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Lessons Learned: Love for nature, books, the community, and of course, libraries!

Some of my favorite topics include nature, books, the community, and of course, libraries. It’s even better when I have an opportunity to weave the four topics together.

I want to share some details about my journey to Durham County Library. I grew up outside the city limits of Clinton, NC on a small farm that I didn’t learn to appreciate until I was much older. Little did I know the value of growing up so closely connected to nature and what great life lessons were being learned and applicable in so many aspects of my future.

My parents have always loved the outdoors – from growing corn, beans, and tobacco for the market to having a vegetable garden and a yard landscaped with pink azaleas, red rose bushes, marigolds and more. Each day after school included some tasks of watering, gathering, or in the words of my dad — watching nature grow before my very eyes. These daily tasks were teaching me responsibility, and the value of community, healthy eating, as well as the value of good old fashioned work and patience. Such teaching moments from my parents and a host of other relatives increased my interest to learn more — and always sent me on a quest for knowledge that I would gain from books; selected from the bookmobile – that in my mind, visited – ONLY ME.

The lesson of responsibility was what I considered a privilege of taking care of the gift of nature from the creator and knowing that with attention, love and care I could have a role in helping something grow into a consumable meal or flourish into a beautiful flower that would serve as a source for honeybees, prancing butterflies, and would be aesthetically pleasing for all passersby.

The lesson of value of community and one another was my favorite. You see, vegetables were not only grown for the family but for neighbors near or far, as well as any stranger that would happen by and give any inclination of need or desire for fresh vegetables. In fact the vegetables were grown in what I considered a huge sandbox filled with great fixings for a salad, side dishes and all one could possibly need for a happy stomach.

The other lessons can be summarized together — you couldn’t help but always make healthy eating choices, as fast food and processed foods were not daily options, and family always took time to gather around the dinner table for meals, and great conversation about the happenings of the day. The results were seen in what I thought was hard work — but now I know was just love disguised as work. I’m sure you know that the time it takes anything to grow to your satisfaction either drives you to impatience or teaches you patience. I hope the latter is the one each of you relate to most.

With all of these life lessons came what must have seemed like a zillion questions to the adults in my life. Each would dangle just a carrot of answers and then direct me to a source that has consistently been a part of my life — libraries.

I have always had a love for knowledge, for books, for libraries and could easily get lost and become the character of the novel full of joy, happiness, sadness and courage. This love has continued and fortunately led me on a path that surrounds me daily with libraries filled with books that holds great knowledge page after page.

All of this is why being Director of Durham County Library is so meaningful. It gives me an opportunity to use lessons learned to build a better community for Durham County. I’ve worked in several library systems – New Hanover County, Forsyth County, Mecklenburg County and Fulton County in GA, but I must say working in Durham County at the Durham County Library feels like returning home and it feels like the right place to be. Correction, not only does it feel like the right place to be, it is the right place to be and I hope Durham County Library and our staff make a lasting impression on each person we encounter whether visiting our brick and mortar locations or visiting us virtually.

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