On the Job with Claire Leavy

Claire Leavy is director of Lee County Library

Claire Leavy, director of the Lee County Library, spends much of her leisure time at St. George Island, Fla. She’s also a collector, gathering a range of materials from antique slips to Pez dispensers. (Staff Photo: Danny Carter)

Claire Leavy, director of the Lee County Library, spends much of her leisure time at St. George Island, Fla. She’s also a collector, gathering a range of materials from antique slips to Pez dispensers. (Staff Photo: Danny Carter)

LEESBURG — Looking for a good book? If you want to reach what the librarian is reading, check out David Baldacci’s “King and Maxwell.”

Claire Leavy, director of Lee County Library also reads at least three newspapers a day, a variety of magazines and other material. When she’s away from her library administrative duties, Leavy often can be found at St. George Island, Fla. _ a good place to catch up on her reading.


NAME: Claire Leavy

AGE: 61

POSITION: Director of Lee County Library

FAMILY: One daughter, Mary Catherine.

EDUCATION: Bachelor of Science in Political Science from Georgia Southwestern State University. Master of Librarianship at Emory University. Attended University of Georgia after graduate school to take education courses. Continues to take continuing education classes.

ACTIVITIES: Leavy is a Sustainer in the Albany Junior League, a Priviledge member of Charity League of Albany, past president of Albany Symphony Guild, member of Leesburg Women’s Club and member of Dougherty Rotary Club.

BET YOU DIDN’T KNOW: Leavy is a collector of antique slips, handkerchiefs and gloves. She also collects all type of Pez dispensers.

Leavy recently took a break to participate in a question-and-answer session with Danny Carter of The Herald.

Q. What was your first job?

A. Working for a drugstore in Midtown Shopping Center while in high school. I worked for two weeks during Christmas vacation. I never did master the cash register but loved meeting the customers and talking with them while checking them out.

Q. What was the first thing you spent money on when you received your first ever paycheck?

A. I purchased record albums, which I loved collecting, with my first paycheck from the drug store. Most of them, I gave to a friend in Americus about 9 years ago. I still miss them.

Q. What is the single most effective technique you found over the past two years for keeping employees motivated?

A. Working with the Library Board of Trustees to set a high standard of service for the Lee County Library and communicating that standard motivates employees. We tend to be on the cutting edge of services and programs - that vision offers stimulation for employees and motivates them.

Q. What led you to your current position?

A. I worked in a military library in Hanau, Germany in the early 1970s and fell in love with the experience. The librarian for whom I worked encouraged me to go into library work. After undergrad school, I attended Emory University’s School of Librarianship, graduated, and went to work for Hal Todd and Mike Dugan at Dougherty County Public Library working there for 18 years. When the position of director of the Lee County Library became available, Mr. Dugan encouraged me to apply. I thought he wanted to get rid of me. Debra Long and Jimmy Smith, both members of the Lee County Library Board of Trustees, hired me. Lee County was quickly growing at that time and I saw a challenge with the library system that excited me.

Q. Do you have a role model or mentor in your career?

A. Hal Todd and my father were excellent mentors. Mike Dugan, Steve Schaefer, and friends in the business community continue to mentor me.

Q. What is the biggest lesson you as a business leader learned from the recent recession?

A. Be prepared. It is essential to be prepared for all sorts of unforeseen circumstances, especially budget and personnel fluctuations. We have been prepared and able to survive with our budget and personnel. The budget is on my mind 24/7. Our accounting staff member and I run through several scenarios of the budget on a regular basis just to stay prepared.

Also, when the economy goes down, library business goes up. Staff and services have to be in a strong position skill wise to meet all needs of the users looking for and applying for jobs, completing resumes, completing government online forms, etc. When businesses and governmental agencies downsized during this recent recession, many eliminated paper employment applications and/or applications/forms for services. People came to the library and still come to the library for assistance with these. People looked to the library for educational training, recreation and entertainment by way of family programs, computer programs, craft times, etc. We are constantly training and retraining staff to build skills in customer service and technology as well as reader’s advisory. We try to offer technology and customer service training to our staff at least once a year. During the recent recession, the staff was prepared to handle the influx of demands and they did so with a smile and a genuine expression of helping/assisting. We were able to provide those essential resources and services the public needed. We were prepared.

