“I got a B.A. in History from U.C. Davis in 1978; most of my classmates either went on to become teachers, journalists, lawyers, or librarians, and I decided to be a librarian,” says Mary Hanel, the graceful and warm local history librarian at the Santa Clara City Library. After Hanel received an M.A. in Library Science from U.C. Berkeley in 1979, she began her librarian career in 1980 in the Kern County library system. In 1984, she went to work at the transportation library at CalTrans in Sacramento.
Hanel joined the Santa Clara City Library in 1991. After 23 years of service to the library, Hanel will retire at the end of May. Her retirement is not going unnoticed. On May 19, the Central Park Library hosted a retirement celebration for Hanel. Attendees included Mayor Jamie Matthews, Councilmembers Debi Davis, Patricia Mahan, and Pat Kolstad, as well as members of the Santa Clara County Historical and Genealogical Society.
“Mary taught me more about the city in two weeks than I could’ve gotten from any book or encyclopedia,” says Hilary Keith, head librarian, before presenting a gift to Hanel at the celebration.
“Mary has such an in-depth knowledge about California and Santa Clara history,” adds Mary Boyle, adult services librarian.
In an interview, Hanel recalls historical tidbits related to the Santa Clara City Library.
“We closed the old library in August 2001, tore it down, and built a new one in its place,” Hanel says. “From September 2001 through March 2004, we were in a temporary building on Lochinvar Avenue. The old library was approximately 45,000 square feet with a basement, and it was only one story. The new library is two stories and it’s approximately over 80,000 square feet. So the library pretty much doubled in space.”
“When I first came here, there was a massive card catalog; we didn’t have an online public access catalog until the fall of 1992,” Hanel continues. “We also had a large collection of VHS tapes for checkout. By the time we changed to the temporary library, we were starting to buy more DVDs. We used to offer phonograph records. Now we offer CDs.”
“We also had a circulating art collection,” Hanel says. “That was a big trend in the late ’70s and ’80s where people moving into new apartments would rent out a painting from the library for a few months. That trend disappeared in the late ’90s, but we still had the art. By the time I came to the library, they weren’t buying new art prints, but they were still letting people check out art. The circulating art collection isn’t available anymore. The art was sold.”
Hanel’s many duties at the library have included serving as a liaison between the library and the Santa Clara County Historical and Genealogical Society, working with volunteers to oversee the Heritage Pavilion, making purchases, assisting researchers, conducting research, booking local authors, tracking important events, and writing articles for Inside Santa Clara.
After retiring from the library, the Santa Clara resident will remain active with a number of local historical groups, such as the Harris-Lass Museum.
“I will rest for awhile after retiring, but I will still have my projects,” Hanel says.