By Maree Hawkins
This article appears in our November 2019 newsletter.
In becoming Stanislaus County’s new Library Director, Sarah Dentan feels she is coming full circle. From 1996 to 1998 she worked as the Stanislaus County Library Teen Librarian and, although 21 years have passed, it’s not hard to imagine that she had a sense of coming home on October 14, her first day on her new job.
Diane McDonnell, Stanislaus County Library Director for five years, retired in September.
Sarah remembers her years in Modesto as filled with opportunities for training and leadership development. So, “When the job (Stanislaus County Library Director) came across my email, I knew I had to apply.” She said her thoughts about the position were influenced by knowing Stanislaus County is a great place to work and live and remembering that she had really enjoyed her time outside of work as well.
Before her first stint at the Stanislaus County Library, Dentan earned her Master of Library Science degree from State University of New York at Buffalo. In 1998 she went to work for the Berkeley Public Library for the first time, then moved on to library positions in Sacramento and the United Kingdom. She returned to the Berkeley Library and has worked there for the past eight years. Her library career has been focused on operations, facilities and programming.
As Stanislaus County’s Library Director, Dentan oversees 13 library branches and 160 employees. During her first 100 days on the job she plans on gathering information, “and that means listening—to staff, to patrons, to the Friends groups,” she says. “I plan to spend time looking at what’s working well, where there is friction, and where there are opportunities we have yet to take advantage of. I’ll be using what I find out to develop short and long-term action items within the existing strategic plan.”
When asked what she would like to accomplish early on, Dentan responded, “In a system as large as ours, every community has different needs and aspirations, and it’s going to be important for me to hear about those first hand by talking to staff and stakeholders. In my experience, that kind of outreach frequently opens up opportunities for collaboration and partnerships, and so I’m also looking forward to developing a roster of potential partners.”
Dentan’s early observations of our library system include noting that the recent tax measure is an indication of strong community support for the library, which is always a great place to start. She has been impressed by the creative approach the library has taken to programming and outreach, adding that she is particularly excited by the pop-up library services to patrons outside the walls of our traditional spaces, as well as the impressive amount of STEM programming that is going on.
Of Dentan, Stanislaus County Chief Executive Officer Jody Hays said, “She has a passion to provide wonderful library services, many of which are exhibited in the successful service innovations developed in the Berkeley Library system. Some highlights include the implementation of a comprehensive science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education initiative, along with expanding the literacy outreach efforts by working with the Adult and Family Literacy staff and children’s librarians to implement an early childhood outreach program using volunteers to benefit the entire community.”
The Friends of the Modesto Library is a nonprofit organization that promotes goodwill and support by the community for the Modesto Library, stimulates public awareness of Modesto Library needs, and seeks out sources of cultural and educational programs for the Modesto Library.
The Friends of the Modesto Library is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit registered in California. All contributions are tax-deductible as allowed by law. (ID#77-0038333).
Friends of the Modesto Library raises money to support youth outreach programs like Summer Reading, Diá de los Niños/Libros and Kids Craft Fairs. We volunteer at these and other Library events throughout the year.
Modesto Friends raised money for the giant aquarium inside the Modesto Library, as well as new benches in the Children’s area and new paint throughout the Modesto Library. 2019 projects include updating the furniture in the family area of the Children's Library, providing funds for adult and children's programs, and purchasing books for community events such as the County Fair and Día de los niños/Día de los libros.
Modesto Friends reach out with programs like supporting the Book Club at Juvenile Hall and Free Books at the Stanislaus County Fair. Our efforts raise awareness of the importance of the Library and of reading. Join us today!
Many local businesses support the Friends of the Modesto Library. We encourage you to support them, as they are supporting us.
Many employers will match your donations. Ask about matching gifts at work.