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Victoria Dow: Congratulations on Your Retirement!

Interview by Lance Nelson, Board President

Victoria Dow, retiring Executive Director
Victoria Dow, retiring Executive Director

On the eve of our longtime director Victoria Dow’s retirement, I had the opportunity to sit down with her and learn a little more about her background and experiences at the West Chester Public Library. I thought it would be interesting to share some of that with all of you.

Where did you grow up?

Victoria was born and spent the first ten years of her life in Elkins, West Virginia. Elkins is a small town about an hour and a half directly south of Morgantown. She is the daughter of a college professor, who did double duty as the college librarian. Victoria, her brother and sister moved to Coopersburg, Pennsylvania when she was about ten years old. One of Victoria’s earliest memories was going to the college library with her dad on Sundays. It was there, in the Davis & Elkins College library that her love of libraries was born.

What was your first summer job?

Naturally, her first paid summer job was working in a high school library. As you can see, being among the stacks was part of Victoria’s life from a young age. She also recalls getting a summer internship at Siemens in New Jersey helping with administrative tasks, when the family lived in Coopersburg.

Tell us a little bit about your early library career.

Victoria’s first full time library job was at the Lehigh University Engineering Library. At Lehigh, she helped graduate students from all over the world with their graduate work. Her fondest memories include attending a conference in London and doing a job exchange to France for six months. She was fortunate enough to spend six months at the library at the University Valenciennes in the north of France.

What are your favorite West Chester Public library stories?

When Victoria arrived in West Chester in 1993, there was not much in the town at that time. The old Woolworths was still on the corner of High and Gay, which many now know as the home of the Iron Hill Brewery. Some of Victoria’s favorite memories involve story times upstairs. For those that remember the library prior to the renovations, there was a stage on the second floor in the children’s library. Victoria would often hold story times while sitting on the stage, nurturing the curious and creative minds of the young people in our community.

What do you consider some of your bigger accomplishments at the West Chester Public library?

The big renovation of the Library is clearly one of Victoria’s most proud accomplishments. That significant renovation, keeping in mind the historic nature of the Library, was a huge accomplishment and the result of the work of a lot of people to make it come to fruition. On a more challenging note, Victoria was charged with putting the entire collection of the West Chester Public Library of over 45,000 items online in the 1997/1998 time-period. As you would imagine, it was a huge project and required immense effort. Victoria’s career has managed to both honor our past and push our work into the future, certainly no small feat.

Tell us a little bit about your family.

As mentioned, Victoria’s dad was a college European history professor. Initially, he taught at Davis & Elkins College in Elkins, West Virginia. Later, he took a position in the Lehigh Valley at the then Allentown College of Saint Francis de Sales, now simply DeSales University. Victoria’s mom was a trained licensed practical nurse and was a stay-at-home mom when Victoria and her siblings were younger. Her brother has a PhD in biology and chemistry and works for the Stroud Center. Her sister works as a Foreign Service Officer for the State Department and has literally worked all over the world.

Tell us something no one may know about you.

Victoria’s passion is working with fiber, and she actually knows how to spin yarn. From the yarn she spins, Victoria makes a host of different creative items.

Victoria’s has had a fantastic thirty-one years as the Director of the West Chester Public Library. Her contributions to the WCPL are too numerous to mention. She will be missed, and her impact on the Library will go on for years to come. We all wish Victoria the best in her well-deserved retirement.



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