Westerville News & Public Opinion

Ohio council honors Barlow as Hall of Fame Librarian


After more than 25 years as director of the Westerville Public Library, Don Barlow was recognized as a Hall of Fame Librarian by the Ohio Library Council July 28.

Barlow would prefer to deflect the stardom to his employees, but library Board of Trustees President Josh Platt nominated the director, and says his work in Westerville has been crucial.

"(Barlow) is a real visionary thinker," Platt said. "Most people's concept of a library is someone in orthopedic shoes and big bun in her hair shushing you loudly. That's not the atmosphere that Don and his staff have created."

A large part of that change has come through technology and development. Barlow has been with the library through some major changes, and remembers when it looked completely different.

"When I came to Westerville, we still had a card catalog," Barlow said. "Our new computers sat on top of the card catalogue. It was all text-based and heavily librarian-type searches instead of the Google-type searches people do today."

Now, the library is filled with top-notch technology and Barlow is beta testing Google Glass for librarians. He said he's doing his best to modernize the idea of a library.

"At some point, the view became that a library is only books, and that's something that's not true," he said. "You could take a look at whether marketing is as good as it should be. A lot of Ohio libraries are high-tech. ... It's much more than just print materials, even though that's the majority of what we still do."

Always willing to defer to his staff, Barlow credits others with most of his accomplishments. But Platt knows the director is just being modest.

"You're supposed to surround yourself with smart people and get out of the way," Platt said. "Don is smart enough and keeps his ego in check enough to do that. I think the honor is extremely well-deserved. He's humble enough to tell you that he's just sort of hung around long enough to earn this honor. But I think it's about more than that."

Platt said he and the board consistently hear praise for Barlow's work, and that he has even become a draw of his own at library events.

"(Barlow) is a rock star of the library community, and we are remarkably lucky to have him at the helm of our organization," Platt said.

Barlow says there's plenty of work left to do, but credits Ohio readers for making the state's libraries what they are today.

"It's very nice and I'm very proud of it, because I have a high respect for peers in Ohio and in Ohio libraries altogether," he said. "I think Ohio has the best libraries in the United States from top to bottom. ... People in Ohio love their libraries."