Wednesday, May 20, 2015
By James Lomuscio
More than 100 persons filled the Westport Library’s McManus Room tonight to meet and greet and ask questions of the two finalists vying to replace Executive Director Maxine Bleiweis, who is retiring at the end of June.
The finalists: William Harmer, director of the Chelsea Library in Chelsea, Mich. and David Hinkley, director of the Montclair Public Library in Montclair, N.J.
The big question of the night: “How do you view innovation, and what will you do to bring innovation to the Westport Library?”
The different styles of each was seen in their introductory responses.
Harmer came in with a quick, snappy PowerPoint presentation showing how his library that serves 16,000 people was dubbed “The Best Small Library of the Year” by the Library Journal in 2008. He cited its success with its Rock & Roll Library Tour and it receiving the local Chamber of Commerce’s “Business Leadership Award.”
He even spoke about his recipe for innovation, using the metaphor of the library as the kitchen, with the primary ingredients being “existing commitment to experimentation and innovation, surveying the landscape and civic and community engagement.”
Hinkley, whose library serves 37,000 patrons in a more diverse environment, used no visuals and tended to intellectualize more, everything from giving a dictionary definition of innovation to the need to marry “pragmatism with vision” to preparedness “to bring things to a new level.”
“Planned innovation is best exemplified in strategic planning,” he said, noting that after Super Storm Sandy, he chose to keep the main library open 24/7.
“Innovation, you tell me,” Hinkley added, saying that he wants to work cooperatively with the public and the staff.
“I look forward to bringing Westport to a higher level,” he said.
A number of audience questions collected on index cards were about fundraising experiences, key as the Westport Library looks to a major renovation.
Another question was why one would want to leave his current job to come to Westport.
“I can leave Montclair now because it’s successful,” said Hinkley, at the helm there for about nine years.
“And I’d like to have some fun and work in a library at its highest state of development,” he added.
Even with the Westport Library being at the top of its game, both said they wanted to raise it to the next level.
When asked why two finalists would appear on the same evening to meet the public, Michael Guthman, president of the Library’s Board of Trustees, put it this way.
“An important part of the job is connecting and interaction, and this is to give the community the opportunity to see them in action,” said Guthman.
Posted 05/20/15 at 10:04 PM