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Sanibel Secrets: Executive director enjoys working with the community

By Staff | Nov 11, 2015

Sanibel Public Library Executive Director Margaret Mohundro. MEGHAN McCOY

Close to eight years ago, Margaret Mohundro became the executive director of the Sanibel Public Library, a job she has thoroughly enjoyed because of her involvement with the community.

“I saw it advertised,” she said of the position. “I had been in a library position up in Indiana and was looking to get back into public libraries. I was looking at this part of the country and saw this. The location is great, but I knew about the community involvement, the support. That is really what the perfect public library is all about.”

Before Mohundro began working in libraries in the middle 1990s, she graduated from college with a journalism undergrad degree. She spent five years in newspaper reporting and advertising in Colorado and Arizona before she decided to change careers.

“It wasn’t something I really thought about,” she said of working in libraries. “I had been a library user all of my life. My mom took me for story times and I always used it for school and research. I remember in high school, I would go to a public library where I lived because they had lots of teen magazines and I thought it was cool you could go to libraries that had magazines like Seventeen.”

After stumbling upon an opening for a position working in a public library reference department, she became hooked.

With it being pre-Internet days, all the information was found through Reader’s Guide periodical literature and card catalogues. With the library being located downtown, many of the references dealt with business and government documents.

She decided to continue her education and attended grad school while working in a library in Little Rock. Her work included doing a political campaign to change the funding structure of public libraries for the entire state of Arkansas.

“I spent about three years doing a lot of political (campaigning). We had to change the state law and then every county had to change its law,” Mohundro said.

Although the task was a difficult one, she spent time campaigning increased millage rates for libraries and how it would be beneficial. She worked with 40 to 50 counties.

“Trying to get people to increase property tax is not the easiest thing in the world, but we did pretty well because we worked hard to make people understand how the money would be used,” she said. “More books, longer service hours, more branches . . . things they could see benefiting them and their families.”

The efforts resulted in more wins than losses, resulting in a change to the state constitution, as well as many county law changes.

“That was pretty rewarding because it had a big impact on the whole future of library services in Arkansas,” Mohundro said.

After receiving her masters at the University of Illinois in library information science, she continued expanding her knowledge through working at a world renowned research library where she spent time in a computer lab to understand different angles and sides of information business.

She also worked in Indianapolis at a statewide consortium helping libraries that needed expertise, but did not have the staff.

Her journey in various positions ultimately led her back to working in public libraries because she loves working with the public.

“There is something new and different going on every day,” Mohundro said. “You never know what each day will bring.”

Since arriving on Sanibel she has been instrumental in making a few changes at the Sanibel Public Library. Among the first things she implemented was creating a real community gathering space that resembles an individual’s living room. The location of the children’s programs was among another quick fix – taking the programs out of the meeting room and putting in the children’s room.

“I thought, when they come here they need to be in the children’s room. They need to be in the library. If it gets messy or loud that is O.K.,” Mohundro said.

The popular Author Series, which kicks off next month, also began around the same time she started working at the library. The series is made possible through a strong working relationship with the Sanibel Public Library Foundation, which has provided close to a half a million dollars since she began working at the library.

“Our goal is to get a nice mix of authors you may, or may not know,” Mohundro said. “I have found in a lot of the authors we bring in, half of the people at the event know them and the others maybe never heard of them. So, they can learn about a new author and suddenly they are big fans of theirs. That is part of the whole author series to introduce you to someone who you have never read.”

A project she hopes to implement within the next few years is digital access to historical documents – photos, maps, letters and diaries. Mohundro said she wants to scan all the documents into the computer and create a digital card catalogue that is very user friendly.

“So, if you type in something like Sanibel 1920, you will find photos, or letters, or something from the ’20s,” she said. “By digitizing, it preserves it and makes it assessable to more people and easier for us to find to help people. That is one of our roles I think as a public library. We have a nice collection of historical material. We really need to preserve it and make it assessable.”

Follow Meghan @IslanderMeghan on Twitter.