Library director steps down after 15 years, feels system will thrive in ‘younger’ hands
By Jonathan Menard - Dec 12, 2013
After 15 years, Mary desBordes will step down as director of the St. Charles Parish Library system on Dec. 20. As director, desBordes has spearheaded the addition of two new branches, one in Destrehan and another in Paradis.
The library system has also increased its services to meet the technology needs of today by offering both streaming video and e-books to members.
Along with new buildings in Destrehan and Paradis, the Luling library will go through a $2.5 million renovation early next year. desBordes is pleased with the growth of the library system in recent years and says that all six parish library branches are better off now than they were 15 years ago.
“Not all of our facilities are where we would like them to be yet, but they have all been improved,” she said. “That gives me a good feeling about the future.”
In recent years, libraries across the nation have undergone extensive changes due to advancements in technology. The parish’s library system has been ahead of the curve in that regard, and now offers e-books along with TV shows and movies that can be rented on a person’s smartphone, tablet or computer. Though most might assume that technology has lessened the importance of libraries, desBordes strongly disagrees.
“I have seen a lot of major changes, but I have to say I don’t think any changes have been negative,” she said. “It’s gotten so much better because now you can access info remotely (from the library) that you would have had to get at the library. The changes have been great for patrons. From the point of view of library staff, they have made our jobs easier.”
The library began offering books digitally in late 2009 and thousands of titles have been checked out by library members since.
A few months ago, the library expanded their digital offerings by teaming up with Hoopla, a service that allows people to borrow movies and TV shows for free.
desBordes said these are examples of how libraries have evolved to fill the needs of patrons.
“It has changed the way libraries approach their roles,” she said. “We have been in the business of responding to the needs of the public. That’s what we are going to continue to do.”
Meanwhile, parish libraries have begun to expand programs that drive people to the actual buildings.
“We have always had storytime for children, but we started offering lapsit storytime for toddlers. At the time, libraries weren’t trying to draw babies because people were concerned about noise, but this has been a popular change,” she said. “We are also branching out in programs for teens, tweens and adults. We want to be a place where the community comes together.”
Programs for adults include computer tutorials and workshops while those for teens and tweens include immersive lock-ins for popular movies such as the Twilight series and the Hunger Games.
However, one of the reasons people continue to visit libraries is because they offer free Internet.
“People forget that while many have computers, and some have multiple computers, there are still people who do not,” she said. “Even those who do have computers may have slow Internet speeds so they have to come to our buildings and use the high speeds we offer. The speed at the library is actually much faster than it is at my house,” desBordes said.
Keeping the library up to date with constant changes will soon be the job of Leann Benedict. Benedict has worked at the St. Charles Parish Library for the past 11 years, beginning as a systems administration librarian in 2002 and becoming associate director in 2006. She has been an assistant director since 2012.
Benedict holds a master’s degree in library and information science from Louisiana State University and a bachelor’s degree from the University of New Orleans in business administration with a minor in management. She holds an executive certification by the Louisiana State Board of Library Examiners.
“I am very excited and honored to have been selected as the next director for the St. Charles Parish Library,” Benedict said. “I am looking forward to working with the library staff, our patrons, the library board and the community to ensure continued excellence in library services to our parish.”
Benedict has overseen numerous projects during her time at the St. Charles Parish Library, including working on the St. Rose, East Regional, Paradis and upcoming West Regional construction projects. She also led the implementation of a new computer system for the library and manages all of the library’s eRate applications, which provide federal funding for a large portion of the library’s telecommunication and Internet lines.
“She is well qualified. She knows the system and I have seen the great things that she has done,” desBordes said. “I feel very comfortable leaving it in Leann’s hands. She will be a super director.
“It’s time for someone who is younger with fresh views and more energy than I have to do what needs to be done.”
While desBordes is confident in Benedict’s ability, she feels the same about the rest of the library staff.
“I just can’t tell you how great my co-workers have been. Their level of professionalism and caring is so strong here that it has made my job so much easier and much more pleasant,” desBordes said. “You could have the best book collection and the most fabulous building, but if the staff ignores you or mistreats you, you won’t be in business long. They really are what makes the St. Charles Parish Library special.”
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