Jamestown Librarian Stepping Down

June 21, 2011 Updated Jun 21, 2011 at 2:08 PM EDT

By WKBW News

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Jamestown Librarian Stepping Down

June 21, 2011 Updated Jun 21, 2011 at 2:08 PM EDT

Jamestown, NY (WKBW)

Catherine A. Way of Jamestown, director of the Chautauqua-Cattaraugus Library System and the James Prendergast Library Association, has announced her intention to retire in March 2012, or sooner depending on availability of a candidate to be identified through a nationwide search by a committee representing both organizations.

“It’s been a tremendous privilege to work for such supportive boards and with the best staff a library director could have anywhere. It’s been an honor to serve this community,” Ms. Way said.

Mary Bivens, president of the System Board, describes Ms. Way as “a tireless champion of libraries and their users.”

“For the last eight years, I have seen the work that Catherine Way has done supporting the small, rural libraries of Chautauqua and Cattaraugus counties. Through her efforts, most of these libraries now have online catalogs, and their patrons have twice-a-week access to books and other media from the libraries in the CCLS System,” Ms. Bivens said.

“She’s been an integral part of Prendergast Library in carrying out its mission, and as director of both organizations she has numerous accomplishments including building renovation, meeting funding challenges, and delivering a high level of quality service. It’s been a true honor for me to be associated with her leadership. She’s certainly going to be greatly missed,” said Jacob Schrantz, treasurer of the System Board, president of the Library Board, and fiscal officer for the Chautauqua Region Community Foundation.

A 38-year veteran of library work in Jamestown, Ms. Way was hired in 1973 as a children’s librarian at Prendergast Library. After three years in that position, she was named general services librarian for one year before serving as assistant director for Prendergast Library from 1976 to 1998, assistant director of both Prendergast Library and the Library System from 1998 until 2003; and director of both organizations for the past eight years.

“I’ve been privileged every day to see how libraries changes lives in small ways and big ways,” she said.

Libraries are vital in a democratic society, and they are needed just as much today as when they began in this country 200 years ago, Ms. Way said.

She said she is proud of the public service that Prendergast and the System’s other member libraries have offered.

“Area public libraries have proven themselves over and over to be important vehicles for helping people educate themselves throughout their lives. From cradle to grave, these libraries serve everybody,” she said.

Looking back, she said she is also proud of local libraries’ efforts to keep up with technology.

“When I came, there were no computers. Now we can’t do our work without them,” she said.

During her tenure, 26 of the System’s 36 member libraries have automated their catalogs. Six more are in the process of barcoding their collections and plan to go online in the next 12 to 18 months.

Besides shepherding the libraries through the early days of the technology revolution, Ms. Way said she is also proud of the extensive renovations accomplished in 2009-10 at Prendergast Library.

“We prepared the building to serve generations of future users,” she said.

When Ms. Way was appointed director to succeed the late Murray L. Bob, Stephen Lavrey, then-president of the System Board, praised her commitment to a prudent fiscal strategy and her devotion to public service.

A native of Cobleskill, Ms. Way earned a bachelor of arts degree in history at Elmira College and a master of arts in librarianship from the University of Denver. A member of the New York Library Association, she is a former president and treasurer of its Public Libraries Section, and serves as treasurer of the Public Library Systems Directors Organization.

She has also been chair of the New York State Regents Advisory Council on Libraries, president of the Western New York Library Resources Council, a board member of the INLEX Users’ Group, and a presenter at various professional conferences.

She is chair of the Jamestown Housing Authority, secretary of Zonta Club of Jamestown, and a former trustee of both Fenton History Center and A Children’s Place Day Care. She is a member and past treasurer of both the Chautauqua Region Chapter of the Embroiderers’ Guild of America and the Mid-Eastern Region of the Embroiderers’ Guild of America. She has served in many leadership capacities at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church and chaired the Bishop Search Committee for the Diocese of Western New York in 2008-10.

As director of one of 23 public library systems in New York State, she has overseen services such as ordering, processing and interlibrary loan and consulted with member libraries’ boards and staff. At Prendergast Library, which is one of the System’s co-central libraries, she has been responsible for funding, long-range planning, staff training, community partnerships, technology implementation, and deployment of library materials and services.

Looking ahead, Ms. Way said, “These are challenging times for libraries, and I believe the two organizations need someone with fresh ideas and a new way of looking at things.”