New Mississippi County Library Director introduced
The Mississippi County Library System is proud to announce Lowell Walters, of Virginia, will be its new director starting Aug. 23.
Although Walters is moving from a big city to make Manila the new hometown for him and his family, he is no stranger to small town life.
“I was reared in a village of about 50 people and over 1,000 dairy cattle in an area known as Morrison’s Cove south of Altoona, Penn.,” Walters said. “However, my family did not farm. My father was an office manager at a pre-stressed and precast concrete products factory. Their products included very large bridge beams, pre-fabricated building components and concrete pipe. My mother was a full-time homemaker and had her hands full keeping me in line.
"My paternal heritage is in the railroad industry as the City of Altoona was founded in the 19th Century due to the growth of the Pennsylvania Railroad. My maternal heritage is grounded in small-scale farming as well as the road construction industry.”
Walters wife, Beth, grew up on a soybean and dairy farm on the plains of southwestern Minnesota not far from the real Walnut Grove and Plum Creek made famous in the books written by Laura Ingalls Wilder.
“My son, Tyler, is finishing a degree in chemistry at Liberty University in Virginia,” Walters said. “The older of my daughters, Savannah, is starting a degree in interior design at Meredith College in North Carolina. Autumn, our youngest, is an eighth grader who enjoys playing the oboe in the band. She also plays some softball.”
Walters received his Master of Science in Library Science (MSLS) degree from Clarion University of Pennsylvania in 1992. Over the past 25 years he has served as a Reader Services Librarian, Reference and Serials Librarian, Access Services Librarian, Acquisitions Librarian, and as an Associate Dean in academic libraries.
“Perhaps my most relevant experience for this new adventure is the three years I spent directing a rural public library in Bloomer, Wis., which is located just a little north of the City of Eau Claire,” Walters said. “In that position, I led a team of employees to offer library resources and services to a customer base of approximately 3,500 people. In a given day I could be found performing tasks such as shoveling snow from the sidewalk, conducting pre-school story time, preparing bills for monthly board approval, and/or copy cataloging books and other materials. I have missed the experience of working in the inter-generational and diverse public library environment with its multi-faceted customer services and programming as well as the wide-ranging nature of its collections and customer base. I am looking forward to returning public librarianship.”
When asked what drew Walters and his family to Mississippi County, he said the people.
“When my wife and I visited the libraries throughout the County, the employees were all very friendly and came across as genuine. The same can be said of my experience with the Library Board when I interviewed and visited with them. Even the folks we met in the County’s dining venues and stores seemed out-going and authentic. I also think the size of the towns is a very good fit for me. Though I have spent time in cities as large as Minneapolis/St. Paul, I have always enjoyed the pace and personality of small towns.”
Walters said he liked the small, rural communities are still being provided with services and access to library collections.
“I like the fact that small, rural communities are still being provided with services and access to library collections. Kevin Barron has kept the system 'in the black' on the financial side of things while still offering services and programming as unique as that offered by Bob Tarter who had brought a kangaroo and other cool critters to the library on a day that my wife and I visited. My priority is to get to know the patrons/customers of the library as well as the leaders and movers and shakers of the County’s communities. For the first few months I hope to spend some time at the service desk at each location. No matter where I have served over the years, I have observed that each locale and organization tends to have its own way of getting things done. Thus, I will be learning 'how things work' in the County, and I will become familiar with the system’s relationship with the State Library while networking in the Arkansas Library Association.”
Walters said he would also like to make strategic planning an early priority as well. That will involve finding out what the folks of Mississippi County want from the system’s services, resources and facilities. It will also involve an assessment of the system’s current strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. And it will entail establishing goals and action plans to meet the goals in the years ahead.
“I anticipate that it will be an iterative process that takes time and will require broad involvement, but it will also construct the foundation for the system’s attention and relevance to communities as we continue to progress through this new century,” Walters said. “Today’s libraries are not those of our parents and grandparents. Traditional library services are still relevant and needed for many folks, so no one should expect them to just suddenly disappear. However, libraries are now emerging more like community living/family rooms, dens, and/or workshops. Though areas of quiet contemplation and solitude need to be carved out and preserved, the facilities are no longer silent warehouses.”
Walters believe libraries can be comfortable, hospitable and civil places where people may come together to address ever-changing, lifelong learning needs; to conduct civic business; to support small business development; to study and complete work required for online degree programs; to discuss recreational reading interests; to develop skills associated with avocational interests such as those needed to enjoy certain hobbies and crafts; or to converse about a life changing event over a cup of coffee.
When asked what he is looking forward to most about living in Mississippi County, Walters said, “Life in small town America. Small towns tend to have a greater sense of community, and that is something that I aim to help to preserve and advance in the years ahead. I look forward to getting to know people and fostering tolerant and understanding relationships among them. And I hope to work with both the Library Board and the system’s personnel to offer an enriched quality of life to the citizens of Mississippi County.”