By Joshua Winata
The Cove Herald
After more than 13 years of service to Copperas Cove, Library Director Margaret “Peg” Fleet is ready to pass on the reins of the city’s public library with her retirement next month.
“I think there comes a time when you know that change is needed both for yourself and for an organization,” said Fleet, who began serving as director in 1995. “People don’t realize it, but libraries are not static entities. They are changing just as much as anything else is, and maybe it’s time to have somebody to come in with a fresh perspective and fresh ideas.”
Fleet is well acquainted with the constantly shifting nature of her field: during her time as director, the city’s library department underwent major developments, including the opening of a 19,250-square-foot central facility in 1999.
At the same time that the building was constructed, Fleet oversaw a modernization effort that automated the library’s services. Within just a few months, the library went from card catalogs and typewriters to online databases and computers.
Under Fleet’s leadership, the library has expanded its top-notch programs for both children and elderly, introduced online adult education courses and began a book discussion group called Happy Bookers.
The library’s collection, which contains more than 60,000 volumes, has also grown during her tenure, particularly the audiovisual and large-print holdings.
Beyond these many accomplishments, however, Fleet said it is the interactions with the diverse Copperas Cove community that she will miss the most.
“People who are coming in here, they’re all trying to do something for themselves, whether its formal education or personal enrichment or entertainment. They’re all trying to do something for themselves that’s positive,” Fleet said. “There are times when I can see that we actually have an effect on what people are doing. That is the coolest feeling that you can imagine.”
As library director, Fleet works with both the library staff and the other city departments of Copperas Cove. She oversees hiring and training of a staff of eight full-time and two part-time workers and provides supervision and direction for her employees.
“I’ve been very fortunate to work with the people that we’ve had. They bring such a variety of talented backgrounds with them to the job. We have some tremendously creative, artistic, imaginative people, people who like working with the public,” Fleet said.
Fleet described her management style as “parental,” and her staff says her 17 years serving in the Army have also influenced her decisive leadership.
“You have your set rules, and you abide by those rules,” said Mava Hyland, library circulation supervisor. “I think that’s what made it so good because you know where you stand and what you need to do.”
But the staff also praised Fleet for her flexibility and laid-back attitude. Hyland recalled she once missed one of the library’s children’s programs where the featured entertainer did a silly dance involving toilet paper. To demonstrate the hilarious performance, Fleet recreated the dance in the office.
“She is a terrific boss. She is understanding and always has an open door,” Hyland said. “You couldn’t ask for a better person. They’re going to miss her big time.”
On the city side, Fleet prepares the library’s annual budget and coordinates with other city departments.
“It has truly been a pleasure working with someone with her professionalism and attitude, and I certainly wish her all the best in her retirement,” City Manager Andrea Gardner said.
Whoever fills Fleet’s shoes will have plenty of projects to tackle. Fleet said her successor will have to focus on overhauling the automated services, which despite regular updates is getting dated, and should be able to lead future expansion projects since the building was specifically designed to accommodate growth.
The city of Copperas Cove began accepting applications to fill the library director vacancy left by Fleet on Feb. 5.
In the upcoming weeks until her retirement on April 11, Fleet said she will be working on making a few more purchases and tying up some loose ends on the administrative side. One of her final goals before her departure is to establish a separate genealogy section in the library for locals researching their family histories.
Although she is retiring, Fleet said she plans on staying involved at the Copperas Cove library and has already agreed to lend her support to the book sale in May. But she has a long to-do list that includes completing home improvement projects, taking continuing education and personal enrichment classes, volunteering in the community and spending more time with family.
“The time fill up faster I think than you realize,” Fleet said. “It’s been an honor.”
Contact Joshua Winata at email@example.com or call (254) 501-7476