National Library Week: Meet Omaha’s longest-serving public library employee

An employee since high school and for many more years to come.
Published: Apr. 9, 2021 at 4:50 PM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - Every year, ‘National Library Week’ is celebrated far and wide, including right here in Omaha.

To celebrate those who work at our local, public buildings of knowledge, 6 News met Andy Ireland: Omaha Public Library’s longest-serving employee.

Ireland has been with OPL for nearly 40 years.

“I think that math is not correct,” he says with a laugh.

Ireland began working as an aid for OPL when he was in high school in the 1980s. He was looking for a summer job and his dad knew that assistant library director at the time.

“I think I was coming home from baseball practice and Ted Newman said to me, ‘what are you going to do this summer?’ Ireland says. “He said that Joan Gatz was looking for someone to put the books back on the shelf at Main Library and that I should go down and talk to her.”

And that’s what he did. He talked to Joan Gatz, filed the paperwork, and got the job. To get a job as an aid, it was a requirement to be a student.

After he graduated high school, Ireland says he left OPL for a short while before eventually coming back to work part-time as a library specialist.

“It was in August of ’90 that I was hired full-time,” he says.

So, if you’re not counting his high school years, Ireland has been with OPL for about 32 years.

“I gotta say I really like my job,” he tells 6 News. “I like working here with the people, both the library staff and all the public that comes in. I think that working in the library you get a really good cross-section of the community and that’s why I’m here, I really like it.”

Ireland spent around 20 years working in the W. Dale Clark Main Library on South 15 and Douglas Streets. Shortly before COVID-19 hit, he moved to the A.V. Sorensen branch in Dundee.

“This is just really a nice community library and here at these smaller locations I get to do a little bit of everything.”

Ireland says that each library location in Omaha has its own personality and uniqueness.

“The people in Omaha really like the libraries and that makes your job easier. I think libraries are a meeting place,” he says.

Despite living in a digital age, Ireland says libraries are here to stay and so is he.

“I hope to be here for another 10 years if all works out,” he says laughing. “That’s one great thing about working in the library field, you know, as long as you stay relevant and on top of things, I could work well into my senior years so yeah, I’m hoping for another 10 years. I really like it.”

National Library Week is celebrated April 4-10 and unique stickers at each branch can be collected to commemorate the week. Library staff encourages you to share photos of your favorite sticker and library branch and tag their social media pages.

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