Boyd looks back on 26-year tenure as library director

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By Sharon Graves

On Friday, when the doors of the Carroll County Public Library open after the New Year holiday, it will be just like every other day, but with one major difference: director Jarrett Boyd no longer will be the captain of the ship.

Boyd is retiring as of today, Dec. 31, after more than 26 years at the helm, during which time she steered the facility from a small library with few customers to a state-of-the-art library with computers, a staff of nine and a budget 10 times larger than when she arrived in 1982.

“I have always wanted to make our library as good as a big-city library,” Boyd said, looking back at her tenure last week. “We have everything a big-city library has, but on a smaller scale.”

In the early 1980s, Boyd moved to 8 acres with her former husband on the Kentucky River – just a mile downriver from famed author Wendell Berry.

“We built a home and were going to homestead there,” Boyd explained.

The need for a job arose, and Boyd had begun as a substitute teacher until one day, when she saw a help-wanted ad for county library director.

“I saw the ad and it said college degree preferred, and I said well, I have a master’s degree from Johns Hopkins University, that should stand me in good stead,” Boyd recalled. “I came down and was interviewed, and was offered the job the next day. I started the first of June 1982.”

Though she attended college in Maryland, her Kentucky roots are similar to residents of Carroll County. She counts coming from her hometown of Williamstown in Grant County as being an aid to her when she moved here.

“My grandfather used to represent this county in the state Legislature. His name was John Juett. That was back in the 1940s,” Boyd said.

She graduated first from the University of Kentucky; after earning her master’s, she taught school for 16 years in the Baltimore County school system in Maryland. Boyd taught English and journalism, and her class put out a newspaper for 2,500 students under her direction.

When she started at the library, it was located at the corner of Court Street and Highland Avenue, in the modern-looking building that was replaced in 2007.

“It had been there for a year. We weren’t too busy in those days.  Maybe we would have  50 people come in through the day,” she said. “We had record albums then, and books and magazines, but we were a very complete little library. We probably had about 20,000 volumes. We had a nice new building at the time, and everybody was very proud of it, but people weren’t flocking to it.”

Boyd jumped in with both feet, starting a  summer reading program for children that year. “Hillary Browning Arney, who is now the administrative assistant and will be the interim director in January, was one of my first summer readers.”

Boyd said the theme was something like “going ape” for books.

“For every book you read, we would put a yellow construction-paper banana on the wall and we just covered the walls with those bananas,” Boyd said. “We marched in the Tobacco Festival Parade with my two standard poodles, Rosie and Daisy. We had the bookmobile, and all the children from the summer reading program in costumes as their favorite storybook character.”

The summer reading program has grown and expanded and now includes children, teens and adults. Several years ago, the Carroll County Reads program was started in conjunction with the Carroll County Community Development Corporation.

Boyd also began the monthly Wednesdays at One series, the Mary Ann Gentry Memorial Art Show, and a regional artist showcase. She also got involved in the community, heading up Celebrate Carroll County in the 1980s, a day-long event that included a show of quilts made in Carroll County or owned by Carroll County people.

“We had as many people as we could think of that were passing down traditional arts through the families,” Boyd explained. “We had boat building, net making, commercial fishing and fish frying. We had country ham and homemade biscuits, and we had cider from Trimble County. We had tobacco tying, whittling, clogging and we concluded the evening with an auction and we auctioned off a Mary Ann Gentry painting, a Froman country ham, a Mary Broberg pot, anything that local people had done and we auctioned them off to pay the expenses for the day.”

Eventually, the event was so successful, she had to move it from the library. “ But it did what we hoped it would do,” she said. “Our business gradually kept increasing. Our summer reading programs grew. It was nothing for us to have 200 people at some of our programs.”

When the information age came, the library had one little computer people could use for research. Still, though, there was no Internet. “To keep that information up to date, we would have to load the discs into the computer all the time,” Boyd said.

Through a grant from the Bill Gates Foundation, the library was wired for the Internet and more computers were added,” she said.

By about 2001, when the library’s programs began to overcrowd the facility, Boyd said she began looking toward an expansion. “We decided we didn’t really have the money; we didn’t know how we were going to fund this,” she said. “Then in 2005, we decided we better fish or cut bait. So we went on with it.”

Boyd received a $2 million construction grant from the state, and raised an additional $600,000 from the community. The library borrowed $1.5 million, and receives from the county $64,000 per year for 20 years to pay off the loan.

Boyd said she is concerned that the budget crisis may mean the state may not actually be able to keep its end of the bargain. But, the library is in very good shape and she believes it can pay off the loan even if state funding is decreased.

The new facility opened in July 2007 and has been abuzz with activity since.

With eight stationary computers and seven laptops, she said the library is now well-used by people filing for unemployment or revising their resumes and searching online for jobs.

“In January, I’m going to come back as a volunteer and at night work in the community room with the laptops and help people write resumes,” Boyd said.  “We’re advertising what we call the ‘Job Bank,’ with lots of links to places to look for work.”

Boyd said she feels that if, once she’s gone, everything keeps running smoothly, she will have done her job.