Public libraries are a valuable community resource. They provide access to information and education to anyone who walks through the doors. Libraries also strengthen communities by providing an avenue for self-improvement, self-education and life-long learning.
Some of my fondest childhood memories involved weekly trips to the Clayton Public Library in St. Louis, which was located about five blocks from my home. I couldn't wait to search the aisles of the library for new books to read, and those trips sparked a love of reading and learning. I also loved introducing my boys to the library when they were young through story hour. Nick and Ryan always looked forward to sitting in a circle in the old library on Main Street and listening to a story, and they couldn't wait to fill their book bags up with books to take home.
Locally, we are blessed to be served by the Barry-Lawrence Regional Library District, and for the past 16 years, the district has been guided by Jean Berg, an outstanding library director who retired this week.
Berg has served the citizens of Barry and Lawrence counties in exemplary fashion, and under her leadership, the library district achieved many milestones. During her tenure, new libraries were constructed in Cassville, Pierce City and Marionville, and a major fundraising campaign was launched for a new library in Monett. In addition, public internet computers were placed in all 10 branches, the library system and database were fully automated and a large number of programs and services were expanded.
Berg has also managed to keep the library district strong despite tough financial times. She has been successful at attaining grants and managing budgets to make sure the local libraries remain well staffed and equipped with the resources necessary to serve the local population.
Berg also worked tirelessly as an advocate for public libraries and never missed the opportunity to share about the importance of libraries and the financial struggles they are facing. She was good at rallying support, and as a result of her hard work and dedication, libraries have benefitted from positive alliances formed with community members.
Berg was easy to work with and was a lead-by-example kind of leader. I always looked forward to the opportunities I had to speak with her when working on library articles. I found Jean to be available, approachable and extremely knowledgeable.
Books and libraries are Berg's passion, and it showed in her complete commitment to her position as library director. The citizens of Barry and Lawrence counties owe Berg a debt of gratitude for her service over the past 16 years. Our communities are better for it, and we thank her.