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WNC librarian named tops in NC

Gail Findlay of the Fontana Regional Library was named "Library Director of the Year" at the annual meeting of the North Carolina Public Library Directors Association in Durham held last month. She was chosen for the honor by a committee of her peers. Findlay is a former member of the MAIN Board of Directors.

Fontana Regional Library (FRL), headquartered in Bryson City, has served people in Swain, Jackson, and Macon counties for the past 55 years. The system includes Marianna Black Public Library in Bryson City, Jackson County Public Library in Sylva, Albert Carlton Community Library in Cashiers, Macon County Public Library in Franklin, Hudson Library in Highlands, and Nantahala Community Library in Nantahala. Fontana also provides bookmobile services in the three-county area.

The transformation of the FRL system from a state of "stagnation" five years ago to one of "cutting-edge service and change-oriented growth" was cited in the nomination, as was Findlay's tireless promotion of libraries "and the needs of the people who use them."

The nomination also noted Findlay's efforts to bring Fontana into close working partnerships with other regional organizations. During the past year, in collaboration with the Smart Start Region A Partnership for Children, Findlay won a grant of $105,000 to purchase a 24-foot bookmobile, the "Reading Rover." This project brings story programs, materials checkout and teacher training to more than 60 childcare centers, home-based childcare programs and homes with preschool children. Findlay has also secured other funds that will be used to replace Fontana's old bookmobile.

Under Findlay's guidance, Fontana has joined forces with Southwestern Community College as a community partner in the new Smoky Mountain Knowledge Network. This coalition will allow FRL to work collaboratively with other area agencies to procure grant funds and provide bandwidth and connectivity for businesses, schools, community organizations and library users in the three-county region.

Among her accomplishments of the past year was the addition of a full-time technology support person to oversee FRL's increasingly complex electronic underpinnings, which include a centralized, newly upgraded SIRSI host computer. The technology position provides support for all FRL locations, each of which has computers for public and staff use. In the last five years, the number of computers in the system has grown from eight to over 100.

In her constant effort to reach out to communities and increase the visibility of libraries, Findlay is often on the go, speaking at community gatherings about library services and participating in regional and local civic organizations. She is also strongly committed to the cause of libraries within the state and region. She is active in the North Carolina Public Library Directors Association and was among the organizers of the Western North Carolina Directors Group.

"My selection really is a compliment to the staff of the Fontana Regional Library and all the county libraries. They were the ones who did the work that was recognized in this award," Findlay said, adding, "We are all pleased to see the western counties get this recognition.

For more information, contact Barbara McRae, 828-369-4525.

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