Director, Cottage Grove Public Library, OR
MLA, University of Oregon, 1998
Photo courtesy of Cottage Grove
Pete Barrell believes his job as a library director is to “cultivat[e] creative, diverse, exciting, inspiring, and new opportunities…for the people of our community,” he says. “I love that I can seek out cool, amazing stuff and bring it to rural Cottage Grove.” Over the last nine years, he has undertaken an ambitious campaign of grant writing and received funding for traveling exhibits at the library every year, including the Smithsonian Human Origins Exhibit; multiple NASA exhibits and programs; and the National Endowment for the Humanities Muslim Journeys Bookshelf. These have drawn substantial crowds, with nearly 7,000 people attending the Human Origins exhibit—more impressive for a town that only reported 6,192 residents in the 2010 census.
Barrell has also introduced an annual Latino Festival and bilingual library services and has networked with the local Native American community—particularly the Nez Perce, Kalapuya, Siuslaw, Coos, Umpqua, Siletz, Coquille, and Tillamook—devoting each January and February to celebrating Native American history. “[T]he more that people share and interact with each other in positive and respectful ways, the better we will all be at welcoming diversity into our lives with understanding and compassion,” he says.
Passionate about exploring and adventuring in the environment, Barrell aims to share the wonders of nature with local youth, along with an understanding that, he says, “all creatures…on Earth are truly related and interdependent.”
Barrell designed a weekly “Outdoor Adventure” program for students to go on free field trips with STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art, and mathematics) components. The students benefit from partnerships Barrell has cultivated with the U.S. Forest Service, the Army Corps of Engineers, and local artists and farmers.
Barrell is also part of a group of local professionals led by the University of Oregon that has developed a Child Abuse Prevention Plan dedicated to reducing child abuse by 90 percent by 2030. Throughout the year the library works on initiatives that raise awareness of child abuse–related problems and potential solutions. As a first action item, the “90 by 30” project delivers a “Welcome Baby Box” for infants to sleep in to all new local parents. The box reduces the risk of death from SIDs; each comes filled with essentials such as diapers, parenting resources, and books for the whole family. “Libraries can play a major role in helping to shape the health of the community,” says Barrell. “Promoting healthy babies and healthy families is one way we can do this, and partnership with…community groups is the only way to make it happen.”