Shortly after being named the director of the East Lake Community Library Aug. 21, Lois Eannel poses with flowers and an East Lake T-shirt, given to her by members of the library’s advisory board.
PALM HARBOR – Lois Eannel, the former assistant director of the Palm Harbor Library, has been hired as the director of the East Lake Community Library. She began her new duties Sept. 3.
At the recommendation of the library’s advisory board, the Palm Harbor Community Services Agency hired Eannel at an annual salary of $63,000.
Members of the advisory board cheered when the decision became official, interrupting the agency’s meeting to offer Eannel balloons and flowers in congratulations.
“You know what we’ve been through,” said advisory board member Roger Johnson, with a mixture of the relief and excitement in his voice as he gave Eannel an East Lake T-shirt that matched his own.
“She’s ours now,” he told the Palm Harbor agency.
The East Lake community has had to fight tooth and nail for recognition of its library, which is technically a unit of the Palm Harbor Library rather than an entity on its own right. Both libraries are overseen by the board for the Palm Harbor Community Services Agency, or PHCSA, created by Pinellas County to manage funds coming from Palm Harbor municipal taxing district.
East Lake Library, financially supported by the Pinellas County Board of Commissioners and the Pinellas Public Library Cooperative rather than its own tax base, had no representative on the PHCSA board.
But all that’s about to change. If a proposed agreement for the reorganization of library cooperative is approved, East Lake library will be funded through its own taxing district. The county is considering revamping the PHCSA board, giving East Lake representation.
“Everything is falling into place,” Eannel said.
Eannel said she’s been attending PHCSA meetings since about 2000 and saw how the library struggled.
“It was always almost as if East Lake was the orphan child,” she said. “Now it’s an equal partner, and that’s how it should be.”
Eannel said she would be cautious in spending extra funds the library would likely receive due to its dedicated funding. She plans to address parking first and assess her staff before expanding the library’s hours.
“I don’t want to spend like a drunken sailor,” she said.
A search committee formed to choose the new library director decided to open the position to in-house candidates first.
The committee – made up of two members of the library board, the director of the Friends of East Lake Community Library and the library’s interim director – decided on Eannel in mid-August.
“She’s just very experienced,” said Jackie Waldford, who was part of the search committee. “She had all the right answers. It was obvious when we questioned her further that it was based on her own personal experience.”
Rob Moore, a fellow advisory board member, said it was important to the advisory board that their new director be able to work with the PHCSA board.
“I think one of the issues that we’ve had in the past was just the difficulty in dealing with the governance. She has that experience and that familiarity,” Moore said. “That was important to us.”
As a longtime figure of the Palm Harbor community, Eannel said she thought it was wrong that East Lake library has gone through so many directors recently.
“It was heartbreaking for me to see, over the years, that revolving door,” she said. “It shouldn’t be that way.”
The former educator and children’s librarian said she had “a family-centered philosophy” when it came to libraries.
“The No. 1 thing that needs to be addressed at any library is customer service. It’s got to come first. Because just like in retail, they can go somewhere else,” she said. “We want them all back in East Lake.”
The library has a broader role for the East Lake residents, often acting as a central gathering place for the community that doesn’t have other infrastructure, she explained.
“We may not have the biggest building, but a library can be a library without walls. We can go out into the community and bring people in,” Eannel said.