Walk into the Mount Pleasant Public Library, ask new branch manager Jackie Mills how she’s doing, and her answer will invariably be “Blessed!”
That’s because Mills loves her job.
It’s a big deal when a small town gets a new librarian. The library is a social, cultural and informational hub, and folks want to know that the manager can help them find a book, apply for a job, explain technology or guide their research.
A small town librarian needs to be ready for anything, and that’s why Mills calls this job “a perfect fit.”
“I get to do everything,” she said.
Mills, who started last month at the Mount Pleasant Library, a branch of the Cabarrus County Public Library, arrived here by a rather circuitous path.
Her first library job was in Clallam Bay, Wash., on the northwest tip of the continental United States, a town so small the nearest grocery store was 90 minutes away. She’s also worked as a teacher, a children’s librarian and, most recently, as the lower-middle-school librarian at Cannon School in Concord.
But Mills, who “thrives on challenge,” said she was ready to get back to working in a public library in a small town.
“I love small towns,” she said. She loves the relationships people develop with friends and neighbors, the slower pace and the depth to which people are so invested in their community.
The things she appreciates most about small towns are exactly the things she wants to emphasize at the Mount Pleasant Library: outreach, relationships, programming and networking.
She’s reaching out to school librarians, preschools and senior and assisted-living centers to find ways to share expertise and plan programming.
She’s seeking cooperation with groups like the Greater Cabarrus Reading Association and the Cabarrus Literacy Council, so each can fulfill its mission more effectively.
She’s listening to programming suggestions, such as a “technology petting zoo” that would let patrons try out new devices, and she’s taking a class on social media for the library.
And Mills is also having a lot of fun with story time, book clubs and getting to know her patrons.
“I’m awful with names,” she admitted. “It’ll take me a while.”
But she believes, she said, that “everything we do should be about customer service. We bend over backward to meet our customers’ needs.”
Cabarrus County libraries have taken some hits recently with reduced hours and staffing, but Mills is taking a glass-half-full attitude. She doesn’t believe that libraries are on a path to obsolescence and points out that they are about a lot more than books.
“Libraries can bring whole communities together,” she said. Her job is to tap into the needs of the community and meet them, she said.
When Mills is not having a ball at work with her “indescribably awesome” co-workers and patrons, she is a mother of four, grandmother of three and wife of a retired prison chaplain.
Organized, creative, driven, informed and self-described as “pretty crazy” with kids, Jackie Mills really is a perfect fit.