Q. If you could turn the clock back on one aspect of technology-examples email, automated phone systems, cell phones, PDAs, etc. - what would you most like to see go away:

A. I don’t want technology to go away; I only want it to get better and faster. I want to see and use more advanced technology in everyday life…advanced but affordable technology. I embrace all aspects of technology. I’m not good at or proficient with so many of the technologies, but I see the need for them.

Q. What is your favorite work related gadget:

A. My phone. I can stay connected to most aspects of my work. I also love my tablet. All my documents are contained in a 1.5-pound device. No more lugging a laptop.

Q. What is your favorite tradition?

A. Annual holiday party with staff outside of work. A week at St. George in late fall. Lots of special occasions with friends.

Q. What is the last book you read? Do you have things you read daily or regularly?

A. Currently, I am reading David Baldacci’s “King and Maxwell.” Mysteries and thrillers are my favorite genre. I read three newspapers daily - one local and two national - on my phone. There are several “positive thoughts” type websites that I log onto daily and a wide variety of magazines allows me to keep up with the trends.

Q. I’m up and going by: And what is your morning routine?

A. Up and going around 5:30ish during the week. I sleep late on weekends. Morning routine is to read the newspapers and websites then take Otis, my canine best friend, outside for our morning time together.

Q. What famous person would you like to meet , and why:

A. There are so many. But, I think Phillip Phillips and Buster Posey, of course. They are local celebrities and I’ve never met them. On a national scale, Vera Wang because she is an accomplished business woman who has not lost her vision or her creativity. In my opinion, she has balanced the three well.

Q. Favorite hobbies or activity outside of work:

A. I am into health activities right now. I work with a retired Marine (Oohrah!!) on training and with a pilates/yoga instructor on training and balance and breathing. All necessary as I age.

Q. Best thing about my job?

A. The best thing about my job is the staff and Library Board of Trustees. Also, working with the public as well as elected officials.

Q. Worst thing about my job:

A. There are challenges and hiccups with my job, as there are in any job, but I can’t classify any one thing as the worst thing. The challenges and hiccups can be resolved….eventually. I do tend to stress over some work-related situations way too much.

Q. The most beneficial course I took in school was:

A. After graduate school, I took two public administration classes taught by two different county managers. They connected the dots for me in terms of working with budgets and elected officials.

Q. What would be your dream job if you were able to pick a position outside your current career path?

A. There are so many jobs I would love to try. Please understand, I have neither the skills nor resources for these jobs, but I know I would enjoy them for a while. A roadie/crew member for a highly successful band. Private investigator. A philanthropist on a mega scale.

Q. Finish this thought, “on the first anniversary of my retirement, I see myself….”?

A. At St. George Island spending lots of time with my daughter and her husband. I see myself happy, calm, and content. Maybe even having a part, part-time job.

Q. What is the one trait a strong business leader cannot afford to be without:

A. I cannot give you just one. Integrity, understanding, ability to listen, sense of humor, ability to take risks.

Q. What kind of music might I find on your list of most played on your iPod:

A. Everything from classical to Pit Bull, Pink, and Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings.

Q. What was the best vacation you’ve ever taken?

A. Probably Paris, and just outside of Paris, in my 20s. All the history and the artists. I couldn’t get enough of the architecture, the colors, the people. All fascinating to me. Now that I think about it….really all of time I spent in Europe spoke to me in a creative artistic manner. I always thought I might go back to Paris 11 years ago for my 50th birthday, but I changed my mind about flying. I’ve traveled a good bit and am now happy to spend my vacations on St. George Island, Fla.

Q. What are the biggest changes you have seen in your specific line of business of the past few years?

A. Technology drives many new library services. Online access has had a major impact on the availability and the variety of informational resources we can offer our users. Ebooks and emagaines continue to increase in popularity. We are balancing technology with traditional library services.

Another change is the use of the PINES system in Georgia - PINES is basically a statewide library card. Most public libraries in Georgia are members of the PINES system. PINES actually began in 2000 and has evolved into a much more user friendly and larger database of books that can be shared among the member libraries. It is a way for us to offer many more items to our users than we could possibly purchase or store.