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November 30, 2013

Public library gets new director

NEW CASTLE — The job description for library director doesn’t call for pig wrestling.

But Sandra Collins did just that when a library she worked at in Utah participated in a county fair contest.

Now she is the new director of the New Castle Public Library. The job most likely won’t include wrestling with any farm animals but a serious priority is to become even more visible in the community.

Collins will also be administrator of the Lawrence County Federated Library System and the New Castle District Center, which serves four counties.

With 37 years of library experience, she is prepared to oversee what is needed to meet the needs of this area’s residents.

“The public library and the community have a long history,” Collins said, adding the same people return to New Castle’s library every day to read newspapers, use the computers and talk to friends.

All libraries have faced funding cuts from the state but she said she finds it surprising what people can accomplish under those circumstances.

“Keeping pace with technology is always a balancing act,” she pointed out. “We had to move quickly into the digital era because that’s what people want.”

The library allows people to educate themselves at their own pace, she noted. Collins believes that when other organizations in the community and libraries work collaboratively, public service to residents is improved.

Most recently, Collins, who replaced Susan Walls when she retired Jan. 4, was director of the Northland Public Library near Pittsburgh. In addition to working at the library in Ogden, Utah, she was a branch manager for children’s services at the Bethlehem, Pa. Public Library. Bethlehem is her hometown.

For now, she commutes from the North Hills area of Pittsburgh but toward spring, plans to search for a home in this area.

Collins’ has a bachelor of science degree in education from Kutztown State College, a master’s degree in library science from the University of Pittsburgh and a master’s degree in public administration from the University of Utah.

Attorney Don Nicolls, president of the library board, said eight or nine people were interviewed for the position.

“She (Collins) spent a good part of her time in Pennsylvania, understands Pennsylvania library law, understands about a district library, which we are, and has experience with various departments including children,” Nicolls said. “She’s coming to a library where the staff is great, knows how to serve patrons, and is dedicated and committed.”

While Collins has only been on the job for several weeks, she ultimately hopes to develop more children’s programs to build on skills they receive at schools.

Summer reading programs at New Castle’s library have also been successful.

“Children who participate maintain those literacy skills. Those who don’t have difficulties.”

She noted, too, that the Bookmobile is valuable at reaching preschool locations, nursing homes and more remote areas of the county.

Other programs such as the Beatnik Cafe attract people, she said.

“All three libraries in the county do what they can with the resources they have.”

As for Stacks, the library cat mascot, Collins said at Northland, a papier maché camel became the library’s mascot and was dressed every month.

“Whatever it takes to get people here, they’ll come back. We’ll try to do as much as possible to meet the needs of the community.”

(Email: lhudson @ncnewsonline.com.)

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