Director opens doors for readers

Published 6:49 pm Thursday, February 15, 2018

Victoria Strickland-Cordial grew up in libraries.

Her father, the late James Strickland, moved the family often during his time in the U.S. Marine Corps. Strickland-Cordial said he always took her and her three sisters to the local library when they settled into a new place.

“It’s always played an important part in my life,” she said.

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She volunteered in her elementary school library in Baltimore, Md., and later did library work in the early 1970s with the Community College of Baltimore County.

She even remembered the first reference question a visitor asked: “What is the correlation between sinister and dexterous?” The answer is that “dexterous” comes from the Latin word “dexter,” meaning “on the right side.” On the other hand, the Latin adjective “sinister” means left.

“I had Latin in high school and knew the answer, but of course I got the appropriate reference book to made sure,” she said.

Since 2014, Strickland-Cordial has been the Chesapeake Public Library director. She oversees Chesapeake’s seven public libraries, including Russell Memorial in Western Branch.

Chesapeake Public Library Director Victoria Strickland-Cordial and Julianna Stinebaugh, lending services manager at Russell Memorial Library, discuss the library’s technology. Stinebaugh was once part of Strickland-Cordial’s Teen Advisory Group in Western Branch.

 

She has a master’s degree in library and information science from the University of North Carolina, and a bachelor’s degree in English literature from Old Dominion University. She said her job is to shepherd the library towards the latest technology and innovative programming to meet the needs of citizens.

“Our job is to be responsive to the citizens, and to provide what they need,” she said. “I see libraries as institutions of education. Our tagline is ‘experience, connect and discover here,’ and I think we do a great job of providing all of that.”

She first worked at Russell Memorial Library from 1991 to 1997 before going back to school, then returned in 2000 to become a children’s librarian at Russell Memorial.

It was during her eight years as a children’s librarian that she led Teen Advisory Groups, or TAGs. Community-conscious teens in grades 6 to 12 are still volunteering in Western Branch and other Chesapeake libraries today, and both of her now-grown children were once TAG teens.

“It’s a wonderful community to work in, especially with the children,” Strickland-Cordial said. “The citizens are really engaged and really value their library, and that’s true all over Chesapeake.”

Russell Memorial Library Lending Services Manager Julianna Stinebaugh, 29, was one of Strickland- Cordial’s TAG teens back in 2004. She described the director as being very receptive to what citizens want at their libraries.

“She’s very responsive, and a bit of a visionary as far as communicating with our customers, as well as our library staff,” Stinebaugh said.

Strickland-Cordial follows the adage of the late Charles Robinson, a former director of the Baltimore County Public Library who made significant changes over his tenure. According to Robinson, you need to “give ‘em what they want to read.”

Along with keeping their inventory updated based on reader preferences, Chesapeake Public Library programs address citizens’ needs. Children learn in hands-on science and engineering classes, and adults can get help on using their latest devices or preparing their taxes.

Russell Memorial Staff Suzanne Snowden oversees digital history recordings that allow family and friends to interview each other. There are even programs designed to for grandparents who are raising their grandchildren, and for parents to encourage their children to read.

Strickland-Cordial admits that she misses the personal interactions with patrons. She recalled speaking with a mother and her son at Russell Memorial sometime around 2003, back when she was a children’s librarian.

“She was at her wits’ end because he hated to read, but she couldn’t have him staring at the TV all day,” she said.
So, Strickland-Cordial gave the child — who would eventually become one of her TAG teens years later — a copy of “Holes,” by Louis Lachar.

“Every kid I’ve ever given that book to has absolutely loved it,” she said. “He came back two weeks later and told me, ‘I loved that book. What else do you have?’”