By MARK MCGEE
When the Board of Trustees interviewed candidates for the Director of Library Services position for the Shelbyville-Bedford County Library, they discovered their best candidate was already on staff.
At the regular October meeting of the board Margaret Petty, a 27-year employee of the library, was unanimously approved for the position.
“I honestly believe this job is what I was meant to do,” Petty said. “I have held every position here. I honestly believe this is what I was meant to do.
“I was not very good in sports as child. I played volleyball, but my coach called me `Molasses’ because I was too slow. I was that kid who wanted to read all of the time. When you gave me a lesson that included reading a book I was all over it.”
Petty had been serving as assistant director and interim director of library services prior to the promotion. She wants to pass along her love of books to the community, especially young people. She oversees four full-time and three part-time employees.
“I would like to see us have more staff so we could do more outreach,” Petty said. “Right now it is hard for us sometimes to have someone go to the schools. We only do our bookmobile one day a week with day cares. I would like to see us go to the schools more.”
Her love of books goes back to her early childhood. She grew up listening to her father read her stories from the “Sesame Street” collection. She adds that she still has it.
“There was story about Grover and his mom,” Petty said. “I think we have it here in the library. That is a very early memory. My mother also read Beatrice Potter books for me. Those are some of my favorites.”
She prefers fiction books with an emphasis on fantasy and Christian fiction. One of her first favorite books is Tanglewood’s Secret, which she read in junior high.
“I enjoy the adventure from reading,” Petty said. “Life can get very hard and very stressful. I want my books to take me away. You may not be able to go on a vacation to Hawaii or different places but you can read a book about it. I think that is my favorite part of it.”
Petty has experience in every aspect of the library having also served as technology and innovations librarian, library finances, children’s director, customer service, processing of grants and grant writing, inventory, website design, outreach and the book mobile in addition to working with the media and the public in fundraising.
Petty is a graduate of Victory Baptist Academy. She has multiple technology certifications from the Tennessee College of Applied Technology, as well as a diploma in 2014 for accounting with an emphasis on business systems technology.
She also has certification from the Public Library Management Institute at the Tennessee State Library Archives.
She started volunteering at the library shortly after her graduation from Victory Baptist and was hired part-time in October of 1995. Her best friend, Carla Martin, left her full-time position to go to college and in 1996 then head librarian Pat Hastings hired Petty full-time.
“When I was growing up I never thought I would be a librarian,” Petty said. “Going to a smaller school in junior high and high school we had a teacher, Charlotte Hawkins, who took us to the library every few weeks.”
One of her goals is to make the library more of a part of the community.
“We used to be more involved when I was the children’s librarian,” Petty said. “Of course, we were right off the square then and we were included in the square (events) a lot.
“I love our building, but I think we need to work a little harder to get back out there in the community. My goal is to let people see we are still here and still viable.”
Petty wants to stress the library is not just about books, but also includes technology from a bank of computers to Wi-Fi.
“We were one of the first libraries to get Wi-Fi,” Petty said. “We have more wireless users than computer users.
“We are still growing. We are growing with the times. We want people to know we are much more than just books and that we are still viable.”