By Lynette Norris
Greene Publishing, Inc.
Commission Chair Renetta Parrish opened her final County Commission meeting Oct. 5, and immediately passed the gavel to Commissioner Roy Ellis, who will serve the next nine month rotation as Commission Chair.
One of his first duties after adopting the agenda and taking up the Commission’s new business was that of welcoming the new Director of the Suwannee River Basin Regional Library Association, Betty Lawrence.
Danny Hales, the outgoing director, is retiring after 35 years with the library. In his enthusiastic introduction of his replacement, he described the long process of searching through applications from all over the country, and the lengthy interviews that followed. Although there were several outstanding candidates, when it came to Lawrence, “Betty just knocked our socks off,” said Hales. She is an “engager,” who would get folks more involved and interested in their community library, and a “gatherer” of knowledge, whose research skills were impressive. Lawrence had emerged as an early favorite in the search, and the decision to hire her as Hales’ replacement was unanimous.
A Suwannee County native, Lawrence grew up in O’Brien and became interested in library services in college. Her profession took her all over the country, from places like Denver, Colorado, where she ran one of the premier library systems in the country, to rural Georgia, where she oversaw a small regional library system, to a community college library system in Rochester, New York.
That wide variety of experience, some urban, some suburban, and some rural, made her the perfect choice for the Suwannee River Basin’s three-county library system, with several libraries in each county (Madison, Suwannee, Hamilton) to keep track of – it is not uncommon for library systems in small, rural counties to band together and pool their resources, said Hale. In some circumstances, it also makes them eligible for more funds from the state.
Lawrence then took the podium herself to say a few words, describing herself as a “North Florida home girl,” who felt blessed to be back after so many years.
“It’s a delight to return home,” said Lawrence. “I’d been thinking about it for a long time.”
Lawrence’s first day on the job will be Halloween.
“On Monday morning, October 31, I will hand the keys over to Betty,” said Hales. “And I couldn’t be more pleased.”