Smyrna library director retires
by Noreen Cochran
ncochran@mdjonline.com
December 02, 2012 12:08 AM | 2464 views | 1 1 comments | 8 8 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Smyrna Library Director Michael Seigler stands in the Genealogy Room inside the Smyrna Library.<br>Staff/Emily Barnes
Smyrna Library Director Michael Seigler stands in the Genealogy Room inside the Smyrna Library.
Staff/Emily Barnes
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SMYRNA — Looking back, Michael Seigler, 64, director of the Smyrna Public Library, the oldest city-operated library in Georgia, says he lucked into his career.

“Like a lot of things, it started by accident. I was a teacher in a prison, Sumter Correctional Institute in Florida,” he said.

Seigler taught political science and history to inmates at the Bushnell, Fla., detention center where his father, Milo Seigler, now deceased, was the

warden.

“My best friend working at the prison was the librarian. It was the only sane place in the entire facility. Prisons are not good places, I can tell you that.”

The friend, John Keane, encouraged the younger Seigler to enter the library science program at Florida State University in Tallahassee.

“A year later, I had graduated and got a job,” Seigler said about his employer from 1974 to 1977, Leesburg (Fla.) Public Library.

He was booted upstairs following back-to-back resignations by the assistant director and director.

“I ended up being the youngest library director in Florida at age 27,” the Powder Springs resident said. “That was purely a matter of luck. It had nothing to do with skill or anything. Looking back on it, I realize I didn’t know what the heck I was doing.”

Now, 40 years after he fell into a librarian’s lifestyle, he’s making a bold move — trading his work week’s 40-plus hours for retirement.

The member of high-IQ club Mensa, for which the state Legislature recognized Seigler in 2006, said he took a calculated approach.

“I did the math and about a year ago I said, ‘OK, if I’m careful I can retire at the end of the year,’” Seigler said.

However, he won’t be spending his retirement traveling with his wife of 41 years, Janet, visiting with his daughters Megan Jenkins and Kelly Inglett, or playing with his 7-year-old mixed breed rat terrier Henrietta.

Seigler has specific goals for his golden years, beginning with Dec. 28, his last day at the library he served since 1995.

“I’m a compulsive learner. I always have to be learning,” he said. “For a long time I was able to learn a lot in the library, but I finally thought about it and realized the things that interest me the most are philosophy and music. The only way I can really get to where I want to be is to give myself more time.”

Philosophy will be covered by his first action — returning to a campus like his alma maters Florida State University and the Atlanta Law School.

“I’m enrolled at the University of West Georgia,” Seigler said about the Carrollton school. “My next semester class is Critical Thinking, which sounds awful pretentious.”

Much more freewheeling is the music component of his plan.

“I do a radio show. I do a jazz program on WRFG on Tuesday nights,” Seigler said. “This will give me a chance to improve my show. Part of what I’m going to be able to do at West Georgia is take their communications classes, which include radio programming and hardware. So I’ll spin that over into the radio.”

Spinning discs will be accompanied by concerts — on both sides of the footlights.

“When it comes to music, I’m averaging (attending) one concert a week. I’ll probably do more,” Seigler said. “The last thing I’ll do, I’ve always wanted to learn to play the guitar but never had — my frustration level was too high. That’s the reality of it. I want to go electric. I want to shake the neighborhood.”

At work, Seigler shook up the culture of the 28,000-square-foot, 100,000-volume library, giving it a reputation for cutting-edge technology.

“I’m proud of being one of the first people to use wireless in a library,” he said about Wi-Fi Internet access. “I’m proud we’ve been able to keep up with the changing technologies because there’s been so much change.”

Recent upgrades include a 6,000-title movie collection, including Blu-ray discs, and the beta test for video streaming provider Indieflix.

“Don’t chase change, but embrace it because change is coming whether you want it or not,” Seigler advised his future replacement.

However, despite a national search, the library has not yet found his successor.

“They’re not looking to promote from within,” Seigler said about a pool of five part-time and eight full-time employees.

Likely, those with boots on the ground see how hard he works, even as the library shortened its hours in response to budget crunches.

“We lost 12 hours a week of scheduling,” Seigler said. “We went from 72 hours a week to 60.”

Its budget, however, went from $623,000 in fiscal 2012 to $646,000 in fiscal 2013, which ends June 30, part of the city of Smyrna budget of $39 million.

“A $23,000 increase goes a long way at a library,” Seigler said.

Its 250,000 annual visitors, including those who pay $35 for a non-resident library card, also benefit from the $30,000 the Friends of the Smyrna Library raise for puppet shows, author book signings like the Murder Goes South series and more.

His friends include former District 6 State Sen. Ginger Collins (R-Smyrna), who penned Resolution 1180 on his behalf.

“This exceptional attorney, Mason and member of Mensa has successfully worked to build an outstanding genealogy collection at the Smyrna Library,” she said. “His significant organizational and leadership talents, his keen sense of vision and his sensitivity to the needs of the community have earned him the respect and admiration of his colleagues and the members of the Smyrna community.”
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December 03, 2012
Farewell! & Happy Retirement! You will be missed.
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