Tonawanda News

November 4, 2013

NT library director brings fresh perspective

By Danielle Haynes
The Tonawanda News

Tonawanda News — Britt White, the new director at the North Tonawanda Public Library would like to come up with a new slogan to get more people interested in visiting the library.

“We need something like a ‘got milk?’ campaign for the library,” she said with a laugh. “We need people to say ‘I’ll library it instead of Google it.”

She has lots of ideas like this and she’d like nothing better than to execute them in her new position, taking over for longtime library presence Peggy Waite.

Waite retired as the director of the library in August after nine years in the post and about 36 total years at the facility in various capacities.

White is only the eighth director in the library’s 115-year history, and even though she’s new to the NIOGA system, she knew she had some big shoes to fill in taking over for Waite.

“Coming into the library as a new face — none of the staff knew me, the board didn’t know me — I wanted to make sure I respected” the already-established routine, White said. “There was no way I’d come in and say ‘We’re going to change this and that.’ Bottom line is this library is fantastic and for me to come in and not take the time to learn how everything is done is a disservice.”

White got her start as a librarian some 13 years ago after earning a masters in library science at University at Buffalo. She first worked in the Buffalo and Erie County Public Library system for 11 years and then moved to the library at Buffalo Seminary for two years. 

While with the BECPL system, she worked at a handful of different libraries in just as many different positions. From management and phone and electronic reference, to computer training, collection development and youth services, she’s done a little bit of everything.

And she’s loved it all. When asked what library position she loved most, she had a hard time picking just one thing. Ultimately she said she most enjoyed working in teen services, and young adult books are among her favorite.

“My passion really is with teen services. While I was at the Central (Buffalo) Library, I was responsible for opening the teen room,” which provided teenagers with computers, a big-screen TV, gaming systems, and arts and crafts supplies during after-school hours.

“I still get choked up when I talk about it,” she said. “There were kids who said to me, ‘If I wasn’t here, I would be on the street and I’d have nothing else to do and I’d be in trouble.’ “

White left the BECPL system to work at Buffalo Seminary for a couple years, but she said she’s excited to return to public service again in North Tonawanda.

“You never know what you’re going to get (at a public library). You never know what kind of questions” you’ll hear, she said. 

She described a day working at the Clarence library when within a 20-minute span, a small boy came in asking for books about how to train his new dog, followed by a grown man asking for books about how to start a small business.

“That right there, in a nutshell, is what I love about working in a public library. The users are interested and curious and want to learn new things,” White said. “I can’t ever remember saying while working at a public library, ‘Oh, that was a really boring day.’ “

White said so far she’s been pleased with her experiences with staff and patrons alike.

“The people who come into this library, they don’t just use the library, they use the library,” she said, gesturing with her hands for emphasis. “They’re enthusiastic users and supporters of the library.”

For her part, Waite is excited to see what White will bring to the table at the North Tonawanda Public Library as a fresh face to the system. While White doesn’t have direct experience with the library like Waite did when she became director, Waite said she’s eager to see the fresh perspective.

“She has a different way of looking at things,” Waite said. “It will help shake us up a little bit.”

Waite said she wasn’t part of the hiring process, but she had expressed interest in getting a fresh face in the library.

“It’s a big challenge for her because she has so much to learn but she certainly seems to be just going at it,” Waite said. “She’s very capable ... a very bright young lady. I think she’s going to do great.”

Contact Sunday Lifestyle editor Danielle Haynes at 693-1000, ext. 4116 or follow her on Twitter at @DanielleHaynes1.