There is no question Peter Kaland is passionate about libraries and the Columbus community.

Kaland was honored for his commitment to both Dec. 19 when the Columbus Public Library presented Kaland with its third annual Volunteer of the Year award. The award also honored Kaland’s work with the Friends of the Library group and the library board of directors.

Library Director Cindy Fesemyer presented Kaland with the award during a banquet with members of the board and Friends of the Library.

“It feels very good to be honored,” Kaland said. “It’s been a long run and it feels good to be recognized for what you do. I love libraries so it’s a natural fit.”

Kaland began his career as a history teacher in Columbus and transitioned to audio-visual director at the high school library. He eventually became head librarian for the Columbus School District until his retirement several years ago.

Kaland has been a member of the Columbus library board since 1999 and has served as president for about seven years during that time.

Kaland’s name was placed on a plaque recognizing his dedication to the library.

The Friends of the Library received the first honor in 2015 and volunteer Mary Jo Wentz was honored last year. Fesemyer was pleased to present Kaland with this year’s award.

“Peter is our lifetime library lover,” Fesemyer said. “This plaque will also be presented to Pete at the city council meeting Jan. 16.”

Kaland began his work with the library while a member of Columbus’ city council, serving as the library liaison. Kaland said the library’s decision to join the South Central Library System was one of the most important in its long history.

“It’s the ability to provide materials from all over and we’re in a library system that I think is the best in the state,” Kaland said. “It’s such a wide area that there are not too many things you can’t get through the South Central Library System.”

In his 18 years on the board, Kaland has seen several changes at the library. He said programming has grown substantially to include activities and materials that appeal to everyone.

“Children’s programming was always very robust but adult programming really wasn’t there,” Kaland said. “Now we have outstanding numbers for adult programs.”

As a board member, Kaland helped start the Friends of the Library group. He admitted it was a struggle to get the group going and interest waned until Fesemyer became library director.

“The Friends group is now very robust, it’s been very helpful to the community and we thank them for all of their efforts,” Kaland said. “It’s a tremendous support group to have.”

Kaland said the expansion of Wi-Fi connections at the library has also attracted more users, especially in rural areas with slow internet systems.

“Our staff has been terrific,” Kaland said. “They come up with great, creative ideas that have been very helpful.”

Kaland said Fesemyer’s ability to market and publicize the library’s achievements and activities is vital to its success. In September, the library was named one of the best small libraries in the nation.

In the future, Kaland said the library will look to expand and offer more programs and materials.

“Many things have changed but libraries are still as important as they were when this building was built more than 100 years ago,” Kaland said.

Contact Kevin Damask at 608-963-7323 or on Twitter @kdamask