Taking The Lead

Tina Scott will lead the James Prendergast Library into the future.

The James Prendergast Library Association Board of Trustees recently announced the appointment of Scott as executive director. She had served as acting director since September.

Scott, who worked in private business for many years, said she originally came to the library after deciding to look for a new career.

“I’ve always used the library no matter where I was,” said Scott. “I respect it and I appreciate it – libraries are essential to me. I did some career searching, and this was on the list of occupations that I came up with. It was really just like a brick that hit me on the head.”

A graduate of the University at Buffalo, she earned her master’s in library and information science in 2000, and served as JPLA assistant director from 2008-12. Prior to that, Scott was the systems administrator at the Portsmouth Public Library in Virginia.

Tom Price, president of the JPLA Board of Trustees, said, “Tina has done an outstanding job as acting director, and the board has every confidence in Tina to lead the library during the coming years.”

Scott was appointed as acting director in September following the departure of Linda Mielke from the role of executive director. She was initially hired as an assistant to Catherine Way, and retained her position as assistant director when Mielke took over.

Mielke’s time at the library saw many changes, but was also plagued with controversy, including allegations that the library’s collection was being destroyed. In one meeting of the board of trustees, a letter from City Council President Greg Rabb was read, accusing Mielke of making “drastic, destructive changes.”

When Scott was originally appointed as acting director of CCLS and the JPLA, Price stated that the library was fortunate to “have this very talented lady who has agreed to act,” and that the board was confident that everything would run very smoothly and seamlessly given her skills and the cooperation of the staff.

The decision to appoint Scott as the executive director came during the meeting of the board of trustees in April, according to Price, who said that following the open meeting, the board then entered a brief executive session to discuss the appointment and vote on the issue. Members unanimously voted in favor of the appointment.

“We had not had any type formal search for an executive director, so (Tina’s) position was kind of a trial basis on both sides when she decided to go forth as acting director,” said Price. “She also retained her assistant director position, so whatever happened, she would have remained at the library. She’s been wearing two hats, really. The idea was to see how it went, a probationary period, of sorts. In the meanwhile, there wasn’t an active search because we didn’t want to undermine her authority.”

Price spoke highly of Scott and her abilities, saying that for anyone who has had any dealings with her, it is very clear that she’s a fine librarian.

“She’s trained, she’s qualified, and on top of that, she comes across as genuinely a very kind person,” said Price. “She’s very enthusiastic and enjoyable to be around. She has the training, she has the experience and she has the personal qualities. The only real question was whether she was going to be fit for this type of leadership role. Not everyone enjoys this type of position, so that was the main thing we were watching for. She was testing the waters, too, to see if she liked that leadership role.”

A TRANSITIONAL PERIOD

According to Price, the library is in a transitional period. Previously, the roles of director for the JPLA and Chautauqua-Cattaraugus Library System were linked. Scott is currently still serving as the acting director of both organizations, but the CCLS has begun a search for its own executive director. Although the posts have been unified since the 1960s, the organizations have decided to become more distinct entities. Once CCLS appoints an executive director, Scott will officially begin her role as executive director for the JPLA.

“It’s kind of confusing for many people because we have (the Prendergast Library) here, and then we have the Chautauqua-Cattaraugus Library System, too,” said Scott. “The CCLS is housed in the same building as the James Prendergast Library. For all of the years of the system, they’ve had the same director. Both of the boards felt it was time to split that position, though. It’s a huge job for a single person. I agreed with the decision and so did the member libraries.”

For the time being, roles and responsibilities will not change for Scott, who will remain the acting director for both entities. Once the CCLS hires its own director, however, she will have an opportunity to focus more time and energy specifically on the JPLA.

“I’m looking forward to working with the system, and I’m looking forward to moving ahead and making the JPLA the place that the community and residents looks to when they want to have meetings, use computers and find materials. We’re trying to pick up our programming so that people use us more often, because that’s what we’re here for. We want to work more with the community.”

The JPLA is placing a major focus on fundraising this year, with several fundraisers, both new and old, already in the planning stages. The seventh annual Cummins Run for Literacy will be held on Saturday, and the library will hold its 34th annual book sale on June 7-8 at the Renaissance Center in Jamestown. New to the library this year will be a Scrabble tournament. According to Scott, the JPLA has also sent in applications for a New York state construction grant in order to create more community space in the library and to create handicapped-accessible bathrooms in compliance with the ADA.

“I’m very confident in her abilities,” said Price. “There’s no question that Tina has the skill set to be the director of the JPLA. Over the last six months, it became clear to the board of trustees that she does indeed have the leadership qualities that we were looking for, and she’s been able to take on these issues, which weren’t necessarily easy or pleasant, and grapple with them. She’s been willing to step up. She’s well on her way and we’ve been very pleased with her progress.”