Todas las sucursales estarán cerradas y los servicios estarán suspendidos el lunes 27 de mayo debido a día de los caídos.
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Interview with Former DCoL Directors Dale Gaddis and Priscilla Lewis

A Message from Tammy Baggett-Best, Library Director:

On the heels of National Women’s History Month is National Library Week, which spans from April 8 – 13. What better time to honor the histories of the women who have provided leadership for Durham County Library? Dale Gaddis worked her entire professional career for Durham County Library, from 1967 until 2002. She served as library director for twenty of those years following a seven-year stint as the assistant director. Priscilla Lewis began her career at Durham County Library and oversaw budgeting and finance. She later moved into a management position and was encouraged to earn her master’s in library science. She served as head of Extension Services supervising branch facilities and as Interim Director in 2005 and 2010.

Q: What are some accomplishments you are most proud of during your tenure at Durham County Library?

Gaddis: My time at the library was a period of dramatic social and political change, technological change, and community growth. I was involved in the move from a 5,400 square foot Main Library building to a 65,000 square foot building. During my tenure, we added three library branches and renovated another, automated the entire library system, and introduced the internet to the community. We also broadened our outreach services to include children, older adults, unhoused citizens, and public housing neighborhoods. We extended our reference and information services to the business community, job seekers, and those seeking information regarding community services. Our materials collection had a reputation of being one of the best in the state.

Lewis: During my tenure, the library embarked on creating a Regional Branch Library System. All facilities transitioned to ownership by Durham County, and there was a goal to have a library within five miles of all citizens. At the time, we asked the citizens of Durham to approve a bond to accomplish this, which we won with over 80% approval. The County was also preparing our new facilities for LEED Certification, with East Regional Library becoming the second facility in the County for such certification. I served as Interim Director in 2005 & 2010, becoming the 1st African American female in this position. I was most proud to see the addition, renovation, and construction of five regional libraries and one small branch library.

Q: What challenges did you face as a library director?

Gaddis: My challenge as library director was to ensure that library services responded effectively to the changing needs of the community and that the library received the financial support it needed to make sure this happened. This involved for me personally lots of learning and skill development in the areas of community analysis, technology, interagency cooperation, staff development, and public relations. I am probably most proud of the excellent support the library received from the community at large and from funding agencies.  Any success I achieved as library director only came because of the very diverse, skilled, talented, and dedicated staff. As such, I do not consider myself a trail blazer; it was the staff who made the library the trail blazer.

Q: How have you given back to the profession?

Lewis: I was always busy in the library profession itself. I was a member of the North Carolina Library Association serving on several committees. I served a term as President of the Public Library section of NCLA, later served two terms of Operations Manager (supervising the Administrative Office) of NCLA. I was also a member of American Library Association, and the Black Caucus of American Library Association. I also served as a mentor to three African American women who I encouraged to pursue their master’s in library science. I’m proud to say each of them earned their MLS degree and are now in management positions within the library profession.

Q: What words of wisdom do you have for others considering the profession?

Gaddis: For young people choosing a profession (and even older folks considering a change), I highly recommend the public library field. I don’t think one could find any other line of work that offers such a variety of opportunities to pursue any passion you might have. The diversity of the clientele and the wide variety of services a library does and could provide will keep you learning and will feed your creative energy. There is never a dull moment working in a public library.

Lewis: Librarianship is a wonderful career, as I always believed books can take you anywhere. I know there have been many changes in the field, especially with technology, but nothing can ever take the place of holding a book in your hand. This was not my first choice of career and one I probably would not have considered, but with my love of books and people, it gave me my wings. I could not have chosen a better career professionally and personally. The field allows for so many avenues to choose from now, so if it’s something you like, then go for it!


As you can see, I stand on the shoulders of giants who have paved the way for many in the library profession. I’m forever grateful for their leadership, wisdom, and guidance over the years. They are humble trailblazers who deserve recognition not only for women’s history and National Library Week, but all year long. Join me in extending a thank you for their commitment to the library profession, Durham County Library, and the Durham community.

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