Over its last 30 years, the Westerville Public Library has gone through countless changes to adapt to the community.

But at the end of May, the library will undergo its biggest leadership shakeup since August 1988 as it bids farewell to its longtime executive director, Don Barlow.

The library provided an update last month on its process of choosing Barlow's replacement, before he officially ends his nearly 29-year run in Westerville.

While he said he's grateful for the time he spent at the library, Barlow, 65, said he didn't want to wait too long to retire.

"I'm reasonably healthy, and to be perfectly honest I've known too many friends who worked until they were 70 or 71 and then passed away when they were 73," he said. "I wanted to retire with some time to enjoy myself."

Barlow's retirement puts a cap on a heavily decorated career, in which he led the library as it grew from a circulation of 600,000 to that of more than 2 million. He admitted that when he arrived, he couldn't have imagined it becoming the library it is today.

"It was sort of a sleepy suburban library that people used," he said, "but not to a great extent."

Since his arrival, Barlow has received many honors. In 2014, he was inducted into the Ohio Library Hall of Fame and he was recently named the 2016 Business Person of the Year by the Westerville Area Chamber of Commerce.

But perhaps Barlow's proudest accomplishment has been integrating new technology into the library's operations.

He said technology has always been "extremely important" to him, and he cited small but noticeable changes like self-checkouts, which he claims the library had before many grocery stores, and other technological upgrades as his biggest contributions.

When compared to the 1988 version of the library, Barlow said the commitment to technology makes the library nearly unrecognizable.

"We had a memory typewriter," he said with a laugh. "That was our technology back then. The technology has changed dramatically."

Barlow said there was no way he could have anticipated the rapid growth Westerville has seen since his arrival, but he saw early on that there was room to grow. From his first few years on the job, he said he always wanted to make the library more accessible for residents.

"The first part was getting people into the library -- providing more services and programs -- and getting into technology, because that was extremely important," he said. "You could see what direction the technology was going to take, at that point."

Library leaders are well aware that filling Barlow's shoes won't be an easy task.

Jack Shinnock, the library board's secretary and head of the search committee to find a new director, said the library "can't replace" Barlow, and can only hope to find someone equally passionate about the position.

"He's responsible for the five-star rating from the Library Journal and we've been named one of Ohio's best employers and companies -- that's Don's leadership," Shinnock said. "He's been recognized by his peers as well as the board of trustees and the community. He's just excellent at what he does."

After his last day on the job, May 31, Barlow won't disappear from Westerville. He said he'll visit from his home in Powell on a regular basis, and plans to volunteer around town and continue his work with the Westerville Kiwanis Club.

When he began planning his retirement, the Covington, Kentucky-native said he planned on moving back to his roots. But he and his wife, Elaine, realized that after 30 years, they would rather stay in central Ohio.

"It sort of occurred to us that if we moved back to Kentucky, we'd be leaving home; we wouldn't be moving home," he said.

The library leadership hasn't involved Barlow in the search for his replacement, but he said he's confident the new executive director will be walking into a good situation and that the library's board of trustees will choose the right candidate.

"The new person has to maintain the participation we have in the community," Barlow said. "I don't see that as a difficulty, and I'm sure it's what they will do. But they'll certainly need an eye on the future. The library field is changing as much as any in the country."

Between golf, spending time with his wife and volunteering, Barlow said he thinks he'll be plenty busy. But that doesn't mean he isn't anticipating some newfound free time.

"Maybe I'll be a Wal-Mart greeter," he said with a laugh.

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