Below, John and Kathy's DaughterJennifer with Husband Steve, Daughter Kiera, boys Quillon and Logan


 John and Kathy with the grandkids.

John and Kathy's kids, Jennifer, Paul, Phil and Andy.

Yuman leaves career as librarian behind to become screenwriter

January 12, 2008 - 6:26PM

Books in Yuma are losing a good friend.

John Coultas started out life as a book worm, nosing his own way through printed pages that let him explore the entire world - all from the comfort of his own imagination. Then Coultas grew up and dedicated his life to making sure that fellow book worms, young and old, always have something great to read.

Coultas became a librarian.

But just this past week, after serving libraries at his faithful post for more than 30 years, Coultas put something else up on the shelf - his beloved career. He has retired from Yuma Main Library and readily admits that he's got mixed feelings about beginning this new chapter.

"This job is something I've done all my life," Coultas said. "It's going to be hard."

Most of all he shared that he's especially going to miss playing matchmaker between reader and book.

"Definitely my greatest reward was working with people and finding information for them, seeing that light go on and the smile spread across their face," Coultas said. "Then it was also great knowing that they would be back. To me the most important thing is helping people find information on their own next time, making sure that the library is going to be valuable resource for them over years to come."

Coultas, 62, began his job as the librarian overseeing teen resources at the Yuma Main Library four years ago, when he and his wife, Kathy, moved to Yuma.

He had actually retired at that point, but it's not surprising that Coultas gravitated back to the stacks and shelves. Being a librarian amounts to a perfect fit for someone who continues to be such a committed reader himself.

"When I was a boy I wanted to be in the Navy or be a policeman, something exciting like that," he shared. "It wasn't until high school that I kind of caught the book bug. Today I enjoy each meal with a book in front of me and I don't like to go to bed without having something to read. I'm always reading. I'm kind of a book addict."

Coultas grew up in Los Angeles, where instead of libraries he more often haunted movie studio lots. His father worked as a Hollywood electrician for Universal Studios and Coultas would often visit sets during filming and even join his father on location. He remembers watching the making of two movies in particular: "The Brass Bottle" starring Tony Randall and Barbara Eden, along with the legendary "To Kill a Mockingbird."

He spent one summer in Utah with his father during the filming of a Daniel Boone television series, which he still sees being run on cable from time to time. He got to play an extra in a few scenes, although he's never been able to spot himself on TV.

The acting bug managed to nip Coultas as an adult. He performed in some community theater throughout his adult life.

"There's just something very special about being up there on stage and connecting with an audience."

Coultas graduated from high school and attended community college for a while before being drafted into the Army. He served as a medic in Vietnam for 14 months, but he's quick to downplay the experience.

"I wasn't in the real war. I was at a supply depot and it was real quiet," he said. "We dealt with some casualties, but nothing compared to Vietnam-type movies, not the horrendous action that you see in the movies."

Coultas came back home and earned a master's degree in library science. But he had originally thought about going into education although one thing stopped that plan - the students.

"I had junior high students and they weren't too interested in education," he said laughing.

So Coultas combined his love of reading with that passion for education and became a librarian.

"Librarians are a lot like teachers. You are taking people to books and trying to help them make a connection."

Coultas worked as a librarian in both rural and metro California, including an eight-year stint in Burbank, as well as time in Oregon and Nevada.

But if working with people marked the highlight of being a librarian, he stressed that pressures related to government funding often amounted to the biggest headache.

"Several places where I had to work were forced to shut down libraries for periods of time due to a lack of funding," he said. "It hurts when you see a community lose its services."

While many veterans of a field often dislike how much their calling has changed over the years, Coultas has actually embraced how much libraries have evolved during his years. "I remember back in the early 1970s when a library had electric lights, electric heat, maybe an electric typewriter and a coffee pot. You always have to have a coffee pot," he said.

To him the Internet isn't the librarian's professional enemy No. 1, either.

"The Internet is just unbelievable. It represents millions of dollars of free information," he said. "It's an incredible tool."

He'd probably love to see the profession evolve even more, but remember that Coultas is retiring.

Coultas' reason for leaving turns out to be a pretty serious one, too. His health simply isn't cooperating with his drive to serve and perform.

"I'm used to giving 100 percent. I'm not able to do that anymore and I just don't feeling comfortable not giving 100 percent," he said. "It's not the way you want to leave, but that's the way it is."

But don't expect Coultas' creative mind to retire any time soon. Instead of putting his feet up, he plans to make some movies - or least write some. Coultas has been writing screenplays for several years now and has two scripts in the works. One's a Western-type with a psychological-action twist set in Yuma, while the other screenplay is a romance, "a predictable Hollywood-type," set at the end of World War II.

"I'm really big on dialogue. It just pours out of me. When I get on a roll I just let it go like a stream of consciousness," he said. "I just pound away and let it out. It's fun and kind of a release - cathartic."

Coultas hasn't mailed anything to Hollywood yet, but he's pretty optimistic that film options may pan out in the future.

"I wouldn't be doing this if I didn't feel something might happen," he said. "Maybe a small, independent producer may pick it up."

Maybe a Yuma librarian will some day put one of Coultas' movies up on the library's DVD shelf. It's a plot twist he'd probably appreciate.