Sawyer Free Library Director Carol Gray Announces Her Retirement

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Carol Gray has announced her retirement as director of the Sawyer Free Library, ending a 16-year career that saw the library achieve new heights after a wave of fiscal adversity.

Gray, a Lanesville resident, joined the library staff in 1998 as assistant director and on three occasions during a tumultuous decade served as acting director before gaining the top position in 2007.

David McAveeney, who headed the library’s Board of Directors in 2006-2007, said Gray brought stability to an institution that had slashed operating hours and staffing and nearly lost state certification because of financial uncertainty. “She was the one who kept the place afloat,” he said.

Scott Memhard, the library board’s current president, said Gray’s credits include a key role in creating a new strategic plan, keeping library technology up to date with internet resources and e-books, and broadening the library’s English as a Second Language program to reach more residents.

“Circulation of books, audio, video and other materials is growing, new programs are in place for adults, teens and children, the Lyceum program has expanded, and technology has been kept up to date—all of this done with barely a hiccup or a hitch,” Memhard said.

Gray’s retirement takes effect in April, although with accrued vacation time she plans to leave in March. Memhard said the board, assistant director Freyja Sanger, and library staff will collaborate on “ a seamless transition plan” leading to presenting a new director candidate to Mayor Carolyn Kirk by the fall.

Library operational costs are part of the municipal budget, while the Gloucester Lyceum and Sawyer Free Library Inc., a 174-year-old independent, nonprofit entity, owns and oversees the library’s Dale Avenue building and adjacent property, along with the collection of books and other materials.

Gray’s retirement coincides with that of her husband, David, an airline pilot, and the recent birth of twin grandchildren in Maryland. “The time has come for new administration at the library,” she said. “I’ve accomplished many of the goals I set for myself, and now, with all the changes in technology that lie ahead, the library needs a different type of leadership.”

She said she will be available to assist in a transition, “but for now I want to be able to explore some personal passions, to devote time to my children, my new grandchildren, and to my mother, who is 92—and to spend time with my husband as he retires.” Gray plans to remain as a volunteer with the library Lyceum Committee, which arranges public programs, and as a library book group member.

“Carol’s commitment and passion for the library was recognized through her hard work and dedication to its patrons” said Mayor Kirk.

Greg Bover, library president as the city went through some of its hardest fiscal times, applauded Gray’s ability to overcome “serious underfunding, sudden major changes in staffing and an overwhelming work load, all the while maintaining the service the city’s 16,000-plus library card holders expect.”

He said Gray’s legacy includes oversight of the refurbishing of the 1764 Saunders House and the library’s two newer and larger sections, and, during the past year, management of an extensive landscaping project along Dale Avenue that is now nearing completion.

Mary Jane McGlennon, another past president, added, “Carol has willingly taken on whatever has been asked of her. Her experience and steadfastness have been significant assets.” Joan Ciolino, who was board president in 2012-13, cited Gray’s “command of the library’s institutional history…. She is a walking database of dates, times, places, people, repairs and events, our very own ‘Google’.”

The breadth of the library director’s job was explained by Mary Weissblum, chair of the Lyceum Committee. “The Art Auction, the book group, liaison with the city government, managing the library’s financial structure, the Lyceum—these in addition to traditional library services illustrate the enormous job Carol has carried out. Not all this work is readily seen, but it’s what makes the library what it is.”

Memhard noted that, under Gray, the library worked collaboratively with Mayor Kirk and the City Council to appropriate sufficient funding to meet state Board of Library Commissioners standards for the first time in nearly a decade. Among other things, this permitted hiring Sanger to fill the assistant director position that had been vacant for six years after Gray was promoted to director.

For additional information contact Memhard at 978-283-0174, or Gray at 978-281-9763, Extension 13.