Robert F. Lambert ’94 planted the seeds for his career with a part-time job in high school. Over the years, he was lured in various directions, but he always came back to where he started: the public libraries in his hometown of York. Along the way, he built a resume in library operations that would lead him to his current post as President of York County Libraries.
After earning his bachelor’s degree from York College in Speech Communications, Lambert joined the library system full-time. He learned that to pursue a career in the field, he’d need a master’s degree in Library Science so he enrolled at the University of Pittsburgh and completed the program in nine months. “I came right back to York and got involved in the business side of running a library,” he says.
Lambert started working on a Master’s in Public Administration at Penn State University. Moving up the ranks, he was named Director of Strategic Partnerships, managing the library system’s $2 million portfolio.
He was elected York’s Controller in 2008. He served six years and worked with the Mayor and City Council to get dedicated money for the libraries. He acknowledges the struggles libraries face, and says, “Funding for libraries across the Commonwealth and libraries, period, is challenging.” Still, York County Libraries is now in a growth cycle, conducting a $10 million capital campaign to build a new library in Hellam Township, expand in Red Lion, and improve Martin Library in York.
In September, Lambert brought his strategic thinking and financial expertise to the Board of York Traditions Bank. “It’s just a tremendous opportunity to be part of a bank that has such a visible force in the community,” he says.
Libraries are vital to a community, and Lambert believes they will survive because of their strong social component. One example is the PA Forward program, which teaches residents literacy in information, civics and society, health, and finances. “People love their homes, their jobs, and their libraries,” he says. “We provide that space where people come and gather socially. Libraries are not about books. They’re about people.”