SAFETY HARBOR — Lana Bullian's eyes became moist with tears Thursday as she talked about the staff and the improvements at the Safety Harbor Public Library.
During her eight years as the city's library director, she helped shepherd a $5.3 million expansion and renovation of the downtown library.
Completed in April 2009, the project enlarged the building from 15,000 square feet to 24,300 square feet. Meeting spaces, a children's library and a teen zone were added. The drive-up book drop was given a cover.
A library foundation was created, too, to help ensure the library's future.
Bullian was there for it all, but after today she must leave the library to the guidance of others. After 20 years as a librarian in Pinellas County, she is retiring.
"When I came to this library, we had the expansion on the budget," said Bullian, 64. "I looked at it as something I could accomplish for the community and as a career goal. How many directors get to do an expansion? But my role is accomplished and now I think it is time to go forward with another person's vision."
Lisa Kothe, who now heads Adult Services at the library, has been selected as the interim director. No decision has been made about a permanent director.
Matthew Spoor, Safety Harbor's city manager, called Bullian one of "the most productive library directors this city has ever had." Spoor pointed to the library's expansion and renovation, the record numbers of patrons and unprecedented circulation.
"It would be difficult to find another person who has made such an impact on Safety Harbor or dedicated more time and effort into improving this community," Spoor said. "Lana will be sorely missed."
Mayor Andy Steingold concurred.
"Lana has done an outstanding and stellar job, not just in overseeing the operations of the library, but in being an advocate for the library," Steingold said. "Without Lana's personal commitment above and beyond her duties as library director, we probably would not have been able to proceed with the expansion."
The library is a Safety Harbor focal point. Last year, almost 202,000 people visited the library and its circulation was at a 10-year high with 287,003 items.
"I had the vision for moving forward with what the community wanted and I could see it," Bullian said. "I'm grateful to the community and the city for allowing me to follow through with it. Now, I'm in a season where I can move on to new adventures like the ones I've read in the books."
Before coming to Safety Harbor in 2003, Bullian worked at libraries in Clearwater, Palm Harbor, Oldsmar and Tarpon Springs.
Bullian said she will now spend more time with her husband of 44 years, Jerald, who retired three years ago. She will enjoy time with her three adult sons, who all live in the area. She has four grandchildren and another one on the way.
Bullian said she will travel and at some point find another project that relates to people and their needs.
Beverly Miller stopped by the library Thursday to give Bullian a hug and to say goodbye. Miller, 79, is a longtime library volunteer.
"She (Bullian) hugs every volunteer and makes you feel like you are wanted, needed and precious," Miller said. "She will be terribly missed."
Bullian said her success wouldn't have been possible without the help of volunteers and the Safety Harbor community. She said she will never be far away from a library.
"I have the joy of the profession on my heart and that's something that will not go away," Bullian said, dabbing her eyes again with a tissue. "But I've been gifted and grateful to have the opportunity to leave knowing this library is doing wonderful things."
Contact Demorris A. Lee at email@example.com and (727) 445-4174