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Donna Cote

Regional Library Director Retires After 44 Years

by | Sep 12, 2015 | News

By Susan Larson. Photo of Donna Cote provided by CRRL.

Director Donna Cote retired September 11, 2015, following 44 years of service at Central Rappahannock Regional Library (CRRL).

Cote, 69, joined the library as a secretary in 1971, after graduating with a history degree from Mary Washington College.

Her first library experience was in her eighth grade classroom library. She continued to work in libraries through high school and college. “I realized that the library is the one institution that can help anyone with anything,” Cote said. “It can brighten and enhance people’s lives.”

Cote attended Catholic University to obtain her master’s degree in Library Science. “I chose Catholic partly because I didn’t have a car, and I could get to class in D.C. on the Greyhound bus from Fredericksburg,” she said. She completed her degree in 1973, and began the climb from secretary, to reference librarian, to assistant director, to director in 1980-81.

During her tenure, Cote saw the regional library system grow from two branches — Headquarters in the City of Fredericksburg and a small space in Colonial Beach — to seven branches with some 300 staff. She oversaw building projects across the system that included the renovation of Headquarters; the building of the Porter, Salem Church, England Run, Montross and Newton libraries; and the establishment of the Cooper and Snow Libraries in renovated and expanded spaces. Annual circulation in the last fiscal year was over 10 million items. The number of registered borrowers is just over 182,000.

“Thanks to Donna’s leadership, the Fredericksburg area benefits from an award-winning library system that is heavily used and beloved by our community,” Library Board Chair Sam Smart said. “She has been a passionate and tireless advocate for the library, and we are grateful for her years of dedicated service and inspired leadership.”

Central Rappahannock Regional Library has received many honors under Cote’s leadership, including the annual Community Impact Award from the Fredericksburg Chamber of Commerce on January 30, 2015. Library Journal Index, a national rating system recognizing American’s best public libraries, named CRRL a Star Library for 2014 — one of only four library systems in Virginia so honored. CRRL has been rated a Top Ten Library serving 250,000 to 500,000 people by Hennen’s American Public Library Rankings (the HAPLR Index) in five of 10 indexes.

Cote has been very active in the Virginia Library Association (VLA), serving as a long-time member of the VLA Legislative Committee; and as President of VLA in 2008. She was also elected president of the Virginia Public Library Directors Association in 2006.

What does Cote consider her greatest achievement? “Recruiting and hiring the best library staff ever!” she said.

Now that she’s retired, Cote plans to spend lots of time reading and enjoying her grandchildren.

The Library Board will begin the hiring process in October, and expects to have a new director in place in the December/January time frame.

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