27-year St. John libraries director retires with legacy of growth

Published 1:45 am Wednesday, June 25, 2014

By Monique Roth

LAPLACE — The longest serving director of the St. John the Baptist Parish Library system has retired. 

Randy A. De Soto served as director of the parish’s libraries for the past 27 years. On Friday, friends, family members, library staff and colleagues all gathered to honor De Soto at a retirement celebration held in his honor at the LaPlace library branch. 

Associate State Librarian Meg Placke said De Soto has been a “shining example to all directors” across the state.

Several proclamations were read in his honor, including ones from Gov. Bobby Jindal, St. John the Baptist Parish Council, Sheriff’s Office and Parish President Natalie Robottom. 

Mary Leboeuf, director of the Terrebonne Parish Library system, told the crowd “you need to be very, very, proud of your library system in this parish,” and after pointing to De Soto said, “this man is extraordinary.”

De Soto, a native of De Soto Parish, began his tenure with the St. John the Baptist Library as the assistant director in 1985. The director at the time of his hire, Kathleen Rogers, retired in 1986 and De Soto took over as director.

When De Soto assumed leadership in St. John Parish, there were only two library branches, one in LaPlace and a smaller one in Edgard. Under his tutelage, two more branches, the Garyville branch and then Reserve branch, were added. Additionally, De Soto oversaw construction of new buildings for the LaPlace library and the Edgard library. Under his leadership, four new buildings were constructed, in addition to an administrative building housing the administrative offices, computer and technical services departments. 

Former Director of the St. Charles Parish Library system Mary desBordes said De Soto has “never stopped looking for ways to make this system better.” 

Roberta August, who will take over De Soto’s director position, said she was “honored and humbled to be given the opportunity to continue the great work and build on the strong foundation” he’s built.

August said she will look for new and innovative services that enhance what De Soto has put into place. 

After speeches and proclamations, the crowd watched a slideshow with pictures and videos from De Soto’s decades as director. De Soto then addressed the crowd, saying it has been an honor to serve the parish as the library director.

“I have been very happy in my life to work in a library system and provide services,” De Soto said. 

He said in retirement he will focus on “new activities and new travels, but always learning.”

De Soto has served on the Board of Directors for the St. John the Baptist Parish Council on Aging and on the Board of River Region Arts and Humanities Council, holding the positions of treasurer and president twice during his term on the boards. He is an active member of the Louisiana Library Association and was the recipient of the LLA Meritorious Award and he prestigious Essae M. Culver Distinguished Service Award in 2012. 

He received a Bachelors of Arts degree from Louisiana Tech University in 1974 and a Masters of Library Science from Louisiana State University in 1978.

He completed terms as director of East Carroll and Morehouse Parishes Libraries and as a reference librarian at Houston Public Library before starting work in St. John Parish.