The New Orleans Public Library Board appointed Emily Painton interim executive director and city librarian Friday, Nov. 12, 2021.
Charles Delong Retires from Library After 32-Year Printing Career
Whenever you pick up a paper handout from the New Orleans Public Library, there’s a good chance you’re holding Charles Delong’s work. Since 1989, Delong has been behind the Library scenes, printing every bookmark, every poster, every brochure, flyer, business card ––you name it, he printed it. Now, after 32 years of hard work, Delong is retiring, leaving behind him a time capsule to the days long before the inkjet printer.
“When I started doing printing, it was a very specialized profession, it required a lot of skill,” Delong said. “I learned from a guy named Genovese who owned a printing shop in the French Quarter. I used to work nights for him, and he taught me the basics.”
Delong started working for the New Orleans Police Department in 1979 and transferred to the Library 10 years later, where he met his mentor, Robert Baxter.
“Robert taught me how to do full color processing. We were really good. If we had the paper, we could have printed money, that’s how good we were,” Delong said, laughing. “Not that we would do that, but it really is an art. When I first started doing this, computers hardly existed, let alone high-capacity color printers. It wasn’t easy, you couldn’t just press a button.”
For the last few years of his career, Delong’s supervisor was John Marc Sharpe, the Library’s former director of marketing.
“Charles is one of a kind. Professionally, his decades of experience, knowledge, and dedication to the Library will be impossible to replace, but it’s his personal connections and relationships with staff –– some going back over 30 years –– that will be missed the most,” Sharpe said. “However, his retirement is very well-deserved.”
Sharpe left the Library last fall. Jane LeGros took over his role, after having worked with Delong for five years in the marketing department.
“Charles was a wonderful part of our marketing team. I’m going to miss his stories and his humor, but I am grateful to have worked with him and to have seen his work all around the Library,” LeGros said. “Not many people think about who prints bookmarks, fliers, or posters; they’re just there. But Charles was dedicated to his job, and the Library would certainly look different without him.”
Delong’s office is in the first of two basements at the Main Library, where his beloved old printing machines still sit.
“I’m an old-school printer. I like the ink under my fingernails. I love that. You just don’t get that anymore with the new way,” he said.
Baxter started working in the Library’s duplications department in the 1960s. He retired eight years ago, leaving Delong to run the show.
“I knew I was leaving things in good hands. Charles has always loved his work, and he took pride in it,” Baxter said.
The two stayed close after Baxter left, talking at least twice a week, or anytime their shared favorite movie comes on TV.
“We made a good team. Over the years, we became good friends. We know each other’s families, and we talk all the time. We both love “The Godfather,” so we’ll always text each other when it’s on and what channel. It was on the other night, and Charles texted me, so I turned it on,” Baxter said. “He’s a really good guy. He’s got a bit of a gruff exterior, but he cares a lot about people. And he has a great sense of humor. We always had a lot of laughs.”
Over the past three decades, the Library has grown and changed –– with nine different directors, a number of new locations, and thousands of materials in and out of circulation –– all the while with Delong printing away.
“To be honest, I love it. I really do,” Delong said. “Even after we stopped doing things the old way, I just love being down here, making all of these things that get sent all around the city. It’s rewarding work, and I know I’m going to miss it.”
However, he said he is also happy to be retiring and is looking forward to spending more time with his family.
“On the outside, I’m playing it cool. But inside me, I’m ecstatic. I don’t even know how to put it into words. I’ve been working for a long time,” he said. “It will be a hard transition in some ways, I think, but also, I can’t wait.”
Baxter said he’s glad for his friend, and while he agrees that retired life might take Delong some getting used to, there’s no one more deserving of some rest.
“It’s the end of an era, there’s no doubt about that. It was always just the two of us down there, and then it was just Charles. We had a good time. I’m happy that he’s doing what’s best for him and his family,” Baxter said.
Delong said he’s kicking off retirement with a nice cold beer –– imports only, no Budweiser’s for him –– and then a road trip.
“I’ve had a great run and I’ve loved working here, but don’t want anyone to make a big deal about it. I’m just going to shake some hands, and walk out like I’ll be back. Then, I’m going to Florida and I’m going to have some fun.”
For the past few weeks, 7th graders Gracie Hodes and Sophia Vernier–Molinario have spent every Monday afternoon building their coding and creativity skills at the New Orleans Public Library’s Girls Who Code Club.