The Haliburton County Public Library (HCPL) will have a new head as CEO Bessie Sullivan is resigning. The library board announced the departure April 22.

Sullivan served 12 years with HCPL, heading it while also acting as board secretary/treasurer. Sullivan said she was making the transition due to her health.

“I believe that an organization can only thrive with a leader for so long and then it is time for a change. Due to COVID-19 and some health issues, I have been prompted to make that change,” Sullivan said.

Sullivan was on long-term leave for months, with some of her duties filled by others. Acting CEO Anna Babluck said she was hired on a six-month contract to hold the position for the leave before Sullivan opted to resign.

In a press release, the board said HCPL won several awards under Sullivan’s leadership, including the Angus Mowat Award of Excellence (2012) for the Celebrity Readers Program, the Ontario Public Library Association Leadership in Adult Readers Advisory Award (2015) and the Ontario Public Library Association New Library Building Award (2016) for the Wilberforce branch.

“Bessie has transitioned Haliburton County’s library services into an enviable and well-respected system that serves many people in a range of needs and interests,” the board said. “The board and staff wish Bessie all the best in her future endeavours and thank her for her dedication and commitment to the community.”

Sullivan also led the transition to curbside service at the start of the pandemic. All HCPL branches are now operating using curbside pickup during the provincial lockdown, with none open for public entry.

Babluck said she is assuming all of Sullivan’s former duties. She said over the next six months, the board’s main goal is to refresh its strategic plan. She said she moved from northern B.C but grew up in Ontario in the Ottawa Valley and has family in Minden.

“HCPL looked like a fantastic library to work for. I know they do a lot of good work in the community and it gave me the opportunity to come back and see if moving to Ontario was the right move,” Babluck said.

Sullivan, whose last day is May 31, said it was a pleasure to work alongside the board in furthering HCPL.

“The growth of the library is a culmination of their work, an engaged staff, and an interested public,” she said. “Although I am sad to be leaving, I am looking forward to some new challenges.”

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