Lisa Richland retiring after 31-plus years as Floyd Memorial Library director

Change is inevitable. That goes for libraries as well as other aspects of life.

Floyd Memorial Library will undergo a major change later this month when its long-serving, iconic director, Lisa Richland, retires.

Ms. Richland’s three-decades-plus of service to the Greenport public library will officially end Nov. 15. She said she is the longest-serving library director in Suffolk County at 31 years and a couple of months.

Asked about her retirement, Ms. Richland, 75, referred to her father, W. Bernard Richland, who was fully employed as an attorney until he was 89. “I don’t think I need to break his record,” she said. “But I’ve been here a long time. It’s time for somebody with new ideas. I feel like I’m leaving the library in good shape.”

So, change is coming.

Thomas Vitale, a Long Island native who served as director of Patterson Library in Westfield, N.Y., will be her successor, effective Nov. 18.

Ms. Richland, who grew up in Brooklyn, was about 40 when she made the decision to become a librarian one day while standing in the entrance lobby of the same Brooklyn library where she secured her first library card at the age of 5. Her first, only and final full-time job as a librarian is as the Floyd Memorial Library director.

Recalling entering the library for the first time, Ms. Richland said: “When I walked in the door, there was a volunteer at an old oak desk sitting there to help people check in and check out their books. There were very few people coming in every day. It was just a very sort of peaceful, laid-back, unexciting place.”

Times have changed. During Ms. Richland’s tenure, the library has modernized, doubled in size and become an active, beating heart for community involvement. She steered the library through a major expansion project in 1997 and massive renovation in 2018.

“The library is beautiful,” she said. “I’m really proud of it.”

Floyd Memorial Library Board of Trustees president Buffy Hartmann said Ms. Richland is “truly wonderful and we’ve been just fortunate to have her for so many years. She took this tiny, rural, really backwoods library and turned it into a 21st-century library. She’s done a remarkable job, and we’re all very sad at losing her, but we’re also very happy for her that she can now retire, take time to do other things.”

The library director’s duties are seemingly endless at Floyd Memorial Library, which serves Greenport, East Marion and Orient with a 12-member staff. Those wide-ranging duties include: managing the budget and staff; representing the library before school districts, village and town boards; advocating for libraries with New York State representatives in Albany; checking on cracks in the basement or a faulty boiler; making sure the library is fully supplied with materials. And, just about everything else.

“If there is a disturbance in the building — because we’re a small library — I’m the security,” Ms. Richland said, adding, “It’s never boring.”

Ms. Hartmann said a library director “has to keep her thumb on the pulse of everything that goes on in the community, so it’s huge, it’s a huge job. It’s a tremendous responsibility and it takes somebody who can wear many, many hats.”

Ms. Richland has become the face of the library, although one person remains from the time she first arrived on the job, assistant director Poppy Johnson.

Ms. Richland commutes by ferry from Shelter Island, where she has maintained a presence since 1976 when she and her ex-husband bought a home there. “I have my morning and evening cruise,” she said.

What will retirement hold for Ms. Richland?

“I have no specific plans,” she said. “This place has sort of put a kibosh on any sort of travel or extravagant plans. I’m going to sit down, make a lap for a cat and read. I’m going to sleep till 9:30.”

The library hopes to hold a reception in its garden in the spring to honor Ms. Richland for her years of service.

As it turns out, Ms. Richland’s final day in the library will be Nov. 13 — Friday the 13th. “How appropriate for 2020,” she said.

That day she will finish clearing out her office and say goodbye to what she called “the best job ever.” She said, “I guess when I pack up my office and walk out the door and say goodbye to the library I’ll be a little bit sad.”

Change can sometimes be like that.