It wasn't exactly "out with the old and in with the new" at a hail and farewell reception Thursday afternoon at the Pine Bluff/Jefferson County Library. Rather, it was more of an "in with the new but hanging on to the old" transition.
It wasn’t exactly “out with the old and in with the new” at a hail and farewell reception Thursday afternoon at the Pine Bluff/Jefferson County Library. Rather, it was more of an “in with the new but hanging on to the old” transition.
Dave Burdick, the library system’s director for the past 21 years, and his successor, Michael Sawyer, were both hailed. And Sawyer made it clear that while the retiring Burdick is bidding farewell, his accomplishments and influences will help guide Sawyer in efforts to “enhance” library services.
“Dave has done a great job here the past 21 years,” said Sawyer, who like Burdick is a California native. “The public can be proud of its library system here, and I want them to continue to be. I intend to build on his legacy.”
“We think Dave’s done a wonderful job and that we were fortunate to have had him here as long as we did,” library board President Ann Talbot said in expressing her mixed emotions. “And we’re also thrilled to have someone as qualified as Mr. Sawyer joining us.”
Mayor Carl A. Redus Jr., who proclaimed Thursday “Dave Burdick Day” within the city, echoed Talbot.
“Dave made sure that the library served the entire community,” Redus said. “Under his leadership, the library was a valuable resource for children, teenagers, young adults and seniors, providing knowledge to everyone.
“I hate to see him leave, but I understand that retirement is what we work toward and his retirement time has arrived,” the mayor said. “I want to thank him for all he’s done.”
Redus said he’s been “impressed” by Sawyer.
“I think Mr. Sawyer is looking to add value to what’s already been done with the library system under Dave’s guidance,” said the mayor. “I’m looking forward to working with and supporting Mr. Sawyer.”
Burdick and his wife, Marcia, already have a house in Florida, but they’ll be “living on the road,” touring the country in their recreational vehicle.
After Redus’ proclamation presentation, Burdick was given an Atlas road map as a going-away gift. He laughed, but became emotional as he began to speak.
With his voice cracking and tears welling in his eyes, he thanked library staffers, directors and his “friends and family” for their support throughout his career here.
A past president of the Pine Bluff Rotary Club and Pine Bluff Chamber of Commerce, Burdick — a long-time White Hall resident — said “leaving here isn’t the easiest thing I’ve done.”
“But I’m looking forward to seeing new, beautiful places,” he said. “I’ve already driven through 40 states, but I didn’t have the time to stop and savor things then.
“But I will now,” he added, noting he’ll have a travel blog on the Web at www.goingrvway.com.
Burdick said he’s especially proud that because of a voter-approved tax increase in 1996, the library system was expanded with remodeling of the previously existing sites and construction of new branches at Altheimer and Redfield. The system has almost doubled its service hours in the 16 years since.
He’s also pleased that the genealogy collection experienced dramatic growth, and that a county obituary index dating back about 150 years was formulated.
If he has a regret, Burdick said, it’s that he wasn’t able to fulfill a goal to create a separate children’s library area within the main branch.
“I wanted an area where the kids could be themselves and not have to worry about being so quiet,” he said.
Sawyer, who has a college degree in history, shares Burdick’s appreciation for the past. Sawyer said he’s found that “there’s a lot of history in this area” and is hopeful that he can have some Civil War re-enactment events on system grounds.
Sawyer, who will be residing in Pine Bluff, said he’s “anxious to get started.”
“My goal the next couple of months will be to learn from the public and library staff things we might need to work on improving,” Sawyer said. “I want the public to remember that tax dollars help to pay for their library system, and the library is the community hub.
“The library resources here can help everyone in their need for information and service,” he said. “The library belongs to them, and I’m pleased to be associated with it.”