Nikki Gaskin, 31, replaced Donna Ross as library director in July. Ross resigned to focus on her duties as president of the Anniston City Board of Education.
“We have some things that we need to address on the school board, and I really want to spend more time in the schools,” Ross said by phone Monday.
Gaskin said the library – which reopened in 2010 after being closed for nearly a decade due to declining revenue – is a small one, but one that is growing.
“Each librarian has to come in and make their contribution toward that growth,” Gaskin said.
Hobson City Mayor Alberta McCrory agreed with Gaskin, saying each director has left their own personal touch to the library.
“Donna did an excellent job for us, and introduced us to some new ideas,” McCrory said, noting Ross’s work in starting a movie night and puppet shows at the library.
Gaskin is well suited for the job, McCrory said.
“I think she’s a very good fit for the community and for the library,” McCrory said, speaking of Gaskin. “In addition to her intelligence, she has compassion. She has energy, and she’s excited about being there.”
The library reopened in 2010 with help from a $5,000 government grant from state Rep. Barbara Boyd. A $25,000 donation three months later from the Alabama Civil Justice Foundation in Birmingham ensured the library would remain open, helping pay the director’s salary, buy books, computer desks and a phone line.
Shirley Taylor was hired as director shortly before the reopening, but left the position in July 2011 to move to Iowa with her husband. Ross was hired as director in August 2011.
Reflecting on some of the advances made while she was director, Ross said she was glad to have helped the library get 10 new computers and Internet connectivity.
“Libraries today are about technology. That’s how we can see the rest of the world,” Ross said.
A $75,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture in 2012 paid for those computers and office equipment for the library.
Ross served as director in November 2012, when the library opened a children’s room with climbing structures, games and books that cater to kids.
While she has no experience working in libraries, Gaskin did work with children as part of a literacy program while at Spelman College in Atlanta.
“We would buy books and try to find topics that would keep them interested,” Gaskin said.
Three weeks into the job Gaskin is planning an outdoor library near the building that will allow anyone to borrow a book, whether or not they have a library card.
“It’ll be there 24/7, so we hope that that will be another way to draw people in to read,” Gaskin said.
The library has many books that have been donated, some too worn to put into circulation, Gaskin said. But many are still readable, she said, and those books will be used in the outdoor library.
Gaskin is a California native, but has family in Anniston. She received a degree in psychology from Spelman.
After college, Gaskin worked in the fashion industry in New York City for five years before moving to Anniston to be near family. Gaskin most recently worked at the St. Clair County Department of Human Resources for two years.
Working at the library is something Gaskin said she chose because she’s passionate about books and wants to make a positive impact on her community.
“I have a great love for reading. That was instilled in me as a young child,” Gaskin said, explaining that she’d like to do the same for children in Hobson City.
“I just want kids to read. I want them to use the library as a place to explore books,” she said.
McCrory said she’s pleased with the growth the library has seen since reopening, and looks forward to Gaskin’s contribution.
“It has taken on a life of itself, and people of all ages are using the library. I get excited when I pass by and see cars parked out there,” McCrory said.
Staff writer Eddie Burkhalter: 256-235-3563. On Twitter @Burkhalter_Star.