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County library director to retire

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After almost 35 years on the job, Friday is Richard Band’s last day

By Reece Murphy

The Lancaster County Library System is approaching the end of an era with the departure of longtime library director Richard Band and preparing to start another under the guidance of a new director. 

Band, 64, is set to retire Friday, May 31, after nearly 35 years as library director. He will be replaced by 25-year library veteran and current York Public Library Manager Rita Vogel.

Band’s retirement ends a career that oversaw immense changes for the former one-branch library on South White Street from seismic growth to shifts in libraries’ roles in the community.

Band, who served four years as a reference librarian in Charlotte before taking the helm in Lancaster, said he guessed he “found his niche” here.

“When I came, we had no branches and were only open one night a week,” Band said. “We had a big old card catalog in the middle of the room with 40,000 cards that took up all the room. There wasn’t a lot of technology.”

Band said among his proudest career accomplishments was overseeing branch expansions in Kershaw in 1984 and Indian Land in 2009.

The Kershaw branch library, Band said, has since grown into “the pride of the community,” while the Del Webb Library now circulates more books than the main branch in Lancaster. 

The three branches now have a combined annual circulation of about 200,000 books.

In an effort to help the community remember its past, Brand also established an ongoing effort at the main library to organize and preserve local family history and Lancaster County manuscripts, photographs and other documents.

Other changes came as the result of huge technological changes reflecting the rise of personal computers and other devices.

To meet the public’s need for computer access for everything from job searches and applications to printing documents, Band installed a number of public-access computers at the branches, which are now among the libraries’ most used resources.

Band also helped dramatically increase the availability of books and other materials to local library users through the system’s participation in SCLENDS, a statewide  in-ter-library sharing program.

The library system’s connection to South Carolina’s DISCUS online virtual li-brary provides a wide range of resources as diverse as books and magazines, original reference materials and databases.

With local libraries’ connectivity, Band helped insure modern readers have audio- and e-books, something he said librarians didn’t anticipate, but which continue to grow in popularity.

Band said the future of the Lancaster County Library system, like all library systems, is still in transition. But he feels confident the county library board made the right choice in choosing Vogel to lead the county’s library into the future.

“The board had three finalists and interviewed two,” Band said. “They chose her for her leadership qualities, and she’s very focused on goal-setting and pursuing them. 

“I think she’ll move the library forward,” he said.

New director

Vogel began her career as a librarian 25 years ago with service in the Charlotte/Mecklenberg Schools and ECPI University, among others. She has managed the York Public Library for the past five years. 

Vogel said she looks forward to starting and is excited about the move from the White Rose City (York) to the Red Rose City.

Among her priorities, Vogel said, is to raise the library system’s profile in Lancaster County and expedite plans to renovate and expand the main library.

Vogel said she wants to work with other organizations, such as business groups, the schools and University of South Carolina Lancaster, to “be a cooperative influence on the community.”

“One of my mottos is “Brighten the corner where you are,’” Vogel said. “Us librarians don’t have all the answers, but we know where we can find most of them.”

Vogel said she looks forward to meeting her fellow librarians in Lancaster, as well as community members.

Vogel said she wants to take awhile to get to know the libraries and system before she settles on any major projects, but she’s honored she was chosen to follow Band and his legacy.

“It’s such a privilege,” Vogel said. “Richard cares so much about the library and the community, and he’s been so conscientious, I’d like to build on that.”

Board reaction

Lancaster County Library Board Chairwoman Faye Kersey said she and other board members have mixed feelings about Band leaving because while they understand his desire to retire, he’s done an excellent job over the years.

“His positive attitude and dedication to Lancaster, and his determination to advance the library is going to be missed,” Kersey said. “Richard Band exemplifies with his character and dedication the true characteristics that make Lancaster County the great place that it is.”

Kersey said Vogel stood out from the other candidates from the start with her impressive resume, work experience and aura as straight-forward.

“One thing that stood out about Rita is she said, ‘The library’s place in its community strongly reflects how its citizens regard learning, education and a wider scope of today’s wider world,’” Kersey said. 

“She’s got some good ideas, and we were really impressed,” she said.

Band said he couldn’t have accomplished anything if it were not for the dedication and hard work of his staff. 

True to his reputation as a tireless advocate for the library, Band said his biggest disappointment upon his retirement is that he wasn’t able to procure a new main library for Lancaster.

As he’s said in the past, Band said the city has outgrown the 43-year-old building and an upgrade is “way overdue.”

“A county that wants to be progressive has to have a modern library facility that meets people’s needs,” Band said. “If it was just shabby, that would be one thing, but if it doesn’t meet people’s needs, that’s another thing entirely.

“I have failed to get the county to make a decision, but the board is sticking with it,” he said.

Drop-in farewell for Band today

To show its appreciation for retiring Lancaster County Library Director Richard Band and his years of service, the Lancaster County Library Board has organized a drop-in farewell from 3 to 5 p.m. today, May 29, in council chambers at the Lancaster County Administration Building, 101 N. Main St., Lancaster. Light refreshments will be served.

 

Contact reporter Reece Murphy at (803) 283-1151