Carter County Library Director to leave at end of next week

Elizabethton/Carter County Library Director Renita Barksdale recently announced she will be stepping down as director at the end of next week, pursuing a position at another library in Smithfield, N.C.

“It was time for me to change,” Barksdale said.

After four years of working at the Carter County Library, she said she felt ready to begin advancing her career, and when she saw the ad for Smithfield’s library, she sent in an application.

“I was not expecting anything,” Barksdale said. “I do not want to leave Elizabethton.”

Yet, when the official job offer came, she said she had a tough decision to make.

Barksdale started working at the library in May of 2015, after serving as a branch manager in Greenville, S.C. After working there for some time, she said she felt ready to take on the additional leadership, and after receiving additional training, she was transferred to Carter County’s library.

“I was scared the first time I walked in,” she said. “I had no idea what I was walking into.”

Barksdale said one of her greatest accomplishments in her four years is the way she nurtured her staff members to be more than just librarians.

“We have so many talents that work here,” Barksdale said. “Maryann Owen was just a technology librarian. Monica Calhoun just helped Ashley with her programs. I was able to nurture their skills, and they blossomed into their own person in the library.”

She said this is reflected in the library’s outreach methods themselves. She said the library originally had very little in the way of outreach, but now the library regularly hosts programs within its walls and partners with dozens of local organizations on a variety of different topics and groups of people.

This outreach provided one of the main lessons she said she learned from her time as director.

“You have to listen to the community so the library can be community-based,” she said.

She said patrons will regularly meet her at her office to tell about books they want stocked there.

“I love the community’s honesty,” Barksdale said. “That tells me I am very involved, and I can be honest with them in return.”

She said the community she serves is like a family, which makes her departure that much more sad.

“I really love them,” she said. “It has been a wild road. [The library] was just about the books when we started; now the library is part of the community.”

She said her work, along with everyone in and outside the library, contributed to making the establishment better than when she found it.

“We ended up getting a great library,” Barksdale said.

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