Springfield, MO

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Library director builds off of predecessor's foundation

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Regina Greer Cooper, Springfield-Greene County Library District executive director, says her two years at the top have been eased by the help of nonprofit Friends of the Library, the library district's board of trustees and staff members and her predecessor Annie Busch.

She sat down Dec. 14 at the Tower Club atop Hammons Tower with Springfield Business Journal Editor Eric Olson as part of the monthly 12 People You Need to Know series.

Cooper acknowledges she had large shoes to fill when she started in January 2009, as she was brought on to fill the position vacated by Busch, who led the library district through 19 years.

"Annie Busch was a great visionary. This was not a library district in need of repair," Cooper said. "I decided to look at it as a wonderful opportunity and a gift."

Busch, who announced her retirement in 2008, has made herself available to answer Cooper's questions.

"She's given me information and taught me without being pushy about it," Cooper said. "She has stepped back, but she has always been there, just a call away."

Cooper, herself, had 28 years experience at the Huntsville-Madison County Public Library in Huntsville, Ala., before moving to Springfield.

Although she came into the job just as the economy began spiraling down in earnest, Cooper already has a number of accomplishments under her belt, which she attributes partly to others.

One example is the replacement of the 20-year-old Bookmobile, a mobile book service for underprivileged citizens. With a Friends of the Library Donation of about $232,000, the district will have its new library on wheels in April, Cooper said.

"We're going to party when the Bookmobile comes," Cooper said, laughing.

The Friends also provided approximately $35,000 so the library district could revitalize the Ash Grove branch. Additionally, it provides book sales, membership opportunities and literacy programs.

Looking to the future, Cooper said the Springfield-Greene County Library District will continue to keep up with technology, particularly as the concept of the book itself is increasingly changing with the invention of electronic book readers such as the Kindle, the Nook and the iPad.

"Our staff keeps up with what's out there," she said, noting that the library has a selection of e-books available for certain patrons, and those, like traditional books, are available free.

Paper books aren't likely to go the way of the dinosaur any time soon, Cooper said, but it's important for the library to stay technologically current to meet the needs of continually tech savvy readers.

"We're trying to bring both of these to the citizens of this community," she said.

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