Tuesday, July 22, 2014
Birmingham Public Library Director Renee Blalock to Retire August 1, 2014
A retirement program will be held on August 1 at 8 a.m. in the Central Library's fourth floor Arrington Auditorium. Birmingham Mayor William A. Bell Sr. and Alabama Public Library Service Interim Director Kelyn Ralya will be among those slated to speak. A reception will follow in the library’s board room.
During her career, Blalock managed branches, worked as a library business manager, and served as a regional branch coordinator. She became an associate director in 1994 and was appointed director in 2009.
“I am a very lucky woman to have been able to earn my living doing something I love and that I believe is vital to our community,’’ said Blalock, who was also a member of the Leadership Birmingham Class of 2000 and was named as one of the NAACP Metro Birmingham’s 2008 Outstanding Women for Community Service, Multiculturalism and Political Action. In October 2012, Blalock was honored at the Women’s Fund of Greater Birmingham “SMART Party’’ for her innovative leadership.
Blalock has overseen numerous enhancements to the branch libraries, their collections, and furnishings. She served as the project manager for the construction of the Five Points West and West End branches. Major upgrades to the East Lake, Inglenook, and Powderly branches were completed under her watch. In January 2014, a rebuilt, safer and more beautiful Pratt City Library reopened after being destroyed in an April 2011 tornado. In May 2014, Inglenook Library reopened after undergoing renovations.
As her retirement approaches, Blalock remains committed to even more changes. “We are in the midst of planning a fantastic renovation of the Central Library that will not only move the Archives up from the basement but will transform the East Building into the world-class facility for learning that Birmingham and its citizens deserve,’’ Blalock said.
She has been actively involved in the American Library Association, the Alabama Library Association, and the University of Alabama Library School Association Board. She served on the ALA’s Public Library Association board as well as many committees and task forces. She received the Alabama Library Association’s Eminent Librarian Award in April 2013 for her advocacy, community service, and service to the profession. She's also supported the Jefferson County Public Library Association and the Jefferson County Library Cooperative Board.
“The expansion of the Jefferson County Library Cooperative and its services and resources has enabled citizens across Jefferson County to access books and information in numbers that would have been incomprehensible when I started here in 1981. We take enormous pride in being the most cooperative and collaborative organization in Jefferson County,” said Blalock.
Blalock supported her staff’s efforts to launch a 2013 worldwide celebration of the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail.” For its efforts, the library, in June 2014, received the John Cotton Dana Award, which honors outstanding and effective strategic communication campaigns that produce results. The Library Leadership and Management Association presents the award each year. This is the fourth time that BPL has won the award.
Blalock added that she’s seen wonderful changes, big and small, happen in the library world during her years of service. A memorable one is how the Internet has made each branch a gateway to superior information for all patrons.
“The equity of access to information today is astounding,’’ she said, adding that the library has downloadable eBooks, music and audiobooks, 24 hours a day, seven days a week through its Internet services.
Associate Director Angela Fisher Hall will serve as interim director when Blalock retires.
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