libraries in Greene, Hancock, Jasper, Morgan, Putnam, and Walton Counties. He then earned an SLIS degree in 2011.
Schaefer actually retired from the URRLS back in 2008 but was asked to return as interim director in 2011.
“I was asked to return to Uncle Remus Regional Library System as Interim for about nine months to finish four on-going and planned construction projects, restore lost funding, and repair damaged administrative structure to the system which had occurred during my retirement. That turned into a four year project,” explained Schaefer.
But before Schaefer departs, he has three goals he would like to see happen first. Schaefer has been a vocal advocate for the Georgia legislature to adopt the new funding formula for Georgia libraries that they previously delayed.
“We are very hopeful the state legislature will not delay it again,” said Schaefer. “We must baton down the hatches and pray for the state of Georgia. Hopefully they will do what is good and right for the our libraries.”
Schaefer also wants to see the state provide book money and MMR (Maintenance, Management and Repair) grants for the library system.
The URRLS will begin the search for a new director this in February. They hope to choose a new director in April 2015, announce it in May 2015 and have the new director assume Schaefer’s position in July, 1, 2015.