Library names new director

Mar. 18, 2013 @ 06:40 PM

A second search has yielded a new director for the Chapel Hill Public Library.

Town Manager Roger Stancil announced Monday that Susan Brown, marketing director for the Lawrence Public Library in Kansas, will become director of the Chapel Hill library May 20.

In an interview, Brown, a former branch manager for the Carrboro Cybrary, said she looks forward to returning to Chapel Hill, where she attended graduate school. 

“We left Chapel Hill close to seven years ago for a job opportunity for my husband,” Brown said. “We’ve been trying to get back for some time. When I saw the Chapel Hill job show up, I could not pass on it.”

Brown will earn $90,392 a year in the post.

The search for a new library director to replace Kathleen Thompson, who retired after 27 years, started anew in December after a consultant and town officials reviewed more than 60 applications and did not find a candidate they thought was a good fit for the job.

Stancil said in a news release he is confident Brown is the best person to lead the library in its next chapter in its history.

“We can expect to see a new library director who will be creating new connections and partnerships across the community for engagement as our library transforms for the digital age and as a center for civic communication,” Stancil said.
Brown, who earned a master's degree in library science from UNC’s School of Information and Library Science and a bachelor's degree in history from Virginia Tech University, is taking the reins of the Chapel Hill library at an important time.

The library is in the process of moving from temporary quarters at University Mall into a newly renovated library. The $16.2 million expansion has more than doubled the size of the facility.

A grand opening has been scheduled next month, and Brown said she plans to attend as many of the ceremonial events as possible to commemorate the renovated facility.

“I got to take a tour during the interview process,” Brown said. “It’s just beautiful. It’s like a library in a tree house.”

She noted that the Lawrence Public Library recently moved to a temporary facility while a renovation and expansion takes place there.
“Lawrence and Chapel Hill have quite a bit in common,” Brown said. “Of course, Chapel Hill has better basketball.”

Brown said both communities have great passion for their libraries and offer plenty of support.

She said she will work to increase community outreach when she takes over, and sees many opportunities to do so.

The library expansion, more than doubling the size of the facility, has created an intense discussion about staffing and operating hours.

As a cost-saving measure, Town Manager Roger Stancil has given the council the option of trimming hours – from 68 to 54 hour per week.

The move would save about $433,000 in personnel and facility costs, both of which would increase in the expanded library. Most savings -- $300,000 – from reduced hours would be achieved through lowered personnel costs.

The other $133,000 in facility costs would come from reduced usage of electricity, gas and water. The costs of those utilities are all set to increase dramatically at the larger library.

Brown said she needs more time before staking out a position on that issue.

“That’s one I need to get there and get my feet wet and learn the history before saying anything about that,” Brown said.

In Lawrence, Brown also served as adult services librarian.

She was previously a reference librarian at the Cameron Village Regional Library in Raleigh, and a library assistant at libraries in Virginia -- Virginia Commonwealth University's Cabell Library and the Library of Virginia in Richmond.
Candidates for the library director position participated in an assessment center designed to identify those who best met the interests of the town.

Town staff and library advisory boards jointly developed a needs assessment for a librarian with experience in community engagement, one who thinks about libraries of the future, and who can also serve as a member of the town's senior management team.

Assessors included staff, including library staff, as well as librarians from other communities and representatives of the Library Board of Trustees, Library Foundation, and Friends of the Library.