One could almost hear the collective “NO!” in the air on Poplar View Pkwy. when Collierville Burch Library Director Deanna Britton recently announced her upcoming retirement.
Britton has been at the very busy helm of the town’s best kept secret and hub of all things interesting for 15 years. She will be sorely missed when she officially steps down at the end of the day on Dec. 31.
But true to her nature, Britton is leaving the Library better than she found it, and whoever steps into her director’s shoes will have a solid foundation on which to build more opportunities, open more doors, and create more memories for the community.
Britton’s staff members each have their own stories about how her leadership has touched their lives. Circulation Supervisor Gail Tucci has worked with Britain for 10 years.
“Deanna sees the library as an integral part of our community,“ said Tucci. “She is continually looking for ways to meet and exceed the needs of our patrons by adapting to the constant changes in our community, and in available technology.“
Adult Services Librarian Lisa Plath called Britton is a true visionary. Plath has worked with Britton for more than 11 years and said that Britton, “stretches our capabilities, encourages us to grow and exceeds our expectations beyond what we think we can achieve.“
Julia Trumpy is relatively new to the Library staff; she joined two years ago is Youth Services Librarian.
“This is my first supervisory position, and despite not having any prior experience, Deanna took a chance on me,” said Trumpy.
She noted that she was very dependent on Britton’s knowledge, experience and advice when she started the job, and still enjoys having Britton’s wisdom when Trumpy has a problem she’s not sure how to handle.
“I’m quite sad I will no longer have her guidance,” said Trumpy.
Assistant Circulation Supervisor Yvonne McKinney added that, “Britton is professional in all areas and a great example for a leader.“
Britton’s own favorite memories of her time at the Library cover a wide range of topics and experiences, much like the goings-on at the Library any week during the year: one man shows such as actor Joe Wigand starring as President Teddy Roosevelt and Disney Imagineer Mark Snyder; the nationally touring theater Tanglewood Marionettes; Tennessee First Lady Crissy Haslam with the Dolly Parton Imagination Library on the 10th anniversary of the Governor’s Books from Birth Foundation, and most recently, author Devy Eyler about her experience as a stolen baby in the Georgia Tann scandal.
“The Devy Eyler talk was not only interesting, but served the public in how Eyler helped other people who had the same history,“ said Britton.
The Library resources that Britton has built include the adult nonfiction book collection and the adult DVD collection. Britton said they are good collections for medium size Library and the staff has received many compliments about them.
Britton also spearheaded the first digital magazine collection in the state and created a policy manual that has served as creative foundation for all that the staff does. This includes creating consistently relevant content for the Library’s website.
Britton herself sahred the high praise she has for her staff.
“We have staff that affect and sometimes even change peoples’ lives for the better,” she said. “Sometimes the effects happen in small ways sometimes in profound ways. We hired someone several years ago who ended up leaving to relocate to Pennsylvania. In her letter of resignation, she stated how much she had learned here and how it had changed her life. She had never before been given the trust, support, and encouragement she had been given here. Working here gave her a confidence she had never felt. She has since completed library school.”
Collierville Town Administrator James Lewellen called Britton a “gem” who fell into the collective lap of the town’s administration.
“She was this phenomenal library manager who just happened to move into town and it couldn’t have been a better fit or at a better time.” Lewellen said.
Britton came to Collierville when the town was being told that it could not exist as a library outside of the county’s system. What Collierville had to do, and succeeded at doing with Britton’s leadership, was to exceed the number of resources and the level of service that was being offered at the county library system level, but as an independent entity.
“Deanna came in and did two things for us,“ said Lewellen. “She showed us how to flourish as an independent library system. And she built all of these relationships and gained access to all of these resources, initially through LSSI (now known as Library Systems & Services) and ultimately as an independent municipal library. She was the first Library manager Collierville ever had, and she was phenomenal.“
Lewellen said there were naysayers who said that Collierville would be taking a step backward if they attempted to do an independent library on their own, but Britton made it happen, and happen successfully.
“Everything that we are as a library, I personally attribute to her leadership,” said Lewellen. “She will be difficult to replace.”