Remembering Director Scoles
Director Clyde Scoles
1949 - 2019
Friday, Feb. 15 brought sad news to the Toledo and library communities with the sudden death of Toledo Lucas County Public Library Director Clyde Scoles.
Mr. Scoles was synonymous with the Library and is credited with building a world-class library system for the community. During his 40 years of service, he shepherded the Library through sweeping technical, financial, political and cultural changes. His absolute commitment to always improving the depth and breadth of the Library’s reach is evident in his unparalleled list of accomplishments.
The news is especially poignant as Mr. Scoles had announced his retirement just weeks earlier. Toledo Mayor Wade Kapszukiewicz’s office had been working with Library staff on a series of surprise retirement honors — such as naming Michigan Avenue in front of Main Library as “Clyde Scoles Way” in June.
“When I think of his legacy, I think of someone who was a true gentleman, a warm, kind-hearted gentleman who believed in learning and knowledge and making information accessible to everyone. He will be remembered for transforming the library system in the digital age.” - Kapszukiewicz said.
Awards and Accolades
Mr. Scoles was legendary within the Library community and was recognized with numerous awards and accolades. Before joining the Toledo Lucas County Public Library, he held previous leadership roles at Columbus Metropolitan and Zanesville libraries, the Ohio Legislative Reference Bureau, the American Library Association, OHIONET Inc., and the Ohio Library Council.
Mr. Scoles held degrees from both The Ohio State University and the University of Michigan and served as an Adjunct Professor at Kent State University’s School of Library Science, the University of Michigan’s School of Information, and Wayne State University’s School of Information Science.
He was a prolific academic author and the recipient of the Outstanding Service Humanitarian Award from the Toledo Chapter of Phi Delta Kappa. In 2016, the Ohio Library Council recognized Mr. Scoles as a Hall of Fame Librarian.
However, all of the awards do not capture the magnitude of the commitment and joy Mr. Scoles brought to his work and our community. Whether he was giving a tour of the Local History collection, talking about how he tracked down an old Cadillac to be restored for Children’s Library, learning how people could use new technology, dreaming of expanded and improved buildings, or talking with the hundreds of authors and thinkers who spoke at the Library, he never swerved from his absolute belief in the power of libraries to transform lives.
In 1989, he opened the Art Tatum African American Center at Kent Branch that focused on documenting the achievements of African-Americans in Toledo.
Also in 1989, he established the Library Legacy Foundation, one of Ohio’s first library foundations.
He launched the Authors! Authors! program with the Toledo Blade’s support in 1994 beginning a tradition of bringing preeminent authors and thinkers to the community.
That same year, he launched the Library’s first digitization initiative, providing digital access to Toledo history.
In 1995, he oversaw a capital improvement plan that helped revitalize branches throughout the county.
In 1999, he launched a transformation of the Library’s iconic Main Library that included an addition of a new wing, adding an entire city block of library services.
His leadership helped the Library, its staff and the community weather the economic storm of 2008-09.
In 2012, he worked with then Deputy Director Margaret Danziger to bring a federal stimulus grant to the Library. The grant funded a mobile computer lab for technology training in underserved communities as well as a renovation for Kent Branch including a state-of-the-art training facility.
He helped pass numerous levies to sustain continued Library growth.
Under his leadership, the Library opened the new King Road branch and renovated every neighborhood branch. Never one to rest on his laurels, Mr. Scoles has spent the recent months spearheading a new Mott Branch and a sweeping Main Library renovation.
“There were several times growing up that I would visit the TLCPL with my dad, Clyde Scoles. On one of the earliest visits I recall driving with my dad slowly down a narrow driveway at the rear of the Main Library building to the two car garage below. This was long before any of the wonderful renovations my dad would oversee, back when only he, as the Assistant Director, and the previous Director had parking spots under the building.
I recall being led up a set of old, stone stairs adjacent to a wide, loading dock reminiscent of a grocery store delivery area. Brown, metal doors, which had to be raised and lowered by hand were off to the side of the back door my dad unlocked. Ushering me quickly into the building, my Dad then led me down an ill-lit hallway of dirty light bulbs, which cast a yellowish light. Heaps of haphazard boxes, trash and maintenance tools were strewn about. At the end of the hallway, a rickety, hair-raising elevator from another time awaited.
‘Don’t worry, it’s safe,’ my Dad said. I recall several times over the years hearing him say the exact same phrase about that elevator over and over again. I was never quite convinced.
We exited on the second floor. The Main Library back then was an impressive structure and fortunately much of the old stonework and architecture still exist today. He let me look out one of the windows to look onto the Main floor below. I imagine he would have made a comment on how crowded or quiet the library may or may not have been on that day.
