Jul 25, 2022 - News

Nashville library director Kent Oliver retires

Kent Oliver speaks at a podium.
Kent Oliver. Photo: AP/Mark Humphrey

Nashville library director Kent Oliver retired last week after decades of working in libraries across the country.

  • He tells Axios one of the high points of his time in Nashville was opening new facilities for the Bellevue and Southeast branches.
  • He predicts construction will continue to be a priority after his departure.

What he's saying: "We still need new buildings badly," Oliver says.

  • "We have a list of about eight or 10 branches that we really need to replace, and a couple that we need to add."

Zoom in: Oliver says the library's community programming keeps it vital, including literacy programs and partnerships with Nashville schools.

  • He pointed to resource hubs like the Civil Rights Room in the downtown branch or the Votes for Women Room, which opened in 2020, as wells of historical knowledge that remain deeply relevant.

The intrigue: On his last day, Oliver wore a t-shirt referencing the "Read Banned Books" campaign the library launched earlier this year in response to censorship efforts throughout the nation.

  • "Your public library is a neutral ground for ideas of all kinds, whether you agree with them or not," Oliver says.

The bottom line: "We've got a lot of willful ignorance going on in society right now," Oliver says. "I think libraries are one of the tools that can turn that around."

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