Q&A with Billy Tripp

February 13, 2013 

City of Residence: Byron

Occupation: Library director, Peach Public Libraries

QUESTION: What does the Peach Public Libraries system consist of?

ANSWER: There’s the Thomas Public Library in Fort Valley, which is the administration headquarters, and the Byron Public Library in Byron. The Thomas library goes back to the early 1900s and was started by Mrs. Lula Thomas. Her husband was a doctor, and she put her personal books in his waiting room and allowed people to take them home. It grew, and she eventually donated her books to begin an actual library. It was first called the Thomas Memorial Library.

QUESTION: Do the Fort Valley and Byron libraries have close ties?

ANSWER: They have their own identities but serve as one library. They share books, resources and staff travel back and forth between the two. I’m grateful we don’t have two separate city libraries to maintain in the county, especially with today’s economy.

QUESTION: What’s the staff?

ANSWER: Six full-time and five part-time employees. Two of them were recently hired -- Maira Hernandez, who is a children’s, teen and outreach specialist, and Andrew Vickers, who is a public services librarian. They both joined us Feb. 1.

QUESTION: In a sense, you are an old and new employee, aren’t you?

ANSWER: I’ve been here for about 20 years, but I became library director last August.

QUESTION: What drew you to a career as a librarian?

ANSWER: I took a different route than most. I actually began work in accounting. I grew up in Fort Valley and when I graduated from Peach County High School I took a summer job at Bluebird Body Co. and was going to start college in the fall. It was just a summer program, but I went to work in accounting and they kept me on. I went to Macon State (College) at night and got a bachelor of business and information technology degree with a concentration in business and accounting.

ANSWER: What got you to the library?

QUESTION: After working several years there was a big round of layoffs in the early 1990s when Bluebird changed owners. I was laid off and started spending a lot of time at the library. I guess they figured I was here anyway, so they might as well put me to work. I did start working here and through the years have done about every job there is, including assistant director.

QUESTION: Did you go back to school to study library sciences versus accounting?

ANSWER: I did. In fact, just because you work in a library you’re not a librarian. Technically, you’re not a librarian unless you have a degree -- in fact a master’s degree in library sciences. I got that from the University of Alabama and then a specialist degree from the University of South Carolina.

QUESTION: Sounds like you’re done with accounting.

ANSWER: I love working here, but I am preparing to take the CPA (certified public accountant) exam. I mean, why not?

QUESTION: Most librarians might be asked their favorite book. How would that go with you?

ANSWER: I didn’t read all that much as a kid. They laugh around here saying my favorite book is the manual to whatever needs fixing. I’m that kind of person. I’ll read the instructions and can accomplish a lot of things.

QUESTION: With technology taking over libraries that’s probably a good thing.

ANSWER: Libraries are changing. They’ve always been a place where the best information has been available, and now that’s just not always in a book -- a physical book. Now you can download e-books, you can come make a copy, print something, send a fax, find a notary, register to vote, schedule a meeting space, use our computers or use your own device on our Wi-Fi hotspot, and even check out a real book from here or any of the Georgia PINES system libraries. The library has changed with technology to meet needs and will continue to. The library board here “gets it” and wants the library to serve our communities well.

QUESTION: How many public use computers do you have?

ANSWER: Twenty-six in Fort Valley and nine in Byron. Fortunately, money has been budgeted that we should be able to replace our machines. Some of them are as many as 10 years old.

QUESTION: How many books?

ANSWER: About 75,000 in the system. Also, we have 14,000 registered borrowers in Peach County, which is half the county population. That’s a good percent, but we’d like to see it go much higher. A library card is free, and there’s so much you can do with it.

QUESTION: What can you do with the card beside what you’ve mentioned?

ANSWER: There are all the traditional things, the technology things, but Georgia libraries also have business partners across the state. You can actually check out a pass to go to Zoo Atlanta, state parks and historical sites, Go Fish in Perry and venues like Passport to Puppetry in Atlanta.

QUESTION: Wow. What are some ongoing events at the libraries?

ANSWER: We’re re-starting children’s story times after a holiday break, the AARP Tax Aide program has begun in Fort Valley and we have plans for Read Across America in March and National Library Week in April. For information, our website is www.peach.public.lib.ga.us.

Compiled by Michael W. Pannell. Contact him at mwpannell@yahoo.com.

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