Catawba County News
White Retires as Library Director
Published: August 28, 2020
Suzanne White retires as director of the Catawba County Library System on August 31, 2020, after seven-plus years of service in that prominent role. Asked to reflect on her time with CCLS, she opted to share meaningful experiences from her tenure and to offer some sage words that embrace the lessons of the library by encouraging people to seek empowerment and to lift up their communities through action and collaboration.
As I embark on this new chapter called retirement, I have been reflecting on the tremendously inspiring work that I have been so fortunate to be a part of. I LOVE the work of libraries. Libraries are inspiring places, that’s for sure.
Do you know what happens in libraries? YOU have the power, YOU can do, or dream, or become, anything YOU want!
Libraries are the cornerstone of our democracy. Everyone has the same access to the same incredibly powerful stuff.
Before they ever enter school, children can learn to love reading, gain powerful early literacy skills, explore their world, and be ready to succeed. As they continue their path of learning and growing, libraries keep a child's access and empowerment going, with homework help, Summer Learning programs, and science and technology learning. Libraries help bridge the economic divide that impacts students’ lifelong success.
Libraries are “free” universities. You can create, collaborate – use a computer and the Internet – a 3-D printer – make a digital video – study for the SAT – learn a new language – or how to fix your car – or how to build a windmill.
Have you heard the story of William Kamkwamba, from Malawi? He gave a TED Talk, How I Harnessed the Wind, a powerful story of learning and innovation. Is the next great mind out there, just needing the resources to unlock their potential? Well, we’re ready for you.
Income inequality is one of the defining issues of our time – there's an economic divide and it’s tough to climb over that wall into economic opportunity. Libraries play a critical role, with free access to the Internet, digital resources, job and career resources – and guidance and equitable access to that all-powerful thing: information!
Libraries also help build and encourage communities of difference by encouraging people to interact with and learn from each other in safe spaces. Libraries are places where we can connect with each other, explore together, and grow together. They’re also where people can transform their lives.
I like the words of author Robert Putnam, who wrote about community connectedness: “People may go to the library looking mainly for information, but they find each other there.”
In libraries, new moms connect at storytimes; older people, often facing difficult life transitions, attend events and find that they make new friends; teenagers meet up in libraries’ teen spaces after school, volunteer as homework helpers for younger students; people connect to the world, learn new skills, find life-altering information, find jobs. We discuss current events, generate family discussions, bring history to life, and collaborate and create in our TechConnect space. We get to know our neighbors while growing vegetables, and we work with partners to build a healthier community. In libraries, community-building connections are happening all the time!
I’ve been proud to lead this library, facilitating a shared vision and creating avenues for collaboration and innovation. I’m especially proud of all the talented, passionate, and dedicated team members who work so hard to empower lives and build community.We are diverse networks of people who are thinking differently, doing differently, working differently – taking it all in and listening and learning, not only from experts and innovators in the field – but to people from all walks of life who share this journey in our work lives and in our community.
To truly work to engage, empower, and build community, we start with the WHY. Why is our work important, why do we get out of bed every day for this, why should anyone care? The whys – to be engaged in a community with learning, sharing, innovation, belonging, equity, dialog, empathy, enthusiasm, and synergy – as we focus our work on these WHYs, and if we thrive, renaissance can be where we land. That’s the kind of world I want to live in. Together we can see the possible – what we do together can change the course of our community and beyond.
Thank you for the opportunity to share in this journey!