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A champion for the library
Even after a short stay, Quinn-Carey leaves system with a path forward

Bridget Quinn-Carey must have wondered if the library system she directed would ever see its way clear of austerity. Doing more with less had always been, and would remain, the mantra. It's no surprise that she would jump to greener pastures.

When Quinn-Carey departs March 4, she will have been in the job just three years, so it's difficult to say that she leaves a deep legacy. But she was a consistent advocate for her system and didn't whine about the ugly realities surrounding it. She instead looked for ways to break free of them.

With the system always beholden to the whims of county executives and county legislatures for their financial lifeline, Quinn-Carey and her board started devising a plan that would let the libraries collect their tax revenue through special, voter-approved taxing districts, not by lobbying county officials for a suitable share of the tax levy each year.

Amid this year's especially dreadful county budget process, she and the board kicked off a "Re-imagine campaign" that encouraged library users to brainstorm ideas for a more efficient, but just as useful, library system for the future.

In these times, institutions like the Buffalo and Erie County Public Library System need to work real hard just to avoid losing ground. But also in these times, library services are even more important. That's the bittersweet truth to any library director: The services are vital and trusted, but the partners in government -- county executives especially -- cannot be trusted to do their part.

When Quinn-Carey was hired in 2008, she said the library system had weathered some recent storms but "with strategy and stamina it now appears primed to regain a position of greatness."

When she announced recently that she would leave when her contract expires, she again predicted the library would emerge from bleak financial times in a stronger position, which is another indication that the system's financial picture has remained the same.

"There are options for the library that are being explored that will help ensure its vitality for the future," she said.

Quinn-Carey, always thinking ahead, has left the libraries with options. She will be missed.

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