Katherine Peters

SUBHEAD: Woman instrumental in the development and design of library at Kauai Community Campus passes away.

By Stephen C. Peters 17 May 2015 in the Garden Island News -

Image above: Katherine Peters in August 1999 when she was living on the Big Island in Kamuela. Photo by Juan Wilson.

[IB Publisher's note: As a personal friend of Steve Peters I got to know his mother Kathy in the 1970s. I believe our first meeting was when the three of us went to an Armenian restaurant in Greenich Village, New York. Over the years my wife, Linda, and I got to know her for her wit, quick intelligence and dedication to Hawaiian history, culture and nature. She was a great woman.]

Katherine (Kathy) Peters, former head librarian at Kauai Community College, passed away on the Big Island on May 2, 2015. She was 93, and had suffered from Alzheimer’s for several years.

She served as KCC’s librarian from 1968 until her retirement in 1986. Katherine Shamlian, her maiden name, was one of four Armenian sisters whose family fled the Armenian massacres of WWI and came to the United States. Kathy eventually received a Masters Degree in Library Science from the University of Michigan.

While working as a librarian at a Detroit community college, on a lark teased into by her coworkers,Kathy answered a job listing in the UM Bulletin for a position at a community college on some island called Kauai that she was only vaguely aware of as part of the 50th state. KCC’s provost at the time, Dr. Walter Steiger, came to the mainland in the winter of 1968 to conduct interviews, almost all of them candidates from the West Coast. There were only two east of the Mississippi, one in Minnesota and a woman in Detroit.

Afterall the interviews, Walt Steiger was cold, tired, in Minnesota, and wanted to go back home to the islands. He called Kathy in Detroit and said if she wasn’t really serious about this faraway job in Hawaii, he was getting on a plane in Minneapolis right then. Kathy lied; of course she was serious.

Steiger agreed to meet her only at the Detroit airport, so he could fly out immediately for Hawaii. The interview took place. When Steiger’s return flight stopped for a connection in San Francisco a few hours later, he called Kathy and offered her the job.

So began Kathy’s journey to Kauai and head librarian at KCC. At that time in 1968, KCC’s “campus” was the old trade school next to Kauai High School. The library was a shack on poles in the entry drive. It’s collection was maybe 200 volumes and a few magazines.

Things changed, and by the mid 1970’s KCC’s new campus opened in Puhi on land donated by Grove Farm. Kathy was instrumental in the development and design of the Learning Resource Center (LRC), the new designation for library.

She worked with architects to create a space that was not a typical sterile, silent place of study, but rather more like a big two-story student union, a comfortable and welcoming lounge that encouraged interaction and conversation (within limits) among students and faculty— all of this surrounded by an ever-expanding collection. She also had “quiet” study areas and alcoves on both levels integrated into the design.

Kathy fought hard for an increased LRC budget, and its collection grew to thousands of volumes and over a hundred periodicals. She was a leading proponent of something new that had arrived onto the information resource horizon: Computers. She led the way in putting the entire old card catalog into an online database, available at workstations, and also encouraged another new form of communication among her staff and the faculty: email.

Kathy spent a year in Wales on sabbatical studying the Open University concept: providing part-time undergraduate higher education and supported distance learning. She saw this process as a leading aspect of KCC’s mission, and indeed UH’s extended network of campuses.

Kathy had a deep affection for the island of Kauai, and its college. Many of Kathy’s KCC colleagues remained lifelong friends. Among them: Bob Tsuda, Andy Bushnell, Mark Summers, Mino Shimokawa, Richard Coller, Earl Nishiguchi, Guy Fujiuchi, Jeanne Bunyan, Bill Higa and Charles Roessler. And most especially, her longtime associate in the LRC’s administrative office, Isabel Adorable of Eleele.

Kathy is survived by many nieces and nephews, and her son Stephen, and two granddaughters, Daniele and Isabel.

(Special thanks to KCC’s head librarian, Robert Kajiwara in the preparation of this notice.)


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