Rick Osen, the newest trustee at Bellingham Public Library, knows a thing or two about libraries, having worked in one for more than 35 years.
The former interim dean of libraries and assistant dean for library administration and planning at Western Washington University, Osen was appointed in February to serve alongside fellow trustees J. Robert Gordon, Rachel Myers, Marilyn Mastor and Tom Barrett.
Osen, 66, has long considered libraries vital to the communities they serve. After retiring from Western last year, he decided he wanted to contribute his knowledge and years of experience to the library community.
“I have a real commitment to the value that libraries add to communities,” he says, “ and the value they give to individual people as an opportunity for them to be involved in lifelong learning.”
Osen grew up on an 80-acre farm in Iowa, but has called Bellingham home for nearly 40 years. He earned a bachelor’s degree in education from Simpson College in Iowa before moving to Bellingham in 1976 to attend Huxley College, where he earned a bachelor of science degree.
Osen’s lifelong career in libraries started by chance. He was hired to work in Western’s library as a student employee. Three years later, he accepted a full-time position and his responsibilities continued to grow over the years.
“I always had an appreciation for libraries,” he says. “Once I started working there, I realized it was work that I really enjoyed.”
During his tenure at Western, Osen has had oversight of various aspects of library operations. He has been responsible for budget planning, facilities management, and personnel training and management. He also has served on numerous university and regional committees.
Osen says he truly enjoyed working in a university environment and coming into contact with a wide range of people. He says libraries are an important community element, especially for seniors.
“The library provides many resources for people free of charge, and it also provides a lot of programming that is valuable for any age,” he says.
Osen also credits the library with being a valuable community gathering place.
“Some people, seniors or not, don’t have enough face-to-face time in the community,” he says. “Libraries are a good place to provide that.”
As busy as his new position will keep Osen, he has ambitious plans to travel with his wife, Barbara, to Warsaw, Poland, to visit their daughter, son-in-law and two grandchildren. And, of course, Osen is looking forward to the extra time he will have to read.
Lindsay Hilton is a Bellingham writer.
Libraries expand free digital offerings
Whatcom County seniors who are library users can now temporarily download or stream audiobooks, movies, TV shows, and music albums for free.
Provided through hoopla digital, the service offers people access to 260,000 items for adults and children, with more being added, without having to wait for borrowed items to be returned.
Both Bellingham Public Library and Whatcom County Library System are offering the service. People must have a library card to access hoopla, which can be used with smartphones, tablets, computers, and Apple TV.
For now, library cardholders are limited to 12 items a month through hoopla. Returns are automatic, so there’s no late fee.
Movies and TV shows can be checked out for three days, music for seven, and audiobooks for 21. Mobile device owners can choose to download.
For technical help, call Bellingham Public Library at 360-778-7323, ext. 3, or contact your local Whatcom County library branch.