Pratt Public Library had a changing of the guard of sorts on Friday, as long-time library director Rochelle Westerhaus stepped down and Eric Killough, a 20-year Coast-Guard veteran, began his duties as director.
Rochelle Westerhaus was honored by dozens of friends Friday morning at a reception marking her official retirement as director of the Pratt Public Library.
“It’s been a wonderful 27 years and this last day was bittersweet,” Westerhaus said. “But I rest easy knowing that I’m leaving the library in the good hands of the Board of Trustees, the staff and the new director Eric Killough.”
Westerhaus started her career with the library March 15, 1991 when she was hired as Children’s Librarian. She has served as the director since April 1, 2009. Her original plan was to retire next April, but a diagnosis of Lou Gehrig’s Disease, a disorder that affects the function of nerves and muscles, put her retirement plans on a faster track.
Killough joined the library staff July 24 to take over the circulation desk, but his resume sparked Westerhaus to see him as a solid candidate for the directorship she was preparing to vacate.
“I’m deeply indebted to Mrs. Westerhaus for her confidence in me. She leaves a legacy that it is going to be hard to follow,” Killough said.
In 2008 Killough retired from a 20-year career with the U.S. Coast Guard with the rank of Chief. He took advantage of the Coast Guard educational program that financed his both his bachelor and master’s degrees.
He holds a bachelor’s degree in management from Northwood University in Midland, Mich. and master’s degree in global business from Davenport University in Grand Rapids, Mich.
Killough moved to Pratt last May, though he had visited here in 2013 while touring Kansas looking for a community to call home at some future date, when he returned stateside. Killough said on his initial visit to Pratt he purchased a small home, which he used as a rental until moving here.
In the ten years between his Coast Guard career and his move to Pratt, Killough made his home in Koper, Slovenia on the European Adriatic Sea. Killough used that home which he shared with teenage daughters Sonja and Angela as base for extensive globe-trotting adventures taking him to 60 countries spanning all seven continents.
When he wasn't traveling, Killough was a competitive weightlifter, open-water swimmer and avid hiker.
In 2012 he began his search for a Kansas community to become a future home.
“I got a rental car and I drove around the state from Concordia to Colby to Pratt and everywhere in between,” Killough said. “And Pratt won. I liked Pratt!”
Last May 16, Killough made the move to his home in Pratt and was recently joined by twenty-year-old daughter Sonja, who will attend Pratt Community College next term, majoring in psychology.
Of his position as library director, Killough said, “I wasn’t looking for another career, but I love the kids. I’m extremely grateful to Mrs. Westerhaus and the Board of Directors and to Ellen Hair for teaching me most of what I now know. I’m looking forward to serving Pratt.”
Killough said there are lots of reasons for Prattans to be proud of the library.
He named the remodeled library with expanded conference rooms, outstanding audio-visual equipment, Kids’ Zone, Teen Zone and Makers’ Zone with patrons from age three to 106, as a testimony to the Westerhaus years as director.
One of his goals, Killough said, is to establish a quieter reading area.
“We’re going to make that happen.”
Looking forward, Killough said, “I’d really like to encourage all Pratt residents to make use of all of our library facilities.”