On June 1, the Champaign Public Library will welcome its new director – its former deputy director who has more than 17 years of experience working in libraries.
Brittany Millington takes over for retiring director Donna Pittman, who has been the director since 2016.
Millington has served as the library’s deputy director since 2017 and worked closely with Pittman to lead the library’s response to COVID-19, and helped launch new programming and implement the library’s vision to serve the Champaign community.
In February, Pittman announced her upcoming retirement. She’s worked at the library since 1989. During her time as director, Pittman eliminated overdue fees, launched afterschool programs for middle school students and created skills classes like “Get the Job!”, a program that aims to help residents become employed.
Millington said working alongside Pittman for the last five years has prepared her to take on the director role. She said Pittman was a “wonderful mentor” and is excited to follow in her footsteps.
“The training process, it’s kind of been really ongoing for the last five years,” Millington said. “I had a really wonderful mentor in Donna, and being able to shadow her, being able to watch how she handled different challenges and different opportunities has been really great training for me.”
The library’s Board of Trustees is responsible for appointing the library director. Katie Blakeman, the president of the library’s Board of Trustees, said the board conducted an internal search to find the next director, meaning that the position was only available for current library employees.
Blakeman said the board was impressed with Millington’s involvement in the American Library Association and the Illinois Library Association, along with her extensive management experience and leadership during the library’s adaptation to COVID-19.
“In our interview with her, the board was – even having worked with her for the last five years – we were just so impressed with her vision for the library,” Blakeman said, “but also her deep understanding of the values of library and maintaining our core mission, which is to serve the residents of the city of Champaign.”
Once she begins her role as director, Millington said one of her first plans will be to lead “The Studio” project, which entails a complete renovation of the library’s basement to create more space for afterschool programs for teenagers.
Some features of The Studio will include a maker’s space for crafts and 3D printing, a technology space for robotics and computer access, a production studio with its own green screen, and a gaming area.
After The Studio is completed, Millington said she plans to develop a similar space at the library’s Douglass Branch location in order to provide more afterschool activities for students in the Douglass community.
Millington said her vision for the library is to connect residents to library resources and services, which she said is the library’s ultimate goal in the community. She said she thinks many people are surprised by the library’s range of programs, books and services that are available at no cost to visitors.
“Not only does the library have books in various formats and circulating technology – like Chromebooks and hotspots,” Millington said, “but the library also hosts programs such as storytimes, after-school activities for teens, technology classes, resume building classes and business seminars.”
Altogether, the library’s two locations have a total of 393,738 print items and 62,951 e-books, according to Millington.
Although COVID-19 posed some challenges for the library in meeting this vision, Millington said the pandemic forced her and Pittman to innovate the ways in which the library maintained its connections with residents, including introducing curbside pickup.
It was important to the board that the transition of leadership from Pittman to Millington be a smooth one, Blakeman said. She said Millington’s close relationship with Pittman taught her how to fulfill the responsibilities required of the director.
“Part of the reason we are so excited to welcome Brittany to this position is that we know that she can step right in,” Blakeman said. “She’s been working with Donna directly for the last five years, and we know that that transition is going to be very smooth.”
Millington said she looks forward to connecting with other libraries in the region, along with continuing to work with the library’s dedicated staff, which is made up of 107 employees.
“One of the things I think I’m most excited about is that I get to continue working with some of the greatest people,” she said. “We have a fantastic staff here, and that really does in libraries make all the difference.”
Blakeman said the library will soon begin its search for a deputy director to replace Millington after she officially begins her employment as director.