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Interview With Regional Library Board President Rosie Gerding
Each trustee serves on his own district board as well as on the regional library board, which is the governing body responsible for policy-making and fiscal oversight. A contract binds our three member library districts into a regional library system, allowing us to pool the resources of our whole region to give residents better service at lower cost.
Rosie Gerding has served on the Columbia board since 2005 and is now the regional board president. An English major in college, she discovered accounting her senior year and holds a degree in each from MU. Now, she works as a CPA with her husband Bob. She has a daughter Maggy at MU, and Bob has two grown sons, Tim and Matt. She loves to read, adores walking and is infatuated with traveling to big cities.
Why do you think libraries are important?
In the broadest sense, libraries are the one true safe haven. They’re a place where everyone can go, where information is available to anyone who seeks it and where ideas and thoughts can be discussed and explored without fear of reprisal or censorship. Each of our patrons is treated with respect. Regardless of whatever book, magazine, video, music, or piece of information they’re looking for, they will not be judged or questioned. As our mission statement says, we are here to connect people to the world of ideas and information. There’s a lot of sincerity and resolve underlying that statement.
What made you apply to be on the Columbia board?
Over the years I had served on various boards, and, honestly, a few of them weren’t good fits for me—I didn’t have any particular passion for some of the organizations. So, I decided to take the time to look around and find something that really spoke to me. Then I saw in the paper one day that the library board had an opening. Like so many other Columbia natives, I grew up with the library in the Gentry Building downtown, and I have very specific memories of being there. My parents owned the Pizza Inn that was directly across the street, so on countless busy weekends my sister and I spent hours at the library. It was easily my favorite place to be.
What makes DBRL special?
During my time on the board I’ve come to realize that DBRL is the incredibly successful organization it is because of the excellence of its staff. I started out thinking that libraries were about books and materials, computers, branches—the physical things. That was before I began to meet the librarians and the support staff and learn about what they do. These people are highly educated and professional, and they are entirely dedicated to superior customer service. They’re also creative and fun, and they love what they do!
What challenges does DBRL face?
Our biggest challenge right now is finding ways to deliver library services OUT to our patrons, rather than them having to always come IN to receive them. Our taxpayers made it clear that they didn’t want us to build branches right now, so we need to find other ways to get our services out to them. We’ve greatly expanded the capabilities and offerings on our web site, and we’re going to be investing in a new bookmobile soon.
What gives you the most pride as DBRL board president?
As I mentioned before, DBRL is known for its excellent customer service, and I hope that will always be our top priority. Second, I’m very proud of our fiscal soundness. The board and library director have been extremely careful with the library’s funds over the years, and, as a result, we have not had to deal with the difficulties that other public institutions have been facing such as dipping into reserves, cutting jobs, or delaying needed maintenance.