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In 35 years of work at the Bozeman Public Library, Lois Dissly saw a lot of change.

When Dissly started working at the Bozeman Public Library in 1982, it was in the old building on Lamme Street, staff used a physical card catalog and rented people phonograph records.

Over the years Dissly helped set up the library’s website and ran its social media pages, directed people to the library’s e-library and, most recently, rented people Wi-Fi hotspots during the pandemic.

The means may have changed, but the end goal for Dissly was the same.

“The main goal of the library is to help people, even if we are pointing them to the e-library, we’re helping them navigate their gadgets and find what they need,” Dissly said. “It’s just kind of interesting throughout my career to see that change from books and material on the shelves to the electronic library but there still is a need for the library to help people.”

In late April, Dissly retired after 35 total years working at the library, making her the longest-serving employee with the city of Bozeman.

A Montana native, Dissly got her degree in education and taught for a few years before landing at the library.

“What got me towards libraries is libraries really are a place where every kind of person goes …. It’s a place where they are just democratic institutions and you serve people of every income level, every education level, every ethnicity,” Dissly said. “I was really lucky to be in a career where I could help people become better people and to learn and thrive.”

Dissly certainly did so over her years, Library Director Susan Gregory said, but it wasn’t just library patrons who she helped.

Dissly modeled to other employees how to treat people experiencing homelessness with compassion, Gregory said.

“She was always so compassionate with our patrons, especially our patrons who had a lot of needs,” Gregory said. “That was really just a wonderful quality for a department head.”

Dissly, who turns 65 at the end of May, has been looking forward to retirement for a while. She and her husband, Paul, have been planning to visit all 50 states and as many national and Montana state parks as they can manage.

The research for their trips, of course, comes from books that Dissly first rented from the library.

The two Montana natives are planning a few international trips, too, Dissly said, though they also plan to spend more time with family.

Dissly raised three sons while working for the Bozeman Public Library. The oldest both live in the area and have four children between them, and the youngest, Will, plays for the Seattle Seahawks.

Dissly’s son, Russ Dissly, said he is looking forward to his mom being able to spend more time with his children, maybe even taking them to story time at the library once COVID-19 abates.

One of the last tasks Lois Dissly completed before signing off on Friday was to give her two of her grandchildren their first library cards.

“It was nice, I think it was kind of a signing off, passing it on to the next generation hoping that that generation is still into reading books,” Russ Dissly said. “In this electronic world we live in we hope we can still get those kids in there and checking out books and still doing the hard copy thing. It’s important to me.”

It’s important to Lois Dissly, too.

Dissly said the library remains a great place to gather. During the pandemic, Dissly said she could tell people calling in to request something wanted to chat just to get more human contact.

And even in today’s world, Dissly said books — in electronic or print form — are still the library’s “main commodity.”

“I think that we talk about our freedoms but really the freedom of information is just as important as some of the other freedoms that we are debating right now,” Dissly said.

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Nora Shelly can be reached at nshelly@dailychronicle.com or 406-582-2607.

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