Different Job, Same Goal

by Jan 28, 2020North Brunswick, People

Leland locals were sad to see Lisa Milligan retire from her 35-year career at Leland Library, but she’s still going strong.

Lisa Milligan laughs when asked to compare the two jobs she’s held this year.

“From one end of the spectrum to the other,” she says.

After 35 years as librarian at Leland Library, 25 of them as branch manager, Milligan retired July 1 and on August 5 became a part-time sales representative for Gaines Oil Company in Goldston, N.C. She visits customers and makes cold calls on businesses east of I-95 in southeastern North and South Carolina.


Chip Poole, vice president of Gaines and best friend with Milligan and her husband, Jeff, approached her a year ago about working for the company.

“He said I was perfect for the job because of my experience dealing with the public,” she says. “In January I had no idea I would retire. I love being part of the community, and I loved the people I was working with. This [library] was my second home. Those 35 years went by real fast.”

Yet, she says, “It was time to close this chapter of my life and move on to enjoy life and family. I didn’t want to go home and waste away.”

Despite the removal of a brain tumor 10 years ago and knee replacements on both knees in 2013, Milligan says, “I’m in good health and I wanted to do something.”

The most exciting part of being librarian was when children told her, “You really helped me. I got an A on my test.” Adults also complimented Milligan on her suggestions. “They would say, ‘This library has helped me.’”

That’s what she liked most: helping people find what they needed. “It was everything from how to make a quilt to how to deal with a very deep and personal problem,” she says. “When people told me, ‘That book you recommended helped me,’ that kept me coming back the next day and the next day.”
Milligan also listened to people so she could help them. “I took a lot of interest over the years to provide the best service I could,” she says.

No matter the job, Milligan’s philosophy is to be the best you can be to help somebody else. “You don’t know what problems people are dealing with,” she says. “You could be the difference for that person that day.”

Library assistant Morgan Benton says she worked with Milligan for four years, and the best thing she learned from her was “always treat patrons with respect and give good customer service.”


Milligan follows that principle at Gaines. “I want to carry out the same quality of service and show people I care about them,” she says. “I love my [new] job because it’s so intriguing. I’m open for learning.”

She explains that one service Gaines provides is testing fuel quality. She saw samples of diesel fuel that had gone bad and “looked like chewing tobacco,” and gasoline with water in it. “Those samples were pulled before my eyes,” she says. “We go in and clean that fuel.”

A Leland native, Milligan says that growing up she didn’t have a specific job goal, but her grandfather always told her she’d be a fine secretary. “Well, working in a library is as close to being a secretary as I could do for him,” she says.

At North Brunswick High School, she was in a program that placed students in nonprofit organizations so they got job experience. She was assigned the library, which at that time was a former UCB Bank in a double-wide mobile unit, and worked with long-time librarian Narine Russ. After graduating and being in the workforce for two years, Milligan got word that Russ was retiring and had recommended her for the job. She accepted, was named library assistant and worked by herself for 10 years. A 6,500-square-foot library was built in 1994, and Milligan became branch manager and had two assistants.

With the growth of the town, money was appropriated to expand the library and required it be closed from October 2010 to May 2011. During the interim, Milligan was branch manager of the Hickmans Crossroads library in Calabash.
One change that affected all the Brunswick County libraries was when Milligan and the staff were shelving books to get the expanded library ready for the public and six rows of shelves fell. “Because of that collapse, all the shelves at all Brunswick County libraries are bolted to the floor,” she says.

Milligan has no regrets at retiring and won’t move away from her hometown. “I never saw myself anywhere else but Leland,” she says. “I know a lot of people and my family’s here. I’m content with being here.”

Photography by Laura Glantz