After nearly 30 years as the director of the West Bloomfield Township Public Library, Clara Bohrer recently retired. Bohrer is pictured in 2010 with former First Lady Michelle Obama and local resident Cameron Thomas-Shah after the library was one of five in the United States to be awarded the National Medal for Museum and Library Service.

After nearly 30 years as the director of the West Bloomfield Township Public Library, Clara Bohrer recently retired. Bohrer is pictured in 2010 with former First Lady Michelle Obama and local resident Cameron Thomas-Shah after the library was one of five in the United States to be awarded the National Medal for Museum and Library Service.

Photo provided by Clara Bohrer


Longtime West Bloomfield library director retires

By: Mark Vest | West Bloomfield Beacon | Published January 10, 2021

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WEST BLOOMFIELD — Nearly 30 years ago, Clara Bohrer received a phone call to inform her that she had been hired as the director of the West Bloomfield Township Public Library.

She was so enthusiastic about the news that she “couldn’t wait to hang up from that call so I could call my husband, parents and friends, and say, ‘Oh my goodness, I’m (going to) be able to work in West Bloomfield.’”

Despite all the enjoyment she has gotten from the job since starting in 1991, earlier this year, Bohrer informed the library board of her decision to retire.

Her official retirement date is Feb. 12, but with vacation time, her last day on the job was Dec. 17.

Former Troy Public Library Director Cathy Russ assumed the position Dec. 14.

“I’m so excited to start what I think is a new facet of my life,” Bohrer said. “It’s bittersweet. … I have so enjoyed working with the community through the years, with the staff, library board and our Friends of the Library. … It was interesting work and satisfying work, but now I think I’m ready to start a new facet.”

Bohrer’s venture into the new facet of her life comes after having some noteworthy accomplishments during her tenure as director.

Along with being the first recipient of the Dr. Seymour Gretchko Youth Advocate Award, she also received the American Library Association’s Sullivan Award, which “recognizes outstanding public library administrators who demonstrate exceptional understanding and support of public library service to children.”

Bohrer has served as the president of the Public Library Association and in other national leadership positions.

She initiated a process that led to a successful 1997 ballot request for $10.8 million to renovate, expand and operate both the Main Library and Westacres Branch.

The millage helped provide new technology, along with more services and study rooms, which may have contributed significantly to how popular the library has become in the West Bloomfield community.

“We circulate (a) significant amount of materials, and in normal times, our parking lot is full,” Bohrer said. “Normally, from after school through the evenings, on weekends, spots are all taken in the parking lot. There are times when every seat in the building is filled. … It’s a well-used community asset.”

In 2005, West Bloomfield became the first-ever Michigan public library to be ranked as a Top 100 American Public Library, and in 2010, it was one of five libraries in the United States to be awarded the National Medal for Museum and Library Service.

That recognition came at a White House ceremony.

Bohrer, who grew up in Dearborn, reflected on the changes the library has gone through since she arrived.

“The library when I first came (was) like libraries all over: We had books, magazines and video cassettes,” she said. “We now have access to the internet, a 24/7 online library, (and) we do outreach throughout the community … I think that’s what’s the most exciting thing about this job, is to watch the changes and the growth of this library over the years. … This is not only West Bloomfield, but public libraries in general across the country have really changed to be dynamic institutions that are so much more than being just a repository of materials.”

A change in approach to youth services is one of the things that has pleased Bohrer the most during the time she has spent as director. Unlike in days gone by, children don’t need to worry as much about volume control.

“We wanted an active, learning library; no shushing — none of that,” she said. “But actually, for the youngest children, even play, because play is how a young child learns. So we developed our spaces based on active learning, and I think that it is one of the real popular aspects of both our facilities for the community.”

Prior to retiring, Bohrer helped get Russ oriented to her new position.

“She’s done so much for this library,” Russ said. “I was very appreciative that I got to spend my first week with her, because she’s a great teacher.”

Bohrer’s contributions to the West Bloomfield library have not gone unnoticed, as the Board of Trustees is recognizing her by naming the Youth Services Activity Center at the Main Library and Westacres Branch “in her honor.”

“This means a great deal to me,” Bohrer said.

In retirement, Bohrer, who earned a bachelor’s degree in education from the University of Michigan and a master’s degree in library science from Wayne State University, wants to “delve deeper into some of my interests,” which include art history classes and going to the theatre.

She may also volunteer with youth organizations.

Bohrer is on the board of the Public Library Association and intends to serve out her term through 2022.

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