Library system hires new regional director

WINDER - Alan Harkness will take over Jan. 3 as the new regional director of the Winder-based Piedmont Regional Library System.

He was chosen over two other prospects to replace Nancy Ray, who retired recently.

Harkness, president-elect of the Snellville Rotary Club, has worked for the Gwinnett Count Public Library System for the past 141⁄2 years. He began his career as a librarian with the Screven-Jenkins Regional Library System in Sylvania. During his career he served as a shelver, paraprofessional, Snellville's branch manager, network manager, Forsyth County's children's librarian and currently serves as staff development manager. He developed a thorough employee training program and in 1994 launched the employee appreciation program.

"We probably have the best training program of any public library," Harkness said. "My first day on the job back in 1992, I was out on the floor with no training. We changed that. New staff members now attend 13 half-day classes over a three-week period."

The Piedmont Library System contains 11 libraries across Banks, Barrow and Jackson counties. Harkness said he will begin his new job with no fixed inclinations or biases.

"The first thing I have to do is listen and see where the community wants to head," Harkness said. "They serve 130,000 people in the region and it is going to grow. Folks in the library profession tend to give good service, but we can help them think about customer service in new ways."

Pam Clough, vice chairman of the Piedmont Region Library Board, recommended Harkness for hire. Harkness' salary is $69,000.

"He had a breadth of experience that impressed us," Clough said. "We have to be prepared to meet the needs of our community with outreach programs as we grow. Computer access is important because we are rural, especially Banks County. It is an exciting opportunity because he is getting in at the ground level of an explosive period of growth, as opposed to a mature system."

Harkness is excited and prepared to guide the Piedmont System as it grows with the population.

"Piedmont is not as well funded as Gwinnett and other suburban libraries," Harkness said. "A challenge will be convincing local folks it is worth paying for. People use the library from the cradle to the grave."