by Rachel Minske
Growing up in Elk River, Jayne Dietz spent a lot of time at the local library.
“The library has always been very important to our family,” she said. “As a child I went to story time and was allowed to check out one book a week.”
Her own children spent a lot of time at the library, too, often checking out books of their own and participating in the library’s programming.
It’s really no surprise that Dietz would end up serving on the Elk River Library Board and eventually reach the nine-year term limit, stepping down as the board’s chair.
After all, her own mother, Gloria “Diddy” has served on the board, as did Dietz’s husband, John, the mayor of Elk River.
“I wanted to give back,” said Dietz, reflecting on what initially drew her to the position.
Dietz’s fingerprints can be found all over the library.
When Dietz’s parents died, leftover funds from the funeral services were used to install a flagpole and plaque at the library. Both Diddy and her husband, Dean, were members of the military, Dietz said.
Dietz, a registered nurse who spent 37 years in the medical field, said serving on the library board offered a nice balance in her life. Although, she said she never dreamed she’d eventually reach the nine-year limit outlined by state law, she approached the position “one day at a time.”
One of the undertakings Dietz is most proud of is her work to beautify land outside the library’s walls.
“I took the lead in upgrading the irrigation system and a landscaping project that greatly enhanced the grounds,” she said of her time on the board. “I spent many hours with contractors and staff to see the project through to completion. The update in the irrigation system consolidated many zones into a single, more efficient system.”
Dietz has also logged many hours in city beautification efforts outside her time on the board; alongside John, the couple became stewards of the city’s Adopt a Park program about five years ago. The effort enables groups and individuals to assist in the general care and maintenance of neighborhood parks, green spaces, trails and athletic fields.
The pair helps maintain the land on which the library sits and clean up things like plastic bottles from the area.
“It’s a really beautiful grounds,” she said.
Another project Dietz reflected fondly on was her involvement to streamline the board’s meeting process, changing the meetings from monthly to bimonthly as some only lasted five minutes.
“Our agendas changed to reflect the same format used by the City Council,” she said. “City staff became part of the regular agenda and gave update reports on their area at every meeting.”
The changes spearheaded by Dietz will be part of her lasting legacy, said Jerry Olsen, a council liaison to the library board. He described Dietz as “quietly tenacious.”
“It was a real joy to work with her,” he said. “I learned a lot.”
Fellow board member Mary Eberley echoed that sentiment.
“She has been very, very dedicated,” she said.
Dealing with challenges
The post on the library board was not without its challenges: namely, the fireplace, said Dietz.
“We had a lot of trouble with the fireplace since the day it was installed,” Dietz said. “A lot of money and time was spent to get it to work. Problems with installation were ongoing. It was switched to an electric fireplace; that finally fixed the problem.”
Finding the perfect spot for the windmill commissioned by the city’s Economic Development Authority a few years ago was another challenge, Dietz said. After much input from the board members, the entrance to the library, just off Orono Parkway, was chosen.
“Spending the taxpayers’ money wisely was always one of my highest priorities.”
In the world of technology, a lot can change in nearly a decade. According to Dietz, the Elk River Library is no exception.
“There have been many technological advancements at the library in the last decade,” she said. “Many people still love to check out an old-fashioned book, so they will not be going away. We have transitioned to a lot of digital materials.”
The Elk River Library is a “big player” in the Great River Regional Library system, said Dietz. While region’s library system is responsible for programming and staff, the city, through the library board, maintains the building and the grounds and annually provides $11,000 for programming.
The scope of the library board has transformed, too. Over time, the board has become more involved in overseeing the building and grounds, said Dietz.
“We now provide more detail to the city as to things that need attention,” she said. “Our agendas have grown and there is more discussion on issues.”
Gone, but not for long
While Dietz said she “would have loved to stay on the board longer,” she’s also excited about those joining the board.
Dietz and fellow board member Sarah Holmgren stepped down at the end of 2016.
“She was an excellent board member,” Dietz said of Holmgren, who served a three-year term.
Mary Keifenheim, a former media director at a school library and Margaret “Mick” Stoffers, a former branch manager at the Elk River Library for 27 years, will begin their terms in 2017.
Dietz may be stepping back from the board, but she’s certainly not closing the door on community service.
“Volunteering is a very important part of my life, so I will miss being on the library board,” she said. “I hear there are openings on the Heritage Preservation Commission, an area that I might be interested in.”