Photo by Kira Erickson
Debby Colfer, the first and so far only manager of the Clinton Library, will be retiring June 25 after a 23-year career with Sno-Isle Libraries. Patrons remember her for her choice in all-ages programming and the selection of books she brought to Clinton’s tiny shelves.

Photo by Kira Erickson Debby Colfer, the first and so far only manager of the Clinton Library, will be retiring June 25 after a 23-year career with Sno-Isle Libraries. Patrons remember her for her choice in all-ages programming and the selection of books she brought to Clinton’s tiny shelves.

Colfer closing chapter on career as library manager

Debby Colfer is retiring after 21 years as the manager of the Clinton Library.

After 21 years as the manager of the Clinton Library, Debby Colfer is ready to turn to the next chapter: retirement.

Since the library opened in 2000, Colfer has been the heart and soul of the 1,300-square-foot library. She is the first and so far only manager of it.

That’s about to change soon, as Colfer’s last day on the job is June 25.

Colfer’s advocacy for libraries on Whidbey began in Freeland. After moving to South Whidbey in 1989, she was instrumental in helping the Friends of the Freeland Library raise enough money to purchase the land for the Freeland Library.

Betsy Arand, the current manager of that library, said it was quite the accomplishment for the whole community. Locals raised a total of $220,000 through fundraisers such as book sales and barbecues.

Colfer often appeared in the newspaper advertising the book sales.

“She was just really, really involved with all the fundraising and felt really strongly the importance of libraries,” Arand said.

Arand has known Colfer for several years. Their sons acted alongside each other in the same Whidbey Children’s Theatre plays. Colfer’s son was just in preschool when she joined the Friends of the Freeland Library. She predicted that the library would be built by the time her son graduated high school.

But the building was dedicated only three years later in 1994, and her son got to grow up with the library.

“To me, I hadn’t been on the island that long but I just felt like that was such an amazing example of what a small group of committed people can do,” Colfer said, reflecting on the famous quote by Margaret Mead.

Besides being involved with the Sno-Isle Library system, Colfer has also been an active community member. She was a family support advocate for Readiness to Learn for two years. She also volunteered for the South Whidbey Elementary PTA Board.

Sno-Isle Libraries hired Colfer as the children’s liaison for the Freeland and Langley libraries in 1998. She led preschool story times, among other special events, for kids at the South Whidbey libraries.

When the Clinton Library opened in 2000, she became its manager.

Patrons will remember most her friendly demeanor, her selection of books and the extensive amount of programming she planned for all ages.

Pat Brunjes, a past president of the Friends of the Clinton Library, said people have always loved the little library. Colfer is to thank for that.

“We saw books we never would have read otherwise,” Brunjes said. “Debby and crew were really good at picking books to put on their shelves, even though their shelves were really tiny.”

Colfer also expanded programming at the library, moving beyond just children’s events. Before the pandemic, there were regular painting, business and writing programs.

“I’m going to miss her because she was really good at putting together programs that interested the majority of people in the community,” Brunjes said.

During her time with Sno-Isle Libraries, Colfer won two awards. She was given the Managerial Excellence Award for her leadership and innovation in her current position. She also received the Trustees Award for being part of a team that worked with staff to identify appropriate books for various age groups, reading levels and languages, and then working with community partners to distribute books to families.

Over the years, Colfer has seen many changes and much growth — for example, the evolution of technology and the emergence of the ease of streaming audio and e-books. Reference resources are also available through Sno-Isle Libraries 24 hours a day, which wasn’t always the case.

Colfer has always loved libraries, and has even (unsuccessfully) tried to get her son Gregory interested in the profession.

“Where else can you go and hang out and get all kinds of wonderful resources without having to spend a bunch of money?” she said.

In her retirement, she plans to finally get to that towering stack of books she’s been meaning to read. She also may write one.

Photo by Kira Erickson
Debby Colfer, the first and so far only manager of the Clinton Library, will be retiring June 25 after a 23-year career with Sno-Isle Libraries. Patrons remember her for her choice in all-ages programming and the selection of books she brought to Clinton’s tiny shelves.

Photo by Kira Erickson Debby Colfer, the first and so far only manager of the Clinton Library, will be retiring June 25 after a 23-year career with Sno-Isle Libraries. Patrons remember her for her choice in all-ages programming and the selection of books she brought to Clinton’s tiny shelves.

More in Life

Photo by Kira Erickson/South Whidbey Record
If looks could kilt: Whidbey club celebrates Scottish garb

More than four dozen lads and lasses from South Whidbey are part of the Rampant Kilt Society.

Photo by Kira Erickson
In the trees: Couple takes Whidbey Island vacation rental to new heights

Max Lindsay-Thorsen and Tatiana Rocha always knew they wanted to build treehouses.

Photo by Kira Erickson
Whidbey Island Fair returns

Visitors gather to take their turns on carnival rides and watch beloved 4-H animals compete.

Adrienne Lyle (Photo provided)
Whidbey Islander will compete in Tokyo Olympics

Adrienne Lyle and her horse, Salvino, set two American records in their Olympic qualifying events.

Queen Patsy Arthur and her court in the 1956 Fair Parade.
Decades of fair memories saved by South Whidbey Historical Society

Thousands of pages digitized and free to view online

Kids decorate cookies at the 2019 Whidbey Island Fair. (Photo provided)
Cookie decorating returning to Whidbey fair

More than 500 people stopped by for a creative and delicious treat at the 2019 fair.

Whidbey Island Fair makes return after year off

A beloved tradition that took a hiatus in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic is back this year.

Photo by Kira Erickson
Gary Gabelein, this year's grand marshal of the Whidbey Island Fair parade, with his donkey, Cleopatra.
Longtime fair volunteer, community member chosen as this year’s grand marshal

Gary Gabelein has a long history of involvement with the Whidbey Island Fair.

Becca Heavrin paints in her studio. (Photo by Karina Andrew/Whidbey News-Times)
New resident sets up her art studio in Greenbank

F or Becca Heavrin, creating art is a process of discovery.

Photo by Emily Gilbert/Whidbey News-Times
Mark Saia points to a repair on the Suva's NAME OF EQUIPMENT
Suva returns to the water after undergoing repairs

The 95-year-old wooden sailboat spent the last month in dry dock to replace its horn timber.

Pacific Northwest Art School founder Muriel Pickard (Photo provided)
Pacific Northwest Art School recipient of legacy gifts

During their lifetimes, Muriel Pickard and Ellen Marott gave much more than money to the art school.

Photo by Kira Erickson
Kayla Bodenhafer, 15, with Kenny, a goat who broke his leg and avoided a death sentence earlier this year. The Bodenhafers refused to put him down and instead made him a cast. In years past, he has been at the Whidbey Island Fair.
Goats with success stories — and more — at Whidbey fair

Goats who miraculously recovered from injury and illness will compete at the upcoming fair.