By Andra Bryan Stefanoni
PITTSBURG, Kan. —
The public is invited to a retirement reception for Pat Clement, who has served as the director of the Pittsburg Public Library for 15 years. The event is set for 4 to 6 p.m. Friday.
Clement announced her retirement last fall; her last day will be April 30.
"It's been amazing working in a community that appreciates its library so much," Clement said.
The library has changed dramatically since 1998, when Clement came to Pittsburg. In 2003, the library opened one of the first computer labs in Kansas, funded through the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The foundation’s goal was to ensure that all people have access to information through technology in public libraries.
The library’s computer lab now has 12 computers with high-speed Internet access available for public use, and sees an average of 100 visitors each day. Library staff also uses the lab to teach public computer classes each month.
More recently, the library held a ribbon cutting ceremony to celebrate the grand opening of a new east entrance and media room, a project that Clement said fulfilled one of her goals: To make the library more user-friendly and accessible to the community.
The new entrance includes automatic doors and provides access to two additional handicapped parking spaces, as well as 15-minute parking. Furnishings for the adjacent media room area were funded through grants from Commerce Bank and The William T. Kemper Foundation, two of many grants the library has received in recent years.
Also during her tenure, Clement worked with the Board of Trustees to establish the Pittsburg Public Library Foundation, which has built an endowment with close to $1 million dollars. The endowment provides $30,000 to the operating budget each year and will continue to preserve the future of library collections and technology.
In a previous interview, Clement emphasized that she sees the library of today as a center for the community — one that appeals to a person’s artistic and cultural sense in addition to the need for reading material.
“Part of it is preserving our history and our storytelling, preserving our culture, and that comes in a lot of ways,” she said. “People also have a need to interact with their neighbors, to find a place to sit down and have an exchange.”
A search committee comprised of representatives from the Board of Trustees, PPL Foundation, and Friends of the Library conducted a nationwide search through the winter, and selected the library’s assistant director, Bev Clarkson, to replace Clement.
Clarkson has been working at the Pittsburg Public Library for 12 years and holds a Masters in Library Science degree. She will assume her new role on May 1.