A new chapter begins for Steve Fjeldsted, departing the South Pasadena Library after nearly 13 years as its city librarian.
He officially leaves on June 27 in the role of director of library, arts and culture under the “retirement” heading, but there’s reason to believe his name will resurface again someday among the employed. Many say he was simply the best at what he did, not only running a solid operation in overseeing the needs of the library, but establishing the place where locals and outsiders alike were introduced to hundreds of popular author nights, film screenings, plays, concerts, and living history performances on the ‘Carnegie Stage’ and outside in Library Park.
Outside the numerous events, Fjeldsted represented the library to the City Council, the Library Board of Trustees, the Friends of the Library, and the South Pasadena community.
Showcased over the years, and it’s only a small portion, were such luminaries such as Nikki Giovanni, Van Dyke Parks, Barney Frank, Tommy Lasorda, Stefanie Powers, Mary Tillman, Dr. Kevin Starr, U.S. Poet Laureate Juan Felipe Herrera, Lisa See, California Poet Laureates Dana Gioia, the late Ray Bradbury, Al Young, and many more. He also spearheaded events to spotlight South Pasadenans William Holden, Joel McCrea, Eliza Gilkyson, and Lawrence Clark Powell.
Fjeldsted and his wife, Peggy, reside in Eagle Rock, where Steve says he plans to relax for the time being, enjoying life’s pleasures, catching up with some personal interests and attending to some family health issues.
Prior to relocating to Southern California in 2006, Fjeldsted served as a library director in northern and central California. He was part of the Administrative Council of the Southern California Library Cooperative, serving on its executive council for two years.
In addition, Fjeldsted is a member of the local Rotary Club, the Preservation Foundation, South Pasadena Beautiful, and is a founding member of the South Pasadena Arts Council, which recognized his contributions to South Pasadena during an arts benefit event.
The City of South Pasadena also honored Fjeldsted’s work with the prestigious Image Award in 2009. San Jose State University Library School selected him as one of their top 40 graduates for its 40th anniversary.
As Fjeldsted sets off for new adventures in life, the South Pasadenan asked him in the following Q&A about his career, why it was important to bring interesting speakers to the library, if he was moving on to now work for the Dodgers as a result of his strong interest in baseball, and what message he’d like to share in saying goodbye.
What are you going to miss most about working at the South Pasadena Library for 13 years?
“I don’t really know for sure because I haven’t left yet, but I think it will be the many terrific community members who have been so supportive of the library. I have always had an open door policy and have really enjoyed it when others have popped in, no matter if it was a member of the public or the staff. Will miss lots more, not the least of which is attending Rotary Club meetings. I’ve also liked eating lunch almost every day at Baja Fresh, Jamba Juice, or Tomato Pie.”
Why was it important to bring interesting guests to the library?
“Very traditional library services like checking out materials or asking questions at the desk are relatively passive, personal endeavors. Experiencing an author or a filmmaker or a performer with an audience of fellow community members is visceral and can be lots of fun and more stimulating on a much deeper levels. And the publicity announcements for events can be an effective, direct route to the media and other outreach capabilities to bring more community attention, engagement, and support for the library.”
Why did you want to be a librarian?
“I only wanted to be a public librarian. The college librarians where I attended were not helpful to me at all. They sat in their desks and pointed and used terms I don’t care for like “circulating,” bibliographic,” and “periodicals.” I also dislike the word “program” and try never to attend any. Because the public library branch manager in my college town was so helpful and community oriented, I wanted to professionally be like her.”
When you think of librarians, you think of someone checking out books, helping put books away and overseeing the reference desk. That hardly fits you. Why did you take the position to an all-new level?
“I did those things for many years, but that’s really more an activity of management, not a director and much of that can be done with machines now anyway. I tried to focus my energies on trying to shape the library to be “Ultra South Pasadena” in focus, intent, and attainment.”
What are you going to do when you’re not working?
Mainly spend more time with my family.
Are you going to a new job booking talent at the Hollywood Bowl? That would fit you best. You were never thought of you as a typical librarian. You were more of a booking agent.
“Heck, I’d be a volunteer usher at the Hollywood Bowl if I could see the shows. I’m also a fan of and used to work under Ted Gaebler, co-author of “Reinventing Government.” Government organizations can’t be run like businesses, but they can be business-like when it comes to being entrepreneurial. I would like to do something even more entrepreneurial.”
What would you like to say to the South Pasadena community as you leave?
“Growing up in La Crescenta and going to high school in La Canada, I had relatives all around so I knew South Pasadena was a really nice place. But almost as soon as I started working here I learned that it is a truly wonderful place.”
Everyone wants to know what’s next for you. You’re a big baseball fan. Did you get a new job with the Dodgers?
“No, but I would love to help coordinate a Dodgers World Series celebration in South Pasadena and I hope to volunteer with some organizations that could also help to make that happen. All the team needs to do is end the playoffs with a victory and I’d certainly do what I could.”