We then entered a labyrinth of doors leading to the executive offices and my dad had to search for the right key to each one. My dad at the time was in the smaller office of the Assistant Director. I recall stacks of papers, notebooks, posters, a typewriter (yes, this was before Computers!) with a desk at the center of the maelstrom. I would imagine that one of the reasons my Dad pushed for digitizing the library so enthusiastically was the barely controlled chaos of that pre-Digital age office he once had.
I recall meeting Ardith Danford, the previous Director. A gray haired, smartly dressed woman with a deep voice who gazed down at me kindly. My dad was always respectful of Ms. Danford, the woman who would take him under her wing and help to forge his path to the Director’s chair.
This particular visit has always stuck with me over the years, perhaps because at the time a library was still so new to me. I didn’t yet realize what a library was or why it was so important. I would learn the answer to these questions time and again both in person talking with my father and over the phone with him over the years as he eagerly filled me in on all the current and future projects he hoped to tackle on TLCPL’s behalf.
It is poignant that one of the last conversations I had with him was on the subject of him wrapping up his time at the library while ensuring a smooth transition and a continuation of the building projects that so excited him.
To conclude, I would only repeat something that my Dad often said to me. ‘There is no greater symbol of democracy in our country than a public library.’ How perfect and meaningful a statement. It also answers the question of why libraries were so important to my dad in his 40 year mission of community service: A public library is a place where anyone, from any background, any religion, any political affiliation, and from economic means can feel welcome. Improving his country and community is what Clyde Scoles believed in. Teaching us all that a public library is a central pillar of a community is what my dad lived for.” – David Scoles
"The Toledo Lucas County Public Library is not only a gem in Toledo, but in Ohio and in the country. The level of customer service, the programming and other activities - simply outstanding! You can call the main number at TLCPL and a live person will answer your call on the first or second ring and resolve your issue promptly. That is oh-so rare in this time of automation, but very much appreciated. And this personal touch weaves itself through the TLCPL's programming and community outreach initiatives. From the educational activities for young children, to the after school tutoring services, from serving lunches to children in need in the summer, to hosting income tax assistance sessions. TLCPL truly embraces the community with a spirit of excellence and inclusion! This is a testament to the spirit and work of Director Scoles. His leadership and influence on TLCPL's great team, from the administration to everyone serving in the branch operations, are a wonderful legacy." - Jyll Polin
"My heart still hurts over the sudden loss of Clyde Scoles. I’ve had the pleasure of knowing Clyde since the mid-80’s, when I was employed at the Toledo Convention and Visitor’s Bureau. I had the opportunity to work with Clyde to successfully bring the Ohio Library Association meeting back to Toledo. I admired his dedication and passion for the library, literacy and our city. Fast forward to 2001, when after the death of our daughter, Claire, I approached Clyde about my vision to honor her and celebrate her love for reading and the library through establishing Claire’s Day. Clyde was an advocate for our children’s book festival, as he was for Read for Literacy, now our parent organization. He was also curious about, and supportive of, my role in researching and writing biographies for young readers. I was honored to call him a friend. Clyde is missed, but his legacy will live on, through the incredible library system he helped build up, and his advocacy for literacy." - Julie K. Rubini
“I am so saddened to have lost a dear friend who shared the journalist’s passion for words. Clyde impacted my life in so many ways. He was a dedicated partner with The Blade in many endeavors. When I retired as Editor of The Blade in 2007, Clyde came to me with an idea called Sight and Sound. Would I host a series of video archival interviews with prominent area citizens before we lost them, he asked. I was honored by the request and happy to accept, but now I have one profound regret. We lost Clyde before we could get his life on video. It was also my honor to share hosting responsibilities with Clyde on a number of occasions for the Authors! Authors! lecture series, another example of our newspaper’s collaborative relationship with the public library.
Four years ago, on the occasion of the 40th anniversary of the sinking of the Edmund Fitzgerald, Clyde invited me to share my experiences as a former Fitz crew member with an audience in the McMaster Center. He displayed my Fitzgerald memorabilia for several months, honoring the memory of my uncle, one of the 29 men who died in the tragedy.
I will miss our frequent lunches together, and I will miss his wisdom and counsel even more. When Clyde had an opportunity to move on to a wonderful library directorship in Salt Lake City, he decided to remain in Toledo. How fortunate for all of us. The community mourns our loss, but his legacy is assured.” - Thomas Walton
"Mr. Scoles' legacy of leadership and learning will forever be a part of the fabric of Toledo. His visionary insight into creating a library system that addressed the needs of both the urban core and suburban patrons, without shortchanging either, was a testament of his ability to positively impact a broad range of people in our community for years to come. He will be missed." - Angela Bailey
“I have been blessed to call Clyde Scoles and the Library a client since the 1980’s. Our agency has worked with Clyde and his wonderful team to help them pass many levies over the years, and I always was able to work one on one with Clyde and hear and see his passion for our library system and quite frankly our entire community each and every time we spoke. He was a brilliant man with a kind heart. There was never a time we spoke, where we both didn’t talk about our families and those we loved around us as well. We always reminisced about days gone by, but he always had a vision to the future. It seems that there wasn’t a conversation that he and I didn’t have in the last five years where retirement didn’t come up, but the last time it did was lunch in October of this last year when he said it was for real.
