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Where Are They Now: Library Director Connie Urquhart ('93)

Connie Urquhart had a lot of interests as a kid in rural Whatcom County, from camping to gymnastics to riding her motorcycle on her family’s 25 acres. But one of her favorite things to do was reading.

“I was living in complete chaos, with six other kids, animals, and my parents,” she said. “Books were like a little slice of quiet.”

A few decades later, Urquhart’s career revolves around books and encouraging reading. She’s been the director of Camas Public Library near Vancouver, WA for eight years – writing grants, leading fundraising efforts, and sponsoring fun reading and history programs. Urquhart said her childhood in Ferndale perfectly prepared her for this.

“So much of my job is building relationships and making connections, but with a small-town twist,” she said. “I grew up watching my mom do that (for Whatcom County parks), so I moved to Camas and I said ‘I got this.’”

While she was a student at North Bellingham Elementary and Vista Middle School, Urquhart was very involved in gymnastics. She traveled all throughout Western Washington, performing wild feats of acrobatics.

“I loved wowing people, being able to do something that not a lot of people could do,” she said. “I also loved the freedom of flying.”

By the time Urquhart reached Ferndale High School, she traded gymnastics for color guard and the student newspaper. She loved her journalism crew, which she called a “second home.” Urquhart said the journalism skills she learned from her beloved teacher Mary Seilo applied neatly to her future career as a librarian.

“You take something that has such raw potential and you make it accessible for people,” she said of journalism and library work. “I love creating order from chaos.”

After graduating from FHS in 1993, Urquhart attended the University of Washington and earned a bachelor’s degree in English literature. She initially planned to become a teacher, and spent hours interning in classrooms and working at a community center. But it was a job as a nanny that really informed her future career.

“I took the kids I nannied for to the library all the time in Seattle,” Urquhart said. “I realized it was sort of a marriage of what I was doing at the community center, and my love for books.”

Because of this realization, Urquhart shifted gears and earned a master’s degree in library and information science at UW. She then started her librarian journey at the Fresno County Public Library system in central California. Urquhart worked in the desert for 14 years, “doing pretty much everything you can imagine.” This ranged from running the library system’s teen sections, to purchasing books, to working with the media.

By the early 2010s, Urquhart was in charge of all 31 library branches in Fresno County. But she was looking for a change and missed the Pacific Northwest, so in 2016, she accepted the job to lead the Camas Public Library. She doesn’t regret that choice for a second.

“We’re so glad we moved,” Urquhart said. “It’s absolutely beautiful here – both in the Northwest but also in Camas. I have a 10-minute commute to work, and I drive by three different lakes.”

Because Camas is a relatively small city – a little bigger than Oak Harbor or Mercer Island, a little smaller than Pullman or Walla Walla – Urquhart only oversees one library branch. But she still has a lot to do on a day-to-day basis. For example, right now, she’s working with architects to design a renovation for the library’s children’s section. And recently, they held a big celebration for the library’s centennial.

Urquhart said a major part of her job is ensuring that Camas residents are happy with their library services.

“We’re stewards of the taxpayers’ dollars, so it’s our job to make sure we’re doing exactly what they want and need,” she said. “It is so satisfying when we know we’ve hit the nail on the head, and we’re serving them based on what we want.”

At the moment, it seems like she’s doing just that. Last year, the Camas library’s circulation rose, the number of programs offered doubled, and participation in the summer reading program broke records.

“It feels like we’re thriving right now,” Urquhart said.