Cass District Library welcomes new director

Published 1:17 pm Thursday, December 20, 2018

CASSOPOLIS — In October, Barbara Gordon started her new position as library director for Cass District Library. Nearly two months into her employment with CDL, Gordon has already begun to appreciate the library network for its unique contributions to the greater southwest Michigan community, and get a feel for the needs of library patrons.

Gordon, a Mishawaka native, attended Loyola University Chicago and earned two undergraduate degrees, then earned her master’s degree in library science from Indiana University Bloomington. Her original career plan was to work in museums, until she realized that most museums have libraries. Gordon pursued library science in her graduate studies, entertaining the idea that she might work on the administrative end of museum library leadership. Her first jobs in public library leadership, however, reminded her of her appreciation for public libraries.

“Libraries, academic and public, were important to me,” Gordon said. I pursued my masters with open mind.”

Gordon worked for St. Joseph County Public Library in South Bend, then spent a few years as director with Buchanan District Library before coming to CDL. With some experience in different public libraries, she understands libraries can differ in the services they provide, their patrons’ needs, and the diversity of their collections.

So far, Gordon is impressed by the services, staff and patrons of the libraries in her new district. She enjoys the “number of talented people” who work in the district, appreciates that there are many opportunities in the district, like the onsite social worker services offered at the various campuses, and is glad to see patrons are broadly supporting the libraries and using them as a resource.

“All the branches excel… and the library board here is very open minded,” Gordon said.

Gordon noted that CDL patrons circulated about 100,000 items in 2017, an impressive number for a library network that serves about 45,000 people. But Gordon knows libraries, however well they may be doing, have to continue reimagining their services and outreach, especially in an age of rapidly changing technology.

“There are a number of trends in library world with technology and community service and outreach. I look forward to introducing more technology options and expanding collections,” she said.

Like many library directors, Gordon sees libraries as more than warehouses for books. They’re increasingly gathering places, stops for free internet access and centers for dozens of other community resources.

“I think of a lot of public libraries as de facto community centers. They’re usually always open to residents and none residents, which evens the playing field for everyone. Some are able to offer any kind of service that may fit a need,” she said.

The most important factor in regard to the enduring relevance of libraries, is the human connection, according to Gordon. While patrons can find a lot of information online, the help library personnel are trained to provide keeps people coming to libraries seeking information and answers.

“Public libraries are places you can go to have personalized service with another human being. There are all kinds of things missing without that. The main component is human interaction,” she said.

Gordon plans to continue integrating her own personal touch to the CDL culture, expounding on the services that already exist and implementing others as time progresses.

“I’m only two months in and looking forward to working with staff, and thinking big picture and working with board to get there.”