For Carlton Sears, the phrase "living by the book" would better fit as "living for the book." Sears has served as director of the Public Library of Youngstown and Mahoning County and is stepping down this month to pursue a new adventure at age 62.
Sears was the honored guest at a retirement party on Friday, June 22 at the Poland Library where friends, associates and the public were able to wish him the best and thank him for his many years of dedication.
Sears has long followed a passion for libraries, even during his college years when he worked in the university's bookstore.
Photo by J.T. Whitehouse, Town Crier
Loran and Joyce Brooks attended a retirement party at the Poland Library on Friday to join hundreds in paying tribute to Carlton Sears, retiring director of the Public Library of Youngstown and Mahoning County.
He earned his master's degree in library science from the University of Michigan. He spent his first post-college year at Ahoskie, N.C., where he served as adult services director for a three-county library system.
He continued his career at the library in Rowan, N.C., then Asheville, N.C., in the Smokey Mountains. At Asheville, he served as assistant director and helped to build a new library while there.
He also served as director in the Wheeler Basin Library in Alabama and later did a 13-year term as director of the Broome County Library in New York state.
In 1997, he applied for and was given the position of director of the Public Library of Youngstown and Mahoning County. He moved his family to Boardman and began the career to make the local libraries the best they could be.
"Ohio has always had a good reputation where libraries are concerned," Sears said. "I like it because the legal structure in Ohio allows for creativity. Also, the Mahoning County Library System has a rich history with a number of good directors at the helm."
Under Sears' leadership, the local library system not only passed a levy by a large majority during tough economic times, but has also seen five branches get new buildings including Newport, East, Springfield, Austintown and Poland. Sears could add a sixth one as North Jackson just had a bidders' meeting and is expected to break ground on a new branch in that community soon.
Early in his years in Mahoning County, Sears attended training from the Harwood Institute. Harwood works with individuals, organizations and communities to help them turn outward and focus on people and communities to work together to make better, long-lasting changes that benefit all.
"Harwood gets people to focus on community first," Sears said. "They teach how to approach people as citizens instead of consumers."
He said he was impressed with the organization and made the decision to become involved with it last year. He announced his retirement at that time, but due to the inability to locate a suitable replacement, Sears agreed to stick around into this year. Sears already was involved with Harwood and has been pulling double duty while awaiting his official retirement.
"I've been working a little with Harwood, but it has come to a point where I needed to do more," Sears said. "The past two months have become somewhat intense."
One person who knew Sears for many years is Joyce Brooks of Canfield. She taught in Youngstown Schools and took the Harwood training with Sears. Brooks was named as the citizen member on the library director search committee.
"Replacing Carlton Sears was not an easy thing," Brooks said.
Last week the announcement was made that Heidi M. Daniel of Sugar Land, Texas, was approved for the position. Sears said he will officially be stepping down at the end of July, but will work close with Daniel to ensure a smooth transition.
Sears said it will be a change for him, but he knows working for the Harwood Institute will be a rewarding career choice. He did say there are things he will miss.
"I love the people I have worked with over the past 15 years," he said. "I will miss that, but I will try to stay connected."
Brooks said she and hundreds of others agree that while he may be stepping down, his spirit will always be there.
"He is a wonderful person. He has the vision for the future of libraries and he has taken our libraries in that direction," Brooks said. "He'll not be forgotten and his spirit will be in the midst of the Mahoning County Public Library for years to come. I am glad he has found something else worthwhile to do."