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Md's Outstanding Paraprofessional is 'key' to the success of Washington County Free Library

May 29, 2012|By JANET HEIM | janeth@herald-mail.com
  • Lisa Key has worked at the Washington County Free Library for more than 30 years and was named 2012 Outstanding Paraprofessional by the Maryland Library Association.
By Yvette May/Staff Photographer

When the director, assistant director and public relations director of Washington County Free Library and the assistant director of Western Maryland Regional Library arrived en masse at the temporary Central Library headquarters in the Phoenix Color building to see Lisa Key, she was alarmed.

“I immediately stood up,” Key said.

Key, 53, who is circulation manager for the Central Library of the Washington County Free Library, needn’t have worried. They were there to tell her she had been named the 2012 Outstanding Paraprofessional by the Maryland Library Association.

“It didn’t sink in. It’s such an honor to represent my system and our staff here,” said Key, who added she didn’t know there were awards for support staff.

Key received her award at the annual MLA conference held May 9-11 in Ocean City, Md.

“I’m very honored. At first, I was embarrassed to be singled out, because we have such a great staff, but decided I had to look at it a different way. It shines a bright light on our system,” Key said.

On July 1, Key will mark her 35-year anniversary working for the library system. The 1976 North Hagerstown High School graduate was a teenager, just out of high school, when she went to work for the library.

Key started working before the library used computers to check out books, has seen the transition from VHS tapes to DVDs, and audio books now on CDs and for MP3 players.

She said she was “painfully shy” and the interaction with library patrons helped her build her confidence.

“It’s been great,” Key said.

Key worked her way up to circulation manager and on the way, developed and organized the Teen Advisory Board and took on coordinating Teen Idol, a new dance competition called Just Dance, and nontraditional youth programming such as overnighters and Yu-Gi-Oh Club.

Key had planned to go to college but “sometimes life gets in the way.” Her goal is to earn a bachelor’s degree in human resources management. She is getting close to graduating from Hagerstown Community College with an associate degree, then will transfer to the University System of Maryland Hagerstown.

“I’m working on a bachelor’s degree. I don’t hide behind my age. I am always learning. I want to be an example for the youth,” Key said.

She has encouraged her staff to earn college degrees or to advance their careers in the library system, according to a press release.

With the downtown library under construction, Key and many of the other Washington County Free Library staff now work from the temporary location at the Phoenix Color building on Tandy Drive in Hagerstown.

Key is proud to work with a staff with “a lot of talent,” many of whom have won awards.

She is on the strategic planning committee and, as one of the committee chairs, recommends new technology and is helping revise the customer service model for the system. In her position, Key tracks statistics and said the county’s system works hard to keep up with technology. She cites the popularity of electronic books as an example, noting that 1400 ebooks were downloaded through the county library system in March.

“We’re here to support your lifelong pursuits, but also enrich your life,” Key said.

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