Trustee of local knowledge honored

State recognizes local library board chairman

By Kim Walter

EDINBURG – After three years as the Shenandoah County Library Board chairman, Hank Zimmerman recently was recognized by the Virginia Public Library Director’s Association as “Outstanding Library Trustee.”

Library system director Sandy Whitesides submits nominations each year for awards in different categories. All public libraries in the state are divided into divisions based on the population served, with Shenandoah County falling into the 24,000-49,999 division.

While he was pleased that Zimmerman earned recognition from the state, Whitesides said he was not surprised.

“The nomination kind of wrote itself … Hank wears so many hats within in the system,” he said Thursday afternoon. “I would’ve been shocked if they didn’t give him the award.”

The award recognized that Zimmerman, 62, has “served the library with distinction” and noted that “the library system has thrived under Hank’s leadership over the past year.”

Zimmerman starting focusing on his role upon assuming the position in July 2010, and quickly realized that local historical society members were concerned over the future of the Shenandoah Room in the Edinburg library.

The room holds books, maps and other documents devoted to Shenandoah County history and culture, some of which date to the 1700s.

Zimmerman said he learned that while the library visitors wanted to learn more about the area’s history, they had trouble with the then setup of the room and archives.

“If a volunteer wasn’t here to answer questions or look things up, it was kind of hard to navigate through the system,” he said.

Thanks to Zimmerman, the system was able to get funds for a temporary cataloger. All the materials and topics they revolved around were entered into an easily accessible database. Now, library visitors can walk in and search a name, topic or location and find out if the room holds relevant information.

“I also wanted people to feel comfortable bringing things to the library for our archives,” he said.

Whitesides explained that after a leak in the roof required archives to be relocated, community members were worried that their old documents weren’t safe at the library.

“The flip side of that is some things only have real value to a family or person, so we set up some general rules for what historical things belong here,” Zimmerman said. “We’ve streamlined the process so that hopefully more people can come through and get what they need as efficiently as possible.”

Zimmerman also has been instrumental in improving communication efforts throughout the library system. He set up committees and revisited procedures and bylaws so that he and other board members could “keep a pulse on things.”

“I didn’t want our board members to just come to four meetings a year and give their stamp of approval,” he said. “I want them to understand how this system works and make sure they are a part of it.”

In the next couple of months, the system plans to expand its newsletter outreach — another one of Zimmerman’s goals. He also would like to increase the library’s video presence on local television stations, and move the production and filming in house.

He said the point is to keep community members in the loop in terms of library events and updates.

Zimmerman admitted that while he certainly used libraries growing up and during college, he didn’t see the true value of them until his adult life.

“In the 80s, I was looking to start a few businesses and I was raising a family,” he said. “I’m a self-taught kind of guy, and myself and my family leaned on the library to access information that changed our lives.”

“Isn’t that what the library is all about?” he asked, sitting in the Shenandoah Room. “Making sure that anyone and everyone can learn?”

Zimmerman will leave his post as chairman in July, but still plans on attending meetings and serving on committees.

“This is an exciting time for libraries, even with all the e-books and CDs,” he said. “People here still have a hunger for that physical book, or the movie nights here or the summer reading programs … this community still wants all those things.”

Contact staff writer Kim Walter at 540-465-5137 ext. 191, or kwalter@nvdaily.com