Unheralded Heroes at the Library

by Bill Peak

For the last ten months it has been my privilege to serve on the search committee for our library's new director. Over the course of those ten months, our committee received and reviewed résumés from 37 applicants. As some of these candidates hailed from as far away as Alaska and Nova Scotia, we held our initial interviews via Skype. To make sure we weren't letting anyone spectacular slip through the cracks, we “skyped” a total of 12 candidates for an hour each, often interviewing several, one after another, on the same day. Narrowing the field in this way, we then invited the top 8 candidates to visit the library for a personal interview with the committee and board, a meeting with staff, and a tour of both branch libraries and Talbot County.

As anyone who reads this column regularly knows, I care deeply about our library and the people it serves. At the beginning of our search, I told myself I would do anything, work every hour of the night and day, to make sure we placed an excellent leader at the helm of Talbot County's excellent library. But I have to tell you, I don't think I fully realized what I was letting myself in for—reading and reviewing résumés, questioning candidates, examining candidates, watching for the smallest clues as to character and ability, mulling over the field with the rest of the committee ... all on top of my regular responsibilities for the library—I was surprised by how tiring it was. I didn't get a lot of sleep, and, doubtless, I added a highway or two to the road map that has long since become my face. But what you have to remember is: I'm paid to do this job. With the exception of a staff person from the Eastern Shore Regional Library, the remainder of our committee was made up entirely of volunteers from the community. And some of these people worked a heck of a lot harder than I did.

The committee was led by the chair of our library's board of trustees, the inestimable Barbara Lane. She arranged to have the position advertised, managed all the incoming applications, made copies of all those applications and disseminated them to committee members, scheduled interviews, chaired the interviews, chaired committee meetings, made housing arrangements for the candidates who came to Easton for in-person interviews, acted as host for the candidates when they arrived, and, finally, drove each and every one of them around on those tours of the county in her car on her dime. I know some folks think people volunteer for boards solely to have their names listed on the letterhead, that, once elected, they just sit on their hands and bask in the reflected glory, but no one could ever accuse Barb Lane of that. I don't know how much glamour accrues to someone for chairing our library board, but so far as I'm concerned, there ought to be several crowns and a throne involved.

And Barb was just one of the twenty or so members of our community who volunteered to help us find the perfect new library director. There isn't room enough here to list them all, but I wish I could. Suffice it to say, the people of Talbot County have been well served by ... the people of Talbot County! Our new director is Dana Newman. She is a lucky woman, for she will find her efforts on behalf of our library undergirded by the work of a long line of Talbot County volunteers going all the way back to the lady who founded our library ninety years ago, Caroline Burnite Walker. These are the real heroes, the men and women who—without thought of recompense—give of their time and talent to make the world a better place to live. Their type, their historical antecedents, were our country's founding fathers. In them, the work of nation-building goes on. I salute them. We should all be thankful.