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Benning looks to improve services

Susan Benning is the new BHM Regional Library director. (WDN Photo/Mona Moore)

Susan Benning has a lot of reading to do.

Since she started her new job as Beaufort-Hyde-Martin Regional Library director three weeks ago, she has tried to learn all there is to know about the tri-county public library system.

Benning started by touring the eight libraries under her care. Now, she is reading each operations file she has inherited. Four file cabinets containing more than 70 years of library history line her office walls.

“I do plan to read them all, one folder at a time,” Benning said.

The search for a new director started last year. MJ Carbo retired from the position last December, leaving Financial Director Hilda Lane as interim director.

“Hilda’s my left arm, right arm … she’s the best,” Benning said. “I have been really fortunate.”

Benning’s job search focused on small towns in eastern North Carolina. She and her husband, Vic Ronco, knew they liked living in small towns after raising their daughter, Brittany, in New Bern.

Ronco was ready to retire from the family’s retail hobby store, and both were ready to leave behind the hectic life they had in Burlington.

“I just can’t get over the friendliness here. Everybody you meet, instantly, they’re your friend.” Benning said. “Everybody waves here. In Burlington, if you wave to people, they look at you funny.”

The family has not settled in yet. They are living in their RV on Tranter’s Creek Campground and Resort until their Burlington home sells and they can purchase one in Washington.

Benning said she misses cable television most of all, but has taken advantage of the peace and quiet to read mystery novels and get to know her neighbors. She said the campground is a wonderful community with fun activities.

Helping and interacting with the public is Benning’s favorite part of her job. On her tour of the library system and introduction to its 35 staff members, Benning was most impressed by the customer service she witnessed.

Benning plans to build on that service by improving the system’s website and starting a monthly newsletter to library patrons.

Benning has worked in library service since 1993. She said it was her third career. She was a stay-at-home mother when her daughter was young and worked for a law firm before becoming a mother.

Benning considers her daughter as her “best accomplishment,” with working in library services right behind.

“That’s what the library is about,” Benning said. “Yes, we have books. Yes, we have computers. But it’s really about customer service,” she said.