Blount County Public Library director who directed state-of-the-art facility to retire
By Joel Davis | (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Blount County Library Director Kathy Pagles is closing the book on her 23-year career at the library’s helm.
Pagles has announced she will retire at the end of December. A national search for a new director has already begun.
Pagles started her career at the former library building at 301 McGhee St. She became director in 1990.
During Pagles’ tenure, the library opened in its current home, a $14 million state-of-the-art facility, located at 508 North Cusick St., in 2002. “When it happened, it was a blessing of timing and a blessing of the community being ready for it to be able to pull off a project like that with the public support we did,” she said.
Coming in the middle of her career as director, the new library facility is one of Pagles’ proudest accomplishments.
“The building of the library is going to be my fondest memory, and what I’m most proud of,” she said. “I’m also proud of the fact that the building we’ve built is beautiful and functional and something our community can be and is proud of because it speaks of our values and dreams and imagining. It’s not just a box. It’s a functioning building that is used to its fullest potential for outreach, for programming, for individual study, for communication, for bringing the community together. It functions in many, many different ways.”
About 415,000 people use the library annually; an average of 1,500 people per day visit it. There are 93,098 registered borrowers. It has a staff of 53 people and an operating budget of $2.1 million.
“Since we built the building and have been able to recognize what a fantastic facility can make possible, we’ve grown it into a library of renown. It’s well respected in the state. We’ve got great resources. We’ve got a vibrant outreach program. We’ve got an efficient and effective staff.”
Lover of Books
Libraries have played a major part in Pagles’ life through the years. “I’ve always been a lover of books, but since I was married to an educator, we spent most of our married life affiliated with a college, libraries and education continued to play a big part in our lives.”
A graduate of East Carolina University in Greenville, N.C., Pagles returned to school after her children had grown up. “It took me about another five years to get the courage to quit a full-time job and tell my husband, ‘I’m going to graduate school.’”
Dealing with books is still a pleasure, Pagles said. “I still read a lot, but I do find that occasionally reading an ebook is a little bit more convenient and sometimes easier on these old eyes.
“... It really is fun to see the books as they come in every month and to be able to lay my hands on them before they go to the shelf. It’s been a great pleasure.”
Pagles took a few minutes to reflect on the challenges waiting for her successor. “Any person who is taking over a library or is going to lead a library is going to share some of the same challenges,” she said. “One of them is technology, how to make it available, how to teach people to use it effectively, how to help people incorporate technology into their lives and provide access to people who can’t afford it any other way.”
Dealing with the changing needs of young people as well as aging population is another challenge. “We have an aging population with information needs we’ve probably never experienced before.”
Another challenge is the funding uncertainties related to the economic downturn. “Public monies are scarcer ... and those who are working in public institutions for the public good are finding more and more that those resources are shrinking.”
Meeting the changing needs of the population means that a library can never remain stagnant. “The demand for services is changing,” Pagles said. “You can’t just sit back and say ‘We’ve got a lot of books on the shelf, we’re done.’”