Carol Clark, SCPR Branch Manager, is the recipient of the FOSCL 2020 Public Library Employee Excellence Award. Carol has served as the Branch Manager since the library opened on July 19, 2007. Carol’s enthusiasm is so very evident in all that she does for the patrons in planning programs and events for all ages.
Public Library Employee Excellence Award
Nominee—Carol Clark, Branch Librarian South Congaree-Pine Ridge Library
Nominator—Friends of the South Congaree-Pine Ridge Library
Carol Clark is the model of a loving, caring library employee. As the Branch Librarian of the South Congaree-Pine Ridge Library, she is the example of love and care, support and encouragement. As the first and only Branch Manager of the SC-PR Library, Carol’s purpose and goal continues to be using her library to build community. Her guidance and community outreach have made the SCPR Library a central hub of the community. Her model behavior lends credence to a loving, caring staff as their mentor and encourager. Carol strives to build positive patron relationships through programs, and she serves as an exemplary leader and model for her staff.
Carol understands the importance of making patrons a priority as she endeavors to make everyone who enters the doors feel welcomed, valued, and appreciated. From the youngest to the oldest patron, Carol guides her staff to develop programs that serve the interest of everyone.
Carol is a compassionate leader who shows fairness, positivity, and warmth. She is cheerful, kind and cordial. Lexington County System Director, Kelly Poole says, “She is a great mentor. She’s purposeful in her approach to training and coaching new staff. She’s able to break down new projects and responsibilities into manageable steps. Often modeling expected behavior, she’s the epitome of an encourager.”
Staff member Josie Seacrist states that Carol is “playful, loving and funny. She calls her ‘our momma bear’! I know she is my boss, but she is so much more than that to me - a friend, mentor, older sister/motherly figure. The staff here IS a family, and I think the community we serve can feel that and knows that they are too a part of that family, from toddlers that call our names and give us hugs, to the teens we pray for, to mothers we try to encourage, and all the way to the seniors we love just catching up with. That loving family atmosphere has its roots with Carol.”
Building community outreach is one of Carol’s strongest attributes. As a health-conscious adult, Carol has introduced nutrition and healthy eating programs to the kindergarten and elementary school children. In the summer of 2019, the son of one staff member approached Carol and the Friends group about building a raised garden as his Eagle Scout project. How perfect for Carol’s nutrition and healthy eating program! Now she had a place to grow fresh vegetables to use in these programs. Summer Reading gave her the perfect venue to teach healthy eating. The children made salsa from the tomatoes and peppers they grew, tasted radishes, and cucumbers. For many, this was the first time they had tasted radishes, peppers or cucumbers. They giggled with excitement as they gathered the veggies and tasted them.
Carol’s branch also serves as a feeding center for a federal summer feeding program. “The feeding program and garden are areas where Carol really shows her “momma bear side.” She really wants to show these children something new, healthy, and good for them. Watching her cut up vegetables that grew in the garden with the kids and [in turn] helping them learn proper cutting techniques so they [won’t] hurt themselves, while also empowering them by building their confidence—that’s her momma bear side.”
Another attribute of her “momma bear side” shines through as she was instrumental in helping to get a sidewalk from the elementary school close by so that students walk safely to the library with their teachers during the school day. She and her staff work daily to increase outreach to all the schools and daycares in the service area.
Carol is an artist at developing and engaging vibrant, resourceful teams allowing staff members to shine by giving them freedom to use their creativity in planning programs. Carol’s leadership, training and development skills for staff are of exceptional value to the library system. When a staff position opens within the system, we groan because inevitably one of Carol’s staff will get the position leaving her to train yet another new staff member. Lexington System Director Poole states, “Her staff are often promoted because of the skills they’ve learned under Carol, including organizational awareness and interpersonal skills.” Her effective coaching and counseling of staff have seeded the library system with individuals who, like Carol, enjoy their patrons and treat them as welcome members of the family. Staff member Josie Seacrist who recently has gone from part-time to full-time stated, “I’m here to stay.”
Summer Reading activities have become major program at the branch under Carol’s leadership. Kickoff 2019 saw the largest group ever for Summer Reading. Carol’s vision and enthusiasm, along with the excitement of staff, the Friends group and the Junior Volunteers, draw patrons to the library, some of whom have never been inside a library. Carol “uses the same wisdom [that she uses with staff] when working with Junior Volunteers. They quickly find the Library is their second home because of her ability to make them a part of her team and community, “says System Director Kelly Poole. Summer Reading wouldn’t happen without the JV Team.
Making everyone feel valued and loved is second nature to Carol. Staff member Kacee Merritt says of Carol, “Ever since I started at SCPR, Carol has welcomed me with open arms and has truly made me feel a part of the SCPR family. On my first day, she had welcome gifts for me! She frequently gets the staff small gifts to make us feel appreciated.”
Under Carol’s leadership, a small branch with only a few programs in 2007 has grown to over 25 monthly programs with over 600 attendees, resource circulation of over 4,000 items, and monthly visits of over 2,000 patrons. It is no small feat that Carol Clark has connected the South Congaree-Pine Ridge community to the world of reading, activity and information by working diligently to build community, showing patrons how she truly loves them.
Carol cares! She wants everyone in the community to have the opportunity to become a more productive, literate member of society. She knows how to build community, not only with patrons, but with her staff and colleagues.
In a staff member’s words, “I don’t know what else to say; there is something magical, amazing; it sounds so cliché, but it is what it is.” That’s Carol Clark—magical and amazing!
Dolores Gambrell was presented the 2019 FOSCL Individual Award at the annual FOSCL meeting in Florence, SC. Dolores excitedly accepted the award. SCPR Friends were so excited to be able to see her receive the award for her hard work of presiding over and building the SCPR Friends group from 2009. Dolores deserved the accolades of FOSCL and her fellow Friends.
