Last week, Birtell announced her resignation. She will oversee the Eastern Shores Library System in Sheboygan, Wisconsin — a chain of 14 libraries that serves two counties and more than 200,000 citizens.
No longer shy about her thoughts, Birtell said she’s not leaving because of the branch closure, council disputes or “disrespectful” behavior she observed toward her fellow city employees. To her, it comes with the territory — from day one.
“The person sitting in this chair is the person who will show up on the first day of work,” Birtell said. “If you don’t like this person sitting right here, then I’m not the one for you.
“The whole budget process did not influence me at all. Budgets are what they are. Taxes are what they are. Councils are what they are. Those are things that a director in a public library position is going to have to deal with. There are times of famine and there are times for feasting.”
Rather, she called Sheboygan “a dream job,” one she turned down several times before CPL arrived in a “good place” to transition.
“When I presented, the one librarian said, ‘I knew you were the one for us because you related to us,’ “ Birtell said. “I feel like we were to a point where the work here that I started was to a point where it was going to continue.”
Four years ago, when she was hired, Birtell said she was overcoming a period of recovery. Clinton, it turns out, was her first full-time job, but she arrived ready to stand up for the library’s needs after counseling and leadership classes.
Birtell decided (after moving to Eldridge and partaking in a trial that brought her children to the stand and ultimately sent her ex-husband to prison) to pursue a master’s degree in organizational leadership at St. Ambrose University. Through this she became more outgoing.