The last conversation we had was via email the day his retirement appeared in The Blade. I sent him a note to wish him well. We exchanged greetings and we were going to get together to ‘celebrate’ his many years of success. Godspeed Clyde Scoles. The Library will miss you, as will I and our entire community.” - Mike Hart
"It is with profound sadness that I’ve learned of the sudden death of Clyde Scoles. His leadership of the Toledo Lucas County Public Library is well known both locally and in the library professional community. But in addition, I always loved our conversations on a wide-ranging variety of topics. He was the father of students whom I taught and he loved sharing information about them. He loved speaking about the new initiatives for TLCPL. Most of all, he was a truly a delightful man. There is no question that his death is a significant loss." - Janet Rogolsky
"On behalf of the Board of Directors and staff of the Area Office on Aging of Northwestern Ohio, please know that we all mourn the loss of Clyde Scoles. He was a phenomenal leader in this community and he always cared about the needs of older citizens. He made certain that the library services were always available for older adults and persons who were homebound. His outreach efforts were well recognized by us and as recent as few weeks ago, Mr. Scoles inquired about what other partnership opportunities could be established with the Area Office on Aging to expand services to the older adult community. We will truly miss this brilliant leader and will join you in any future opportunities to honor his legacy." - Billie Johnson and Bill Harris
“Mr. Scoles was one of the first people to welcome my wife and me to Toledo when I was named editor of the Blade in late 2009. Even after I resigned from the newspaper, I was privileged to maintain a warm personal and professional relationship with Mr. Scoles. I greatly admired how he enhanced TLCPL’s reputation as one of the finest public library systems in America, and brought the library into the digital era, while ensuring that it remained, in his words, “open to all” – a cultural, educational, and economic resource for the entire community. The greatest tribute the library’s constituents in the city and county can pay Mr. Scoles is to build on the solid foundation he created, and to continue his advocacy of the public library’s role as a vital engine of American democracy.” - David Kushma
“I go to our library at least once every two weeks. I appreciate everything his Leadership did to ensure that our library system remains great! My sincere condolences to his wife, children, and many friends.” - Trudy Heintz Fails
“When I became State Librarian in 2010, Clyde Scoles was one of the first library directors in the state to reach out to me in the form of a letter of congratulations. He assured me that not only he, but the entire TLCPL staff, stood ready to assist me however I might need them.
Since then, I have had the opportunity to meet with and talk with Clyde numerous times and each time, the thing that always stood out was the immense pride he took in the Library and all of the people who work there. I believe if I'd called him to ask how the weather was in Toledo, he'd have told me that it was beautiful and then he'd have asked if I'd heard about the new program they'd just started in the children's department. Clyde Scoles was a towering figure in the Ohio Public Library and will be deeply missed.” - Beverly Cain
“I am devastated to hear of Clyde’s sudden death. We were professional colleagues and both graduates of the University of Michigan’s Library School. While our time at U of M overlapped, I did not meet Clyde until I was a Library Director in Iowa. From first meeting on, we would always make it a point to spend time chatting at national library conferences and meetings of the Urban Libraries Council.
As a native Toledoan, I always made it a point to see Clyde whenever I was in Toledo visiting family. It gave me great pride to know that with Clyde at the helm, along with the team he assembled, Toledo would always have a great public library system focused on the needs of its diverse city and county; and at the same time be recognized statewide and nationally as a leader among public libraries!” - Laura J. Isenstein
“One day in 2016 when I was in the Classics Gift Shop purchasing children’s picture books for the little free library at Side Cut, he stopped me and wondered what I was doing with all those books? I told him how every time I went down to Side Cut, the books I’d put in the week before were replaced with Nora Roberts or James Paterson novels. We laughed about how parents were exchanging what they had (adult novels) with what their children would value (gently used picture books). I will always remember how he took the time to say ‘hi’ or ask how you were even when he was running a 400 person company. His values always shined.” – Linda Lucas Fayerweather
"I’ve been a friend of Clyde’s for more than three decades. Lots of shared meals, conversations and fun. Talked to him last week. He was so looking forward to his 'next adventure' but he said he would really miss all the great people he worked with at Toledo Library. A true leader and a great person." - Susan Kent
“What I will remember most about Director Scoles was how much he cared about people. He was very empathetic and wanted to see others happy - this showed in the many connections and friendships he made within the community!" - Heather Hoffman