Barksdale leaving Elizabethton Public Library

John Thompson • Jun 18, 2019 at 8:54 PM

ELIZABETHTON — After four successful years as director of the Elizabethton/Carter County Public Library, Renita Barksdale has announced that she is resigning to take a job at a larger library in eastern North Carolina.

“I will be going to the Public Library of Johnston County and Smithfield,” Barksdale said. She said it is a library with a staff of over 20 people. “Its a very diverse town, with lots of room for growth.

“I am going to miss Elizabethton,” Barksdale said. “I definitely learned a lot in Elizabethton.” She said she hopes to sharpen the skills she learned as the library’s director.

Barksdale said one of the accomplishments she is most proud of in Elizabethton is the way the county government “has become more involved with the library.” That is especially true of the financial support the county is now giving the library. When she started the job, she said the county was contributing $30,000 per year to the library. Since she has been here, the county has twice increased the amount of its contribution. In the budget discussions for next fiscal year, the Carter County Commission’s Budget Committee voted to increase the contribution for next year to $75,000.

She said she is thankful for the community outreach that the library has accomplished. Barksdale said it has evolved and grown over the past few years.

One example of the library’s involvement in the community is in the Grow Carter County program. Growth is also the word for the Teens program, which has seen more emphasis on what teens like. Young people also have a corner of the library to call their own, branded by beautiful spray paint murals on the walls of favorite youth characters.

There are also new programs for adult patrons, including lectures and projects.

“We have so many special talents,” she said of her staff. “We need to nurture them. The sky is the limit here.”

Barksdale said one thing she did not accomplish during her four years as director was to develop a strategic plan, something that would have been a fifth-year project. That is now left for her successor to accomplish.

Barksdale came to Elizabethton from Greenville, S.C. She said she did not plan to become a librarian. She graduated from Clemson University with a degree in political science and had planned to enter law school. But a part-time job in a library led to a supervisor to tell her she had talent in the library field and encourage her to get a master’s in library science. Despite her initial plans to become a lawyer, she was eventually convinced and enrolled in the master’s program at North Texas State in Denton.

Barksdale was at the Anderson Road Branch Library in Greenville when she decided to come to Elizabethton. She has been here since May 2015. Barksdale said she could not say “no” to her new opportunity in North Carolina, but she really didn’t want to say “yes” and leave Elizabethton.

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