CUMMING — He wasn’t quite out of the door yet, and a building had already been named in his honor.
Employees, board members, elected officials, friends and family gathered for a retirement party Thursday at the Cumming Library to celebrate the career of Jon McDaniel, who is retiring after 20 years as director of the Forsyth County Public Library System.
The county named the system’s administrative offices, which sit next door to the Cumming branch, in his name.
“He has been our only library director,” said Mary Helen McGruder, chair of the library board. “We’re starting a new world Monday morning.”
McDaniel’s career spans 40 years in the library industry, beginning in Gwinnett County before taking the helm in Forsyth’s split from the Gwinnett regional system.
“His leadership vision and his ability to pick the right people and put them in the right job” has accounted for much of Forsyth County’s success in the past 20 years, McGruder said.
She noted that the system has grown from one branch (Cumming) to four. Sharon Forks, Hampton Park and Post Road were built under McDaniel’s direction.
Those who now must become unaccustomed to working with McDaniel presented him with tokens and gifts, from poems to books to bookends.
Linda Kelly, assistant director for materials for the library system, rolled out a cartlet with books that covered McDaniel’s interests: birds, cats, hiking and nature.
Each of the 20 books — one for each year he served as director — has a note on the inside cover to honor him.
Also, anyone using the library catalog search system can type in his name to see the list.
McDaniel said much of the system’s success should be attributed to support from the county government.
“We already had good support when the split [from Gwinnett] came, so it’s not like I was reinventing the wheel,” he said.
He said he feels confident he is leaving the system in “good shape,” between the current board and employees to the new director, Anna Lyle.
Lyle, who had been serving as assistant director for some time, is set to take the helm Monday,
Though he said he will look back fondly on his time in the library world, McDaniel has plans for retirement.
He holds a college degree in history and said he is looking forward to visiting and revisiting battle fields and other historical sites. He also wants to go to Disney World and Europe — specifically Florence, Rome and Greece — with his wife, Lisa.
“I’m hoping to be babysitting my granddaughter some more, me and my wife.” he said. “I like outdoorsy stuff. Backpacking, hiking, those kinds of things. And I’m thinking of taking up sailing. What better time, right?”