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Former Floyd Memorial Library director honored

“Is this for real?”

That was Lisa Richland’s response when she learned she’d be receiving a Game Changer Award from the Public Library Directors Association of Suffolk County.

Ms. Richland was director of Floyd Memorial Library in Greenport from September 1989 to November 2020, when she retired to the home on Shelter Island she refers to as “paradise.”

The Game Changer Award honors retired Suffolk County public library directors who, during their careers, demonstrated commitment to the community by providing innovative and meaningful library services and engaging in thoughtful mentoring to colleagues, according to Kelly Harris, executive director of the Hampton Library in Bridgehampton and former president of PLDA.

In it’s inaugural year, PLDA honored 10 retired directors, including several posthumously.

“Lisa was chosen for her stewardship and commitment to East End libraries, the people they employ and the communities they serve,” Ms. Harris said.

Ms. Richland was honored along with the late Jane Minerva, the moving force at Cutchogue New Suffolk Library for decades. “She was unique,” Ms. Richland said of Ms. Minerva, who mentored her when she was new to her job at Floyd Memorial. “To be on the same list as her — that meant a lot to me.”

When she arrived at Floyd Memorial, Ms. Richland saw the opportunity to expand its activities with programs for the whole community, not just a few who would stop to check out books and magazines. Ms. Richland wanted programs to engage people of all ages.

Speaking to the Shelter Island Reporter about her retirement in 2020, she recalled her first sense of Floyd Memorial in 1989: “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.”

The library she left behind when she retired two years ago had become a lively community center.

According to Poppy Johnson, who served as assistant director during Ms. Richland’s tenure, “She changed the game,” taking Floyd Memorial from “a tiny library that didn’t do much” to a resource for the wide population of residents in Greenport, East Marion and Orient. “We made a good team,” Ms. Johnson said.

Ms. Richland returned the compliment, citing Ms. Johnson’s creativity.

“Working with Lisa was wonderful and she was very brave to say yes to all the ideas and notions that I had all those years,” Ms. Johnson said. “It was a great adventure”

Ms. Johnson retired in the wake of Ms. Richland’s departure from Floyd Memorial. As for mentoring other librarians, Southold Free Library director Caroline MacArthur said, “I personally wouldn’t be the librarian I am today if not for Lisa. She is absolutely a friend, mentor and game changer in the library world.”

Similarly, Shelter Island Library director Terry Lucas said Ms. Richland, well known throughout the Suffolk Country library community, is “someone who speaks her mind, asks important questions and always makes us laugh. She has acted as a mentor to many librarians, especially those of us on the East End,” Ms. Lucas said. “We can count on her to be honest and kind and give excellent advice. I know my colleagues miss seeing her at our meetings and I feel lucky to have her here on Shelter Island as a valuable resource and a Friend of the Library.”

Retirement suits Ms. Richland, she said. “I do whatever I want,” she added. 

Since 1990, she has shared her life with Bruce Saul and tends to two friendly chickens who adopted her, enjoys her cat, Henry, and reads a lot. 

Asked what she’s reading these days, she said, “I’m out of the business of recommending books.”