Changing jobs Bleakie to devote efforts to raising funds for library

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MANCHESTER — Betsy Bleakie, the executive director of the Manchester Community Library for the past seven years, is leaving that role — but she's not leaving the library.

The library's Board of Trustees announced Monday that Bleakie will become the institution's director of philanthropy, filling a director-level role that was created a year ago and had yet to be filled. A national search for a new executive director to succeed Bleakie has begun, the trustees said.

The role is crucial, Bleakie and board president Linda McKeever said, because so much of the library's annual operating budget comes from grants and private gifts.

"This is a new leadership position for the organization that speaks to our strategic goal to provide a sound and sustainable financial foundation, ensuring the quality and fulfillment of the library's mission," McKeever said in a news release. "The Board recognizes Betsy's success in raising significant funds through her relationships and community-building skills and feels she is the perfect person to lead our philanthropy efforts."

"In her role as executive director, Betsy has guided the Manchester Community Library through a successful capital campaign to build the new library, the construction of the 21st-century building, and she has provided vision and leadership in creating what it is today: a vibrant, vital community-gathering place and resource, treasured by families and friends throughout the Northshire," McKeever added.

Bleakie, who became interim executive director of what was then known as the Mark Skinner Library in 2011, said she still loves that role, but sees the importance in filling the development position. Despite a months-long process and the assistance of a search firm, the library had yet to find the right fit.

"It was really hard to find this perfect person," Bleakie said.

But Bleakie has experience in building community relationships and advocating for the library. And the board of trustees decided, with Bleakie's input, that she might be director of philanthropy they were looking for.

"We came to the conclusion that we have the right person right here," McKeever told the Journal.

Since the new library opened its doors in 2014, the majority of its operating budget each year has been raised through private philanthropy. In the past two fiscal years, about one-third of the MCL's operating budget has been funded through tax dollars, with the rest coming from gifts and grants.

Given the library's reliance upon grants and donations, securing grants and philanthropic gifts is crucial to its continued success, Bleakie said.

"I want to assure we have the financial stability to be the vital cornerstone of the community that we've become," Bleakie said. "It's important because of our hybrid funding model."

Will it be strange to be out of the day to day of running the library? "It probably will, but I'm ready to be able to focus on this one critical area that the organization needs, and have someone else do that operational day-to-day role," she said.

Reach Journal editor Greg Sukiennik at gsukiennik@manchesterjournal.com or at 802-490-6000.

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