Lucy Carter beams when she describes what to her is the biggest compliment.
“You’re not like a librarian,” the person exclaimed, quickly clarifying that by that they meant the old-school type librarian, the kind who are curt, always shushing people and sternly enforcing even the smallest of rules.
At the Holiday Market Saturday, where the library had a booth, Carter was happy to share with a curious passersby, who said they had overdue books, that the Apalachicola Margaret Key Public Library did not levy fines at books returned late.
The young Carter, hired in September to oversee the city’s library, is a stickler, though, about one thing.
She wants to stress the word “public” in the name of the library, because that’s what her outreach is all about – engaging the public and helping them become involved with an expanded set of offerings for both children and adults.
Carter comes to her job fresh from earning a master’s in library science from Florida State University in 2020 (She had a 4.0 grade point average by the way.)
Nine years earlier she had earned a bachelors from FSU in English and public affairs, and in that intervening decade, she got a career sampling, doing everything from working as a reporter for the Wakulla News to being a web producer of news for WCTV to being a yoga instructor, and got a taste of the world, living in Miami, Tampa and Pensacola.
But having grown up in Wakulla County, she is glad to be home. “It means a lot for me to be back where I used to live, with people I care about,” she said.
She still does work on the side on behalf of literacy, screening for learning disorders on behalf of FSU’s Florida Center for Reading Research.
But these days she spends most all of her time tending to the needs of the city’s public library, and working closely with the PALS group, the friends of the library group that has adopted an egalitarian “low church” philosophy in which all eight members of the board have equal status. They include Eloise Bissen, Pag Brown, Carol Guild, Richard Lenhart, Elizabeth Perkins, Jan and Lowell Thomas, Carol Widen, Celia Winterringer and Shirley Taylor, the liaison with the Philaco Woman’s Club, which helped found the library a century ago.
“It’s kind of a renaissance that’s occurred,” she said. “They’ve added a new dimension to the library.”
Information on joining PALS can be found on the library’s website, www.apalchicolalibrary.com, which now sports a simpler, warmer, user-friendly look.
Carter said daily volunteers have enhanced interactions with patrons. On Monday, Mary Whitesell comes in, on Tuesdays it’s Connie Finneran. On Wednesdays, Sondra Taylor-Furbee is on hand, on Thursdays it’s Leslie Rindler, and on Fridays it’s Winterringer. Plus Perkins, Lenhart and Jan Thomas are eager to lend a hand when needed.
On Tuesdays, Bring Me A Book Franklin’s Karen Kessel offers young people a chance to listen to books, and to complete crafts.
Carter has expanded the library’s hours, opening it from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday, and from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sundays.
“People are happy they can come in after work,” she said, noting that the Carrabelle branch of the county public library is open on Saturdays.
“There are no other libraries than ours that have Sunday hours within 50 miles,” Carter said.
Faxing, copying, free scanning and even the notarizing of documents are all offered by the library, and fees are surprisingly low. It’s only 10 cents per page to print out a black-and-white copy, and faxing is $1 for the first 10 pages, and after that $1 per page.
Carter has teamed up with the Panhandle Access Library Network, after the facility’s membership had lapsed, and this consortium of public and academic libraries in northwest Florida offers a wealth of services. By February Carter hopes to have the library linked into Overdrive, which will enable cardholders to download eBooks, audio books and magazines, as well as take free online courses.
As a library director, she takes part on the Wilderness Coast Public Libraries system, which also include the Franklin, Jefferson and Wakulla counties’ systems.
“We’ve got a lot of dedicated people,” said Carter. “I love this library.”