Langenkamp to retire from San Marcos Library
Stephanie Langenkamp, the “much-storied” director of the San Marcos Public Library for the last 32 years, has announced she will retire on Sept. 12.
Langenkamp first went to work at the library in 1977 as a CETA (Comprehensive Employment and Training Act) funded librarian, left briefly to work at the Texas State University library, and returned in 1982 to guide one of the most popular places in San Marcos—the public library -- through decades of transformation and growth.
“Stephanie has accomplished amazing things with the Public Library,” said City Manager Jared Miller. “During her tenure, the library has expanded its collection significantly, moved to a new facility, and embraced a vast array of technology changes. Most of all—the library has established a beloved place in the hearts of our citizens.”
A native of San Antonio, Langenkamp earned a bachelor’s degree in geography from the University of Texas in 1975 and a Masters of Library and Information Science in 1977.
She fell in love with the San Marcos River — and San Marcos — as a student at UT when she and her husband Phillip Hicks came to swim in the river at the ice house (now Saltgrass Steakhouse).
She wondered if it would “ever be possible for me to get a job in San Marcos.” So she applied at the first opportunity. After starting in 1977 under the mentorship of former Library Director Eden Mosley Ferguson, Langenkamp was tasked with the duty of expanding the public outreach of the library.
“Instead of a cafeteria-style library where people had to dig through the stacks and card catalogues on their own, Eden wanted us to become a full-service library,” Langenkamp said. “Eden Mosley was a great person to work under. She had very high standards for the library,” Langenkamp remembered about Mosley. She set a tone that the Library staff has continued over the past 35 years.
When Langenkamp started in 1977, the library was located at 310 W. Hutchison. It served a population of 25,000 and had 29,000 volumes with an annual circulation of 75,000. Over the years the library became a bustling and crowded facility and in 1990 voters approved a bond election to build a new library at 625 E. Hopkins. Construction began in 1992 and a grand opening was held in January 1994.
Today, the library serves 65,500 city and county residents, with a collection of 163,500 volumes, and an annual circulation of 455,000. The library offers a wide array of programs for children including story times and puppet shows, as well as art, music and science activities. For adults the library offers GED and English as a second language tutoring, computer classes, income tax aide, lectures and concerts. The library is open seven days per week and averages 1,100 visitors each day.
Langenkamp and her staff of 24 are advised by the seven-member Library Board and assisted by dozens of volunteers. A Friends of the Library group raises funds for the library and helps with many special events throughout the year.
Langenkamp remembers with amusement when the library got its very first computer in the late 1980s — an Apple IIE which was used by the public to play educational games on floppy disks. That early automation expanded year after year, until today the San Marcos Library has nearly 100 computers, free Wi Fi and dozens of online databases for public use.
Along with the computers came a lot of new customers. Now 20 years after moving into the “new” library, lack of space has once again become a big challenge.
“So many people use the library for extended periods of time that it can be difficult to find a quiet table or chair; and the collection has grown so much that we must weed heavily to make room for new library materials,” said Langenkamp. Recently the city contracted with an architectural firm to prepare preliminary plans and cost estimates for a major library expansion.
Media formats represented in the library collection have transformed many times over the years: from vinyl records, to cassette tapes, to CDs; and from filmstrips, to videotapes and DVDs. Patrons can now even download e-books and audiobooks from home through the library’s website.
But there are still books.
“Our patrons love the physical nature of books,” Langenkamp said. “For a child, reading a book snuggled on a parent’s lap excites them about reading, sharing pictures and words. That can’t be replaced by a smart phone, tablet or a computer. I think it is also important for the public to have a place where they can come and explore a world of books, lovingly selected and displayed for their enjoyment. That’s one of the things that people find so appealing about our library.”
For Langenkamp, retirement is bittersweet because working in the library has been such a labor of love. But she is also looking forward to spending more time with her husband Phillip and sons Nathan and Tom, both college students. They plan to travel, keep swimming in the river — and to stay involved with the community.
“I have very fond memories of volunteering with Stephanie at the library when I was a middle school student,” said Mayor Daniel Guerrero. “I know the San Marcos community deeply appreciates her many years of dedicated leadership and service to the library and to the thousands of library patrons of every age who benefit from our programs throughout the year. We wish her all the best.”