A Library Engaged in Community Building
By Robert McClelland
K.C. Williams has been the director of the Blount County Library for almost four years. Fortunately, when K.C. succeeded Kathy Pagles, who retired after nearly 24 years of service, the library already had great staff, was committed to serving area residents and appeared primed for the transition. With a nexus of talent, vision and opportunity, the library, looking outward to the community, successfully initiated some truly remarkable program offerings to address myriad interests and establish enduring connections.
Should you reflect for a moment on what the library has done in the past four years, you will certainly see an emphasis on collaboration and partnerships, more spaces for interaction and more networks—digital and human. A fine, detailed summary of the achievements can be found in the library’s recent report “Building Community.” Ask for a copy the next time you drop by.
During an interview for this article, K.C. explained a concept that I had not considered before. She explained that in community building, the third place (or third space) is a social surrounding separate from the two usual social environments of home (first place) and the workplace (second place). In other words, it is a place that is not home or work but is one where people gather.
Under K.C.’s guidance, one of the library’s directions this year is to expand and enhance the library as a third space for area residents. Spend enough time at the library and you will certainly understand how this idea works.
K.C. also wants to expand the library’s capacity as a learning community. In that respect, the new Learning Lab, a 1,500 square-foot STEM training center for adults, which opened last December, certainly stands out. In addition, it is exciting to see what the library is doing for kids. One example is STEAMkids where every week our youth can engage in hands-on experiments and activities. These students are exposed to robotics and 3D printing among other types of technology that they may not have had the opportunity to experience.
Our library is lucky to have K.C. at the helm, and she feels fortunate to be here. In her opinion, BCPL is the best facility, with the best staff, and Blount County is the best community that she has ever worked in.