Mt. Pleasant library director returns to stacks of his boyhood
The books were always calling to Brian Dawson.
As a young boy, he’d ride his bicycle a couple of blocks from his Mt. Pleasant home to the library to pore over a series of Time-Life books with gold lettering and brown covers. They’d transport him to a land of cowboys, Native Americans and frontiersmen.
Late fees were pretty common for him.
Decades later, as a candidate for a job opening as library director at the facility that brought him joy as a young boy, Dawson saw that same 1970s series — “The Old West” — still was available to check out.
He knew he was home.
“The idea of coming back here was really powerful,” he said.
Dawson, 46, returned to his hometown to run the Mt. Pleasant Free Public Library after stints at small community facilities in the region and, more recently, acting deputy secretary at the Office of the Commonwealth Libraries. Since starting the new job Aug. 21, Dawson has been working on formulating policies, developing relationships with other community entities and investigating circulation figures of the library’s 26,000 items.
Dawson plans to create a strategic plan to address community needs. Libraries have the ability to impact residents’ lives by empowering them with information on a variety of topics, from health care to community resources, he said.
“Anyone can walk in off the street and know what they’re finding is authoritative, current information and that has a ripple effect on a person’s life,” he said.
After graduating from Mt. Pleasant high school in 1991, Dawson worked as a paramedic and police officer before breaking the news to his wife that he wanted to go back to school to set an example for their two sons.
“It was just a spur of the moment thing,” he said. “Education was always really important to me.”
He volunteered at Seton Hill University’s library while attending classes there and graduated in 2007 with a communication degree. Five years later, he had a master’s degree in library and information science from the University of Pittsburgh and landed a job as the director of California Area Public Library. He later moved on to a library in Oil City before ending up in Harrisburg.
“The initial draw was that research aspect of it and the ability to learn and I liked that, every day, I would come into work and learn different things,” he said.
When the Mt. Pleasant job opened up, Dawson jumped at the chance.
But first, he went right back to his Ramsay Elementary School days. When he arrived for the job interview, he reconnected with Bonnie Wilson, who was a substitute teacher at the school while he was a young student. They immediately recognized each other.
Now, it’s a role reversal for the pair. Wilson has been a desk clerk at the library for the last couple years.
“I’m working for him, that’s the funny thing,” she said. “It’s so nice to work for him.”
Librarian Carole Klocek echoed that sentiment. She has been librarian at the facility since Dawson pedaled over as a boy.
“He’s very open,” she said.
Renatta Signorini is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Renatta at 724-837-5374, [email protected] or via Twitter .