by James Coulter
After 40 years of supervising the library, organizing books by the Dewey Decimal System, and telling the occasional patron to shush, Library Director Tina Peaks has retired from Lake Wales Public Library.
Peaks celebrated with family and friends during her retirement party last Thursday afternoon in the library lobby. Guests were able to say their farewells to their good friend and co-worker while enjoying cake and punch. Near the end, Peak was conferred a plaque commemorating her four-decade-long service.
When asked what she will miss most now that she has retired, Peak simply replied: “Just the people I work with in the library and through the city. it has always been a pleasure to work with folks. It was a good fit for me the whole time.”
Born and raised in Lake Wales, Peak lived most of her life in her hometown save for her college years. She started her job at the Lake Wales Public Library in 1982. During her four-decade-long career there, she has seen the library expand its services and its facility.
Peaks oversaw the expansion of the library building in 1991, when the facility more than quadrupled its size. Before then, she was never involved with a building project, but seeing what the library has become since then made her feel proud of her accomplishments since.
Her other notable achievements during her 40-year career as library director included overseeing the creation of the Polk County Library Cooperative, the Life-Long Learning Program for senior citizens sponsored by Florida’s Natural Growers Foundation, and the expansion of library services during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“She quickly identified a safe-convenient solution to get books and media to library members through contactless-curbside delivery,” the City of Lake Wales website stated. “The service was so successful, that it morphed into a new type of library service – outdoor self-service lockers, similar to Amazon’s locker service. It gives residents the ability to pre-order library materials and retrieves the items any time of day.”
Peak has three sons and currently teaches yoga. She will miss her job working at the library, and will continue to volunteer there on occasions. She is proud of all that she has accomplished during her time there. She is especially glad that its services have been expanded so that the library is available to people 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
“I have so many things I love about the job,” she said. “I love my colleagues [and] my coworkers. I will continue to be a library patron. So, I am looking forward to seeing my friends and family and continuing my volunteer work.”
Both her 40-year-long career and her many achievements during that time have earned her acclaim by my residents and colleagues.
“Tina is one of the best directors I have ever met,” said Andrew Allen, Chief Executive Officer at Z Axis Solutions. “Her hard work and dedication have afforded the Lake Wales community with one of the best libraries in the state of Florida. She’s incredibly kind, dedicated, knowledgeable, and helpful. I have been very fortunate to have partnered with her and her organization.”
When asked what was the greatest accomplishment by her co-worker, Marcia Lemon, reference librarian, could only reply: “I don’t know where to start. She has been so influential that thinking about one thing is hard.”
Her biggest accomplishment, Lemon insists, is her knowledge of the local community, which has allowed Peak to contribute as much to it as she has during her tenure, which includes helping preserve its local history.
“There will be things that none of us knows that she knows for being around her for so long,” Lemon said. “I am amazed. I will miss most about her.”
Kara Wiseman, a fellow co-worker, has been with the library for 22 years, more than half the time of Peak’s career. She appreciated being able to work alongside such a talented colleague, and she will miss how Peak had served as a sounding board for new, potential ideas.
“She is the library personified,” Wiseman said. “She will be missed because she has done so much for the library of Polk County.”