By the time Tyler Whitten was preparing to graduate from Jacksonville State University with his first master's degree, he was almost certain his career would take him down the subject path of history.
“I always loved history,” Whitten said. “I just knew back then that it would be my career, which is why I studied it as a major.”
However, a positive influence from a retiring professor turned Whitten onto a new course of study, one that would fulfill his love of knowledge and also provide him with a quiet place to process any thought he could ever have.
“I had already gotten my bachelor's in history and I was working on my master's in history at JSU. One of my professors from the history department was getting ready to retire and his lifelong dream was to retire to Charleston,” Whitten said. “He was taking classes in a Masters of Library Sciences program because, while in Charleston, he planned to work as a librarian.
“He suggested that he thought I might be a great fit for the program and well ... the rest is history.”
After completing his Master's in Library Science from the University of Alabama, Whitten worked a variety of different positions in the industry, including library director at Gadsden State University, before settling in Auburn.
“I have been with the city of Auburn for 19 years now,” he said. “It’s been quite a journey but I love life here on the Plains.”
Whitten began his career in libraries with Auburn in 2001. He started out as a reference librarian where he assisted patrons and supervised the library on evenings and weekends. He also helped former director Margie Huffman move the library from its former location on Ross Street to its current home on Thach Avenue.
By 2004, Whitten was promoted to technical services coordinator. In this role, he supervised the migration from the library’s previous automated system to its current one, which gave patrons access to search the library’s collections, place holds and renew items online for the first time. He also led the team that added eBooks to the library’s offerings.
Back in August, Whitten was named the library director after serving as the assistant library director for the past 12 years. According to him, it is his desire to serve the Auburn community that has been the driving force for motivating him within his career.
“Auburn quickly became my home, and serving this community that has meant so much to me, both professionally and personally, has become a lifelong passion,” Whitten said. “I have so many plans to continue to better the community while further developing our library department.”
Since taking on the new role, some of these plans have since taken life due to an unforeseen pressure: the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Since the pandemic, we have since started curbside delivery and are in the works with developing a mail delivery system for citizens who are homebound or lack mobility to come gather items in person,” Whitten said. “When the pandemic first started, we had a peak in interest from the community in our online and call services so we had to adjust to make ourselves available to those who needed us the most.
“We went from being closed in late March and early April, to taking call-in requests and curbside delivery by May, and by June and July we were doing Zoom story-time readings for citizens. We adapted and reminded Auburn that we were still there ... even during a tough time.”
Whitten mentioned moving forward with plans to develop a new library space for Northwest Auburn residents near the Boykin Community Center. The space will not only continue to provide literature and other services to the community but also represent the city’s desire to include every corner of the community in all the amenities it has to offer., Whitten said.
“We just want what we have to offer to be accessible to every citizen in Auburn,” he said. “I’m excited to have a continued role in making that possible.”