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Op-Ed: MCPL Director Peggy Gold retires leaving a “Mother Theresa” sized hole

By Jill Rael, Mulberry| Former President of the TN Library Association and Former Assistant Regional Director

Moore County Public Library Director Peggy Gold retired on January 1 after 25 years of service to her community. (File Photo)

As Moore Countians rang in the new year, the community also bid a heartfelt farewell to long-time library director, Peggy Gold. After 25 years of service, “Miss Peggy,” as she is affectionately known, officially began her retirement on January 1. In tribute to her service, I am grateful to The Lynchburg Times for this platform through which to share a small piece of Miss Peggy’s story and the impacts she made upon this community and the broader collective of Tennessee libraries.

After eight years on staff at the Moore County Public Library (MCPL), the governing board appointed Peggy as director, a position she held for over 17 years. During her tenure, Peggy completed the Public Library Management Institute in 2006, a three-year intensive program offered by the Tennessee State Library and Archives (TSLA), which trains and educates library directors without a master’s in library science degrees. To further complement her training and advance her skillset, Peggy completed an associate’s degree at Motlow State Community College in 2008 and continued to earn a bachelor’s degree in human resources management and personnel administration at Athens State University in 2010 (Suma Cum Laude).

Like all effective leaders, Peggy understood her role in the library and the importance of building a team that reflects not only the mission and vision of the library board but also the attitude of unyielding service, compassion, and dedication to free and equal access to information so ingrained in a librarian’s heart and soul. With these tenants of librarianship, Miss Peggy created an environment where her staff openly expressed ideas, received trust and encouragement, and offered enriching programs to the community.

A primary example of the unique and empowering programs hosted by MCPL is the Finding My Family genealogical project for local elementary-aged children. It was a personal favorite of Peggy’s. Finding My Family provided participants with an opportunity to discover their roots under the guidance of Miss Peggy and the outstanding resources provided by MCPL locally, TSLA, and other online and local resources. With their research completed, the children presented their findings to the community through visual displays at the library. Other unique programs are the children’s painting classes, where my own son created his first masterpiece, and the lunchtime speaker series where, for example, local adults like my mother learned of Tennessee’s Drive 55 program that led them to complete their own degrees and certifications.

Most library directors agree that finding ways to partner with their local schools and attracting the interest and participation of teenagers is among the most daunting and intimidating goals for their libraries to accomplish. Yet, Peggy has done so for years. As explained by Moore County Middle School teacher Jonah Deal, “she was the person to call if a student needed school supplies, and she provided a way for our students to also give back.” Students assisted Peggy with gifts during the Angel Tree and back to school supplies programs hosted by MCPL. Through a mutually passionate partnership between MCPL and the Moore County High School Student Council, local youth worked with Peggy to prepare Thanksgiving baskets. Two years ago, Deal reports, the program began with the preparation of 30 baskets, which Peggy delivered. However, with the uncertainties and chaos of 2020, the students prepared 60 baskets this Thanksgiving. Peggy located those in need and made deliveries. She is, Deal related, “someone who always put others before herself. She was Moore County’s own Mother Teresa.”   

Like most public libraries in Tennessee, MCPL operates under specific laws, regulations, and guidelines overseen by TSLA and administered through the secretary of state’s division. Through its field offices, known as regional libraries, TSLA provides public libraries with specific funding, training, guidance, and generally serves as a consultant to directors and boards. MCPL is a part of the Stones River Regional Library, which operates from offices based in Murfreesboro. The region consists of 26 libraries within 11 counties located as far north as Trousdale, east as Grundy, and south as Franklin. These libraries are large and small, some better funded than others; yet, they all share a passion for their communities. Moore County very often stood as a beacon of possibility within the region. When others felt limited by their small size and even smaller budgets, the accomplishments, innovations, and examples of “embedded librarianship” exhibited by Peggy and her staff afforded state and regional leadership an example of the unique opportunities that only small libraries often possess.

Historically, libraries served a simple purpose: to enrich the lives of those within a community through the lending of books. However, the 21st century library is nothing short of an amazing evolving institution able to provide services and enrichment on seemingly unlimited platforms. Those which continue to not only survive but also succeed possess leadership that understands and embraces the beautiful chaos of our modern existence. These leaders, and their dedicated staff, must possess knowledge of traditional services like reader’s advisory and reference, while also continually learning and adapting to new and ever-changing technology and public expectations. Additionally, those libraries which thrive in today’s world possess the ability and confidence to nimbly and quickly adapt to the spontaneous changes around them. During the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, state leadership through TSLA and the Tennessee Library Association (TLA) endeavored to provide libraries with ever-changing information and offer guidance on how these most democratic of institutions could continue to safely serve their communities. We received inspiration from libraries like MCPL, which immediately began offering a full range of services remotely and through contactless curbsides. This tiny library was among the first, perhaps the actual first, in Tennessee to do so and it both inspired and guided many others that followed suit.

When speaking of Peggy the words “inspiration,” “mentor,” and “friend” often find their way into the conversation. “As Jonah Deal put it, “Peggy Gold started off as a librarian to me … then a classmate, then a coworker, but Peggy is going to end as an inspiration.” In a heartfelt note to Peggy on Facebook, MCPL Assistant Director Cheryl Eason said, “[w]e are so sad to lose our mentor, our sometimes mother, our biggest cheerleader, and most of all our friend! … Thank you for seeing something in me that I did not see … Thank you for always seeing the best in people and trying to help when you see a need.” I think so many of us in Moore County share these sentiments. For myself I would like to thank Peggy for just being herself: a great leader with a passion for service and the courage to stand alone, embrace change, and appreciate the unique qualities of those around her. You are, truly, one of the greats. Cheryl perhaps put it best when she said, “Peggy is well named because she truly has a heart of gold.” You leave an indelible mark upon Moore County, and as Lisa Riggs (MCPL staff) put it, “I can only hope we live up to the legacy you left behind.” •

{The Lynchburg Times is the only independently owned and operated newspaper in Lynchburg, Tennessee. We cover Metro Moore County government, Jack Daniel’s Distillery, Nearest Green Distillery, Tims Ford State Park, Motlow State Community College, Moore County High School, Moore County Middle School, Lynchburg Elementary, Raider Sports, plus regional and state news.}

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