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November 25, 2020

Greenfield officials honor historic librarian’s contributions to city

New plaque recognizes Frances Johansen’s decades of service

GREENFIELD — A new photo and plaque will be on display at the Greenfield Library when patrons are allowed to re-enter, following a recent dedication that took place in honor of one of the city’s first librarians.

Frances Johansen, the daughter of first mayor Tom Rogers, operated a library out of her living room and served as Greenfield’s librarian from 1949 to 1981. She was also the first woman city council member and first woman mayor pro tem.

A small ceremony was held Oct. 21 with Mayor Lance Walker, City Manager Paul Wood, Police Chief Gregory Allen and Johansen’s daughter, Virginia McCollough.

“It was her desire that Greenfield residents have books available for research, knowledge and enjoyment,” Walker said during the proclamation.

Walker went through the history of the library, starting in Johansen’s living room on Eighth Street, then moving to her garage, to a larger building on family property, and then eventually to the library location on El Camino Real.

In addition to Johansen’s service as librarian, Walker noted her time on the city council and said the proclamation was a way to honor her commitment to the community.

“Mrs. Johansen was like everybody’s grandma,” Walker said, while reflecting on memories of visiting the library.

He reminisced how Johansen would ask questions upon book return.

“She wanted to know if you read it,” he said, before adding, “She was a true pioneer, just like her father.”

Walker credited her with having “made Greenfield what it is today.”

McCollough also reflected on the past, as she was just a girl when her mother operated the library from home.

“If there was any child that needed a book or needed to get an assignment, she’d just open the door and hunt for a book,” McCollough said. “She also counseled them and encouraged them.”

Both Walker and McCollough noted that Johansen would give cookies to people who visited her home library.

“She really wanted people to increase their knowledge,” McCollough said. “Just because you live in a little rural town doesn’t mean you can’t learn and be exposed to the arts. She loved poetry and she loved the classics and encouraged people to read them.”

The reminiscing recalled Johansen as a woman who loved people and books and worked to evolve a small living room library into what the people of Greenfield now see along El Camino Real. Johansen died in 2013 at age 94.

“Time has passed, but this still wouldn’t be here if she hadn’t persevered,” McCollough said. “It doesn’t matter how small this town is, or how rural it seemed. We’ve seen some great people come out of this town.”

Greenfield City Manager Paul Wood holds the photo of Frances Johansen that will be displayed inside the Greenfield Library. (Sean Roney/Staff)
Sean Roney
Sean Roney
Sean Roney is the reporter for King City Rustler and Salinas Valley Tribune, a unified publication of Greenfield News, Soledad Bee and Gonzales Tribune. He covers education, government and general news for the Salinas Valley communities in South Monterey County.

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