Sears came to the Mahoning County library system in February 1997, bringing with him innovative ideas and a genuine love of libraries and the communities they serve. He quickly became active in key organizations and integrated the library into many facets of the community. His vision of the library as an integral, essential, institution in the Mahoning Valley has become a reality.
“Those that know me know that public libraries are more than a profession to me,” Sears says. “For the past 38 years that I’ve worked in the field, public libraries have been an extraordinarily good fit with my personal passions: engaging individuals and communities, and helping each to see their possibilities and realize their potential.”
Over the years, Sears also kept his focus on improving library services in cost-effective ways and reaching out to those in need of the help and services a library can provide. From his earliest days as director, in developing plans and working on building projects, Sears has included the community in discussions aimed at improving what the library does and the communities they serve. The library continues to reach out to hear the hopes and ideas of residents, incorporating them whenever possible in plans and actions.
“The Library’s financial footing is the strongest it has been in many years. It is a respected institution in the community. Among its peers, it is highly regarded. The library is well-positioned to move forward on a number of stimulating projects that have been anticipated for many years,” Sears explains. “In many ways, this is a wonderful time to be this library’s director. The very things that make it such a good time to stay also make it an optimal time to recruit. The decision to announce my retirement now has been made with this in mind.”
He adds, “The person coming into the position will need time to get to know the community, the staff and Board before they must contend with levy and contract issues. Making this decision now gives a new director the opportunity to do so.”
His passion for engaging the community and helping it grow, transform and reach its full potential remains a driving force with Sears. He will join in the efforts of the small but catalytic nonprofit, nonpartisan Harwood Institute for Public Innovation.
The Harwood Institute inspires and guides people to step forward and take action rooted in their community and stay true to themselves. Harwood works with individuals, organizations and communities to turn outward and develop their ability to make more intentional choices and judgments that lead to impact. By actively partnering with organizations such as United Way Worldwide and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the Harwood Institute is taking this approach to allow everyday people to use these ideas in their own communities
“My interest in working to advance individuals and communities has evolved over time. At the library, I have used the approaches and tools of the Harwood Institute as a framework for decision-making and to engage groups across the county in authentic conversation,” Sears notes.
“The work of the Harwood Institute is transformative and tangible. It fits extraordinarily well with my personal aspirations. Were it not for the opportunity to devote my full energies to their endeavors, I would not be leaving a profession I love, and colleagues of whom I’ve grown quite fond, at a time of such great possibility,” he said.
During his time at the library, Sears has implemented the strategic plan in a way that has strengthened the library and its services and materials, making the system more relevant than ever to the community.
Under his leadership, many programs and projects began, including Early Literacy Program and ‘Baby Brilliant’, Smart Money Initiative, new libraries, enhancing library finances, public outreach and redesigned vehicle delivery system.
Carlton A. Sears