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PYSK: Margaret Conroy

Get to know Margaret Conroy, Executive Director of Daniel Boone Regional Library

Job Description
I am responsible for public library services for Boone and Callaway counties, except for Centralia, which has its own library. This includes developing the budget, managing, hiring staff, writing and implementing policy, and working with the public.

Professional background
I’m a career librarian and started my professional life in Quincy, Illinois, where I’m from. Since moving to Missouri in the early 1990s, I have worked at the University on the Missouri Newspaper Project (a fun job), served as library director for two neighboring libraries (based in Moberly and Jefferson City), was the assistant director for St. Charles City-County Library, and was the state librarian for Missouri. I have a master’s in library science from Dominican University in River Forest, Illinois, and a master’s in public administration from MU.

Why you are passionate about your job
I believe that public libraries are foundational to our democracy and that everyone has a right to access information for themselves. I love being able to provide resources that connect people with information as well as recreational reading. As an avid reader myself, I can’t imagine a world where reading choices are limited.

A piece of literature that has impacted your life and why
I love to read, and it is too hard to pinpoint one piece of literature that has affected my life. I was very lucky to have parents who encouraged reading and let my siblings and I chart our own course with books. I read primarily fiction and love British mysteries. I learn something from everything I read, even the backs of cereal boxes!

How you got into your profession
I earned my Girl Scout library badge by volunteering at the Quincy Public Library children’s department when I was 16, and I must have impressed the children’s librarian because she offered me my first job. I loved to put the books in order and help families find stories for their children, not to mention have access to all those books. In college, I had a work-study job in the library. When I graduated with a liberal arts degree, I realized I didn’t want to teach, and library service felt like a calling.

What people should know about your job as library director
I don’t have time to read! Seriously, most of my time is spent behind the scenes working with staff, library trustees, and community members just like any other organization leader. My actual librarian skills are a little rusty!

Biggest lesson learned as the library director
Everyone loves their local library and feels that it belongs to them. Some like to offer advice on how I should run things, so I’ve learned to be a good listener. My biggest lesson learned when working with staff is to warn them when I am merely thinking out loud.

A local librarian you admire and why
The library profession is full of wonderful people, which is one reason I like it. I greatly admire my predecessor at DBRL, Melissa Carr. She made so many improvements at DBRL during her time here, and my job has been easy in comparison.

Your favorite volunteer/community activity
I recently joined the family selection committee for Show-Me Central Habitat for Humanity. This is my third Habitat chapter volunteer commitment, as I feel strongly that people have a right to stable, secure housing. I’ve also been a Rotarian for many years, and I love my current Rotary club, Columbia Metro Rotary.

Your favorite restaurant in Columbia and your go-to food and drink order
It’s hard to pick a favorite restaurant, but Flyover comes close. My favorite comfort food is a good grilled cheeseburger, regardless of who cooks it.

The next challenge facing the libraries
Delivering quality service in the face of constantly changing technology is always a challenge, but right now, that is even more pressing, as access to physical facilities is somewhat limited due to COVID-19. Libraries are constantly adapting to meet public demand, so assessing needs and developing a strategic plan for the next three years is my next big project.

If you weren’t doing this for a living, you would
I think it would be pretty cool to work for a nursery taking care of plants. If I didn’t need a paycheck, I’d be puttering in my own garden.

A surprising fact about yourself
I can usually tell what time it is without looking at a clock.

Greatest strength
I hope it is empathy.

Greatest weakness
I have to work hard to be patient!

I share my home with my wife, two dachshunds, and two cats (and whatever the cats drag in).

A book you recommend to COMO readers and why
The annual One Read title! It’s so fun to be reading and discussing the same book at the same time with your friends and neighbors.

What you do for fun
I love to garden, camp, kayak, and watch birds.

Accomplishment you’re most proud of
As Missouri state librarian, I started a statewide shared library automation system, Missouri Evergreen. Public libraries in the state can now seamlessly share their collections with other libraries, so even those with small budgets can offer more materials to their patrons.

Your hopes and goals for the future of Daniel Boone Regional Library
I hope to be able to maintain the system’s stable financial base and to grow the communities’ investment in the DBRL Foundation, which allows us to provide services beyond what taxes support. I also want to be able to satisfy the public’s need for free and open access to information in whatever form that takes.

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