By Emily Le Coz | NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – The former director of the Uncle Remus Regional Library System outside Atlanta soon will head the Lee-Itawamba Library System.
Jeff Tomlinson was approved for the position Tuesday by the Lee County Library Board of Trustees, according to board member Michael Gratz. He will begin sometime in early January.
“We are lucky, lucky, lucky,” Gratz said, explaining that Tomlinson stood out among a field of some 50 applicants.
He replaces former Director Jan Willis, who retired in June. Since then, the library has been headed by Interim Director Melissa Holekamp. She will resume her previous duties as assistant director when Tomlinson comes aboard.
“It’s an exciting time for libraries,” Tomlinson said, expressing an interest in digital books, e-learning and the role of technology in Lee County Library’s expansion plans.
Tomlinson comes amid the library’s search for a new home as it outgrows its current facility at the corner of Jefferson and Madison streets. Its board recently decided to focus on constructing a new building in downtown’s Fairpark District that will be able to house more books, more computers, more seating and other amenities critical to the 21st century library.
“I’m looking forward to getting input from the local government and community at large on those plans,” Tomlinson said. “It comes down to the pulse of the community and dollars and sense.”
Born and raised outside Decatur, Ala., Tomlinson graduated from the University of Alabama with a master’s degree in library and informational studies before getting a specialist degree in the same field from Florida State University.
He began his career in 1999 as a reference librarian at the Tuscaloosa Public Library in Alabama. He also worked at libraries in Natchitoches, La., Birmingham, Ala., and Vidalia, Ga. He most recently was the director of the Uncle Remus system in Madison, Ga., a position he held from 2008 until August of this year when he resigned after a short administrative leave.
According to the Morgan County Citizen newspaper, Tomlinson was put on paid administrative leave June 30 for undisclosed reasons and gave his resignation Aug. 22. The Uncle Remus Library System confirmed this but gave no further details.
When asked, Tomlinson said he resigned after a relationship he had with another library employee caused turmoil within the system. He felt it best to leave at that point.
The Citizen reported that the female employee also was put on administrative leave and ultimately resigned.
Gratz said Tomlinson was candid about the situation to the Lee County Library’s search committee and board, whose members felt Tomlinson’s experience, work ethic and references spoke louder than this one incident in his career.