McCracken County Public Library Director Susan Baier topped 40 candidates in a nationwide search to become the executive director of the Allen County Public Library in Fort Wayne, Indiana, according its board president.
The McCracken library announced Baier’s new position last Thursday, with Feb. 10 being her last day here.
Ben Eisbart, president of the Fort Wayne library board of trustees, said there wasn’t just one factor which led to the unanimous selection of Baier to lead the library system which includes a main downtown location and 13 branches, 400 employees and a budget of approximately $32 million.
“It was a combination of a number of elements, not the least of which included her interview, her personality, her background and the way we sensed she would interface with our patrons,” he said.
“We narrowed it (the candidate list) from a universe of close to 40, to about eight, down to six, down to four, and in the final interview she shone above the other three.”
“The library she will be heading is a fairly large, complex facility and her experience in the Los Angeles library system where she was responsible for 19 branches, and the fact that she evolved to run her own facility in Paducah, which is significantly smaller, but has a great reputation ... all of those attracted us to her.”
Eisbart said the organization’s board of trustees view the library as the “people’s palace,” and that it contributes to the overall welfare of the entire community.
“Also, it’s a facility that we recognized is there because of the goodwill of the taxpayer, so rather than view the individuals who use the library as customers, we view them as patrons,” he said.
“Susan’s community relations experience, involvement in Rotary, the number of accolades that your library has won, plus her history in a complex entity like the Los Angeles library, really rounded out what we believe to be all the characteristics needed to succeed. Not only to succeed, but take us to the next level.”
The Fort Wayne library has the second largest genealogy collection in North America, a “jewel in the crown” for the organization, Eisbart said.
“Anyone who does their homework would find that, in addition to the library being a jewel, the community is growing quite nicely,” he said, with a downtown that is experiencing “inbound migration as opposed to outbound migration. We have a lot to offer.”
Baier will be filling a position that has been vacant since the previous executive director left the organization last August. According to the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette, the former director’s tenure included a controversy over the discarding of library materials.
Eisbart said the issue referred to involved the concept of “weeding” some materials from the library’s rather large collection and was not the sole reason the previous director left.
“There’s a process that is done in a well thought out and rigorous format, that says if you have 30 copies of Gone with the Wind, unless they’re all signed by Clark Gable, do we need 30?” he said.
“There’s a mathematical formula based on demand (for a particular resource). The predecessor of the past librarian basically stored a lot of stuff and eventually all that storage was overtaking usable space and so a ‘weeding’ was implemented.”
“That teed off some people. It became an issue that took on a life of its own,” Eisbart said.