Outstanding Individual Award
Nominee—Dolores Gambrell, President, Friends of the South Congaree-Pine Ridge Library
If ever anyone committed mind, soul and body to a cause, it is Dolores Gambrell. Her commitment to the purpose of the library goes back to 2006 when she and her husband Andy served as part of the steering committee to have a branch library built in their community. Andy and Dolores’ selfless leadership led to the building of the South Congaree-Pine Ridge Library. A Lexington County Library cardholder since 2002, it was only natural that Dolores, along with Andy, led the effort to form the Friends of the South Congaree-Pine Ridge Library. Dolores was elected president in 2009 after Andy’s two-year tenure, and she continues to serve as president of the South Congaree-Pine Ridge Friends of the Library group.
Dolores works diligently to lead the group in supporting every program and event at the SC-PR library. Her support of the branch manager is evident. Her efforts include planning the yearly calendar and organizing special activities for the Friends group. Because of her commitment to the branch, she, along with husband Andy, presented the “Outdoor Reading Garden” as a major project when the Library opened in 2007. Patrons continue to enjoy the beautiful outdoor reading space. Dolores and Andy continue to support the Friends’ group with monetary resources yearly.
Dolores advocates for the Library throughout the community. She makes annual presentations to the townships of South Congaree and Pine Ridge requesting their support, both monetary and physical. She is a voice to her homeowners’ community group for the Friends and the Library. She advocates to other groups such as WIRE for the benefits of the programs and services of the Library. Dolores is not bashful to ask any group, business or individual in the community for support.
Dolores’ favorite library program is Summer Reading. Plans for Summer Reading begin in January as she focuses the Friends in supporting the plans of the Branch Librarian, Carol Clark. Dolores and the Friends have worked with Carol for the past 11 years to design an exciting Kickoff Celebration. The 2018 event brought in the largest crowd ever. Once the plans are made for Summer Reading, Dolores allows the Celebration chairperson to lead the activities, and she gives her assistance where needed.
Under Dolores’ leadership, the Friends’ support of programs has increased annually. She has led the effort to raise funds for furniture for the Branch and a reading rug for Children’s Storytime. She leads the Friends to support programs with snacks, prizes and supplies, while personally donating children’s books as special incentives. Under her leadership, the Friends have purchased a popcorn machine for the Branch to use with programs, and recently a Keurig coffee maker was presented to the Library so that adult attendees are able enjoy a cup of coffee during programs. Early in her leadership, she promoted a monthly stipend (which continues to this day) for the Branch Manager to use as needed. As the Friends’ President, she always leads the effort in supplying funds and program materials.
A transplant from Pennsylvania, Dolores is a member of Springdale Baptist Church in West Columbia. She is a member of WIRE—Women in Rural Electrification—having served in various leadership positions. She serves as an officer of the Blue Ridge Terrace Community Club and writes the monthly newspaper where she always has a column about the Library. She is the recipient of the 2012 Woodmen of the World Community Service Award.
Family is the essence of Dolores’ existence. She is the proud mother of a son Andy, a daughter Janis; proud grandmother of Andrew and Ashley, David, Jr., Sarah, Ariana, and James; and the proud great-grandmother of Julius. Each of her children and grandchildren, as well as her great grandson Julius, have spent untold hours weekly at the SC-PR Library checking out books, attending programs and events. Julius is only six months old, but Dolores is already reading to him and checking out books for him. Dolores says that she found “instant love” in the Library.
Barbara Madden, her neighbor and accomplice in Friends’ “crime,” says of Dolores, “She is always thinking of ways to serve, projects to do, and activities to plan that will enhance the Library. She is courteous, helpful, available and of impeccable character.”
Dolores loves her position as President of the Friends of the South Congaree Pine Ridge Library. She has been overheard to say, “It’s her heart.” Dolores is deserving of this award as every activity of her life supports and advances the mission of public libraries. It is evident that she appreciates and support libraries and that she is a lifelong advocate for libraries. As you can see, her life and her family are devoted to the library and its success. Without Dolores Gambrell’s efforts to lead the Friends of the SC-PR Library, the community would miss valuable programs and services. We are so glad that this effort is “her heart.”
Eagle Scout Project— Raised Garden Planters for the South Congaree-Pine Ridge Library
In the Spring of 2019, the SC-PR Friends group voted to fund the Eagle Scout Project of Brandon Ballentine to build raised beds that would be used to group vegetables. Built just in time for the spring planting, the vegetable gardens were used for events and programs to teach the children good nutrition and healthy eating. The gardens were a highlight of the Summer Reading Kickoff Party as young and old alike were able to harvest radishes, tomatoes, and other veggies. Amazement and wonder filled the eyes of our smallest patrons who had never seen vegetables grown or harvested. The gardens will be an asset for programs as all patrons, especially the children, learn the importance of nutrition and healthy eating.
This award is established in honor of Andy and Dolores Gambrell whose efforts and service lead to the establishment the Friends of the South Congaree-Pine Ridge Library in 2007. Andy served as President in 2007 and 2008. Dolores took over the Presidency in 2009, serving until 2019. Under their leadership, the organization has grown from a few members to a larger presence who support the programs and events of the library. Andy and Dolores deserve having this award named in their honor as every activity of their lives support and advance the mission of the South Congaree-Pine Ridge Branch Library.
The inaugural award is presented to Andy and Dolores Gambrell for their service and leadership in establishing the Friends of the South Congaree-Pine Ridge Library. The award will be presented to them at the January 2021 general meeting.