Schlow Centre Region Library’s next director is already a familiar face around the downtown State College institution.
Lisa Rives Collens, currently head of patron services at Schlow, will succeed Cathi Alloway as the library’s director. Alloway is retiring on April 2 after 50 years in the library profession, including the last 10 at Schlow.
The Schlow Library Board of Trustees unanimously approved Collens’ appointment last week and the Centre Region Council of Governments General Forum confirmed the appointment on Monday night.
The search for the next director drew applications from candidates all around the eastern United States, COG executive director Eric Norenberg said.
Casey McClain, president of the Schlow Library board, said Collens will be a “tremendous ambassador” for Schlow because of her passion for her work and the library.
“With challenging times ahead — be it from reopening due to the COVID-19 pandemic, a necessary capital campaign, dealing with a now 16-year-old building and more — Lisa is the best person to guide us through these times.”
Collens joined the Schlow staff in 2008 as district consultant librarian for the Central Pennsylvania Library District and has been head of patron services since 2014, also serving as acting director during her tenure.
“I see daily the positive impact of Schlow Centre Region Library across all segments of our community and am excited to continue our legacy of service and innovation,” Collens said.
Her service to Centre County libraries stretches back even further. Prior to joining Schlow she was head technical services librarian and computer systems administrator for the Centre County Library and Historical Museum from 2000 to 2008 and served as interim co-director in 2007.
Collens previously held positions with the Penn State University Libraries and was a program specialist with the Great Lakes Commission in Ann Arbor, Mich.
She earned her bachelor’s degree from the University of Michigan and a master’s in library and information science from Wayne State University.
As director of Schlow, Collens will manage all phases of operations while overseeing 51 staff members, 100 volunteers and a $2.5 million annual budget for a library serving the 97,000 residents of the six Centre Region municipalities. She will report to the library’s nine-member board, the COG executive director and the COG General Forum, comprised of 32 Centre Region elected officials.
“Through the course of her tenure thus far at Schlow, Lisa has demonstrated the necessary acumen to be a highly respected and award-winning librarian,” McClain said. “Her servant leadership style will best serve Schlow, as it fosters empowerment and appreciation among the staff and volunteers. The board is excited to work with her to map and support a vision of forward thinking that best serves our patrons.”
Alloway, meanwhile, said she and her husband plan to remain in the Centre Region after her retirement.
At Monday night’s meeting, COG General Forum Chair and Harris Township Supervisor Dennis Hameister read a resolution of commendation and appreciation for Alloway and her service to the library and region.
“Cathi served as a passionate advocate for the library, its programs, services, and staff; volunteered countless hours of her time on behalf of the library’s patrons; provided wise counsel to library leaders and the Library Board; and championed the library’s objectives to stimulate imagination, develop information fluency, foster lifelong learning, and create young readers,” Hameister said.
The resolution cited Alloway’s leadership in facility renovations, fundraising, expanding services and transforming the library to meet 21st century needs. It also noted how she led the library to expand digital services, pickup options and WiFi availability as it adapted to COVID-19.
Alloway has been sought after by local and statewide organizations for her expertise and leadership abilities.
“I think her willingness to try the unique is one of the most wonderful things about her and it really will be missed,” State College Borough Councilwoman Theresa Lafer said.
Alloway said she felt “uncharacteristically speechless,” after the resolution and remarks from COG members.
“I have really enjoyed working for the only COG supported library in the U.S.,” she said. “All of you here tonight and all of the elected officials of the past 10 years have been so unbelievably supportive. I’ve especially been privileged to work with the best library staff, the best COG staff… and finally I love the municipal managers. They have been an outstanding support for me for 10 years. I am honored by this resolution and very pleased to tell you my husband and I are remaining in the Centre Region because you all make the quality of life here so wonderful. We can’t imagine living anywhere else.”
Collens said she is thankful to have been mentored by Alloway and her predecessor, Betsy Allen.
“I know I have huge shoes to fill but I’m definitely excited to have the opportunity,” Collens said.