Love of literature earns Sparks place as public library’s interim director
Published 8:49 am Wednesday, December 17, 2014
A lifelong love of reading led Gary Sparks to find a way to bring his passion into his work.
Sparks was named interim director of the Elizabethton/Carter County Public Library on Dec. 4, and while the job may be new, the location is certainly one he is familiar with.
For 40 years Sparks worked as a teacher and librarian, with a career that led him to several different schools.
“I had a great career in public education,” Sparks said.
The Burnsville, N.C., native graduated twice from East Tennessee State University, obtaining first a Bachelor of Science degree in Social Studies with a focus on history and second a Master’s degree in Instruction Communication with a focus on library science.
When asked why he chose a career working with libraries, Sparks quickly replied “I just liked to read.”
That love of reading was instilled at an early age, Sparks said.
“My grandmother was a reader,” he said. “My mother took me to the public library in Bakersfield, N.C., when I was a small child and started checking out books.”
Reading was a tradition in his family, one Sparks carried on with own children. “Every night we wold read something,” he said. “Sometimes it was Dickens, or C.S. Lewis. We read all these great and wonderful stories.”
After graduating college, Sparks’ first school library job came at Morristown East High School in Morristown but he later came back to the Tri-Cities.
He worked as the librarian at Elizabethton High School, T. A. Dugger Junior High School, East Side Elementary and West Side Elementary.
His career eventually led him to Georgetown High School in Georgetown, S.C., where he later retired. After retiring, Sparks and his wife returned to Northeast Tennessee to be closer to their family.
With the departure of the previous director, Sparks was offered a position as Interim Director.
“Based on the reputation of this library in the past is why I came here,” Sparks said, adding he remembered bringing his own children to the Elizabethton/Carter County library when they were young. “It’s a wonderful library and wonderful staff.”
In addition to his own experience with the library, Sparks said he had heard so many positive things about the library it made his decision to temporarily step out of retirement an easy one.
“I’ve not been disappointed in any way with what I had been told about how good this library is,” he said. “We have a lot of wonderful children’s programs. I can’t say enough about it. I am just very proud of our library here. I look forward to coming to work every day.”
Despite the excitement he feels working at the library, Sparks said he is not sure if he would considering coming out of retirement permanently and seeking the position of director full time.
“To tell you the truth I’ve not given it much thought,” he said. “I view myself as being here to help the staff prepare for the next director and to support them.”
Even though his stay may be temporary, Sparks said he hopes during his time to encourage others to find a permanent love for the library like he did as a child.
“I hope anyone who hasn’t used our library will come on down,” he said.