OWOSSO — Kimberly White left a great job to take her dream job: heading the Shiawassee District Library, which includes branches in Owosso and Durand.
White was working as the branch manager of Hoyt Public Library, the main library in Saginaw, when she heard about the SDL director’s opening.
Even though SDL is a smaller system, and even though the salaries were comparable, White jumped at the chance to apply.
“This is what I wanted to do — be a director in a smaller town,” White, 44, said during a talk Thursday at the Owosso SDL branch. “When this opportunity came up, it seemed so perfect to me.
“Library service is just so much more personal in a smaller community,” she added. “You have an opportunity to make a bigger impact. I just want to make this the best library it can be.”
White had already amassed 21 years of library management experience, including leading the Cutler Library in St. Louis, Michigan, when she applied to SDL.
Following a virtual interview, the Shiawassee District Library board of directors offered her the position; she replaces Steven Flayer, who retired at the end of 2019. White’s official start was Jan. 4.
“The Shiawassee District Library board of directors is pleased to welcome Kimberly White as the new director of the Shiawassee District Library,” said Robin Fredrick, SDL board president. “Kimberly is bringing to our libraries many innovative and creative ideas that will benefit our communities. We are looking forward to this opportunity to enhance our library services to the public.”
White has taken a real shine to the Owosso branch building, 502 W. Main St., built in 1913 with a $20,000 grant from philanthropist Andrew Carnegie.
“Historical library buildings are close to my heart and I love this old Carnegie building,” White said.
She is currently evaluating improvements she’d like to see happen at SDL, including:
— Update technology, especially wireless capacities, in both library branches
— Negotiate a new contract with the city of Owosso and update the current contract with the city of Durand
— Upgrade electrical and other infrastructure in the Owosso building
— Prepare for an upcoming renewal of SDL’s 1.5-mill millage
“I want to get out there and listen to what people want from the library in their community,” White said. “We really need to know what they are looking for that we’re not providing them.”
She said she is planning to host a “town hall” meeting in a couple of months. The event will be virtual, because of COVID-19 restrictions. The pandemic has slowed library traffic, White said.
The SDL director is responsible for the system’s finances, strategic planning and implementation and managing personnel. Between Owosso and Durand Memorial, SDL employs a staff of 23, including seven full-time workers.
“The staff here is fantastic. They are really open-minded to what we can do to provide library services,” White said. “And the library board really values libraries.”
She said she believes community libraries are important not only for personal enrichment but as an easy way to access information, including about community resources.
“Libraries are recognized as being as safe space, a no judgment zone,” she said. “It’s a good place to get pointed in the right direction for needed information.”
White, who grew up on a farm in Hemlock, earned a bachelor’s degree in English literature and sociology from Concordia College in Ann Arbor before obtaining a master’s in library science from Wayne State University. She has also taken courses in library administration.
It’s no surprise that in her spare time White loves to read, especially mystery thrillers and biographies. She also enjoys camping in her vintage camper, giving her a chance to be outdoors.
She is currently commuting to Owosso from the home she shares with her boyfriend in Saginaw, but the couple plan to move to the Owosso area as soon as they can. White has joined Leadership Shiawassee, hoping to get to know more people.
She’s been shopping and just driving around the area, taking a closer look at her new hometown and liking what she sees.
“The community is the reason why I applied for this job,” White said. “It’s got a small-town feel with all the amenities I’m used to. And the people here have been so nice.”