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New director to help shape library

List of candidates being narrowed; strong community involvement seen as key

  • Trustees of the Peterborough Town Library are searching for a new library director, to replace Michael Price, who is retiring.
  • Peterborough Town Library.

PETERBOROUGH — Established in 1833, the Peterborough Town Library is the oldest free public library in the world supported by taxation, a distinction that library trustees point to with pride. But they are also intent on keeping the library vibrant and up to date as plans get under way for an eventual major upgrade to the facility. And they’re keeping that focus on the future in mind as they undertake a search for a new library director to replace Michael Price, who will be retiring in June after 14 years in the job.

“I think being able to keep the library moving forward is key to the job, because of the rapid rate of change,” said Marcia Patten, chair of the library’s Board of Trustees, on Tuesday. “We’ve made great progress with providing public access computers, online tools and Wi-Fi. There’s so much more we can do.”

In addition to strategic planning, staff management, selection of books and other library material and oversight of an annual budget of nearly $600,000, the library director will be involved with both the Board of Trustees and the 1833 Society, a separate group that is working on fundraising and planning for a major library upgrade.

The job description posted on the town’s website notes that the director “will need to develop a structure and process for ongoing fundraising, including legacy giving, to complement taxpayer and trust support” and will serve “as a spokesperson, expert witness, public face and promoter of the new library.”

The job has a starting salary of $71,155 and requires a Master of Library Science degree and at least five to seven years of experience.

“We may want to be more proactive in raising funds,” Patten said. “The director wouldn’t necessarily be the fundraiser, but would go out and speak to groups. We need someone comfortable in that role.”

Trustees have formed a five-member Library Director Search Group to recruit candidates and narrow the field. Patten is chairing the search group and other members are Peterborough Town Administrator Pam Brenner, Trustee Ron Bowman, Alternate Trustee Deb Caplan and former Trustee Ronnie McIntire. Patten said Brenner and Caplan have significant experience in recruiting and human resources.

The group developed the job description, which can be found on the town’s website, www.townofpeterborough.com, spread word of the search via email and ran ads starting in December.

“We’ve had resumes coming in from all over the country, 44 so far,” Patten said.

Starting next week, the search group will begin the process of evaluating the candidates.

“We hope to choose the top 10 in the next 10 days,” Patten said. “Then we expect to bring in the top two or three for interviews.”

In March, a group of 18 residents, including trustees, members of the 1833 Society, library staff members and representatives of the community, will meet with finalists, first in a round-robin set of small group meetings and then to hear a half-hour presentation by each finalist. The group will make a recommendation to the trustees, who will make the final hiring decision.

“We hope to have someone in place by mid-June,” Patten said. “It may not happen, but that’s our goal.”

David Weir, chair of the 1833 Society, said Wednesday that the library director will be a key player as the society works to develop support for a building project.

“The library director will be tremendously important,” Weir said. “We’ll be looking for someone who will be participating vigorously in the community. That will make a big difference for our fundraising.”

Weir said the society has a goal of raising $6 million to pay for an addition to the building at its current location.

“We are trying to acquire a portion of the Fairpoint lot next door to the library,” Weir said. “Getting about a half acre there will be critical to our plans.”

The additional space could be used for parking, Weir said, which would allow for an expansion of the library building into the area currently used for parking.

Weir said planning will need to be coordinated with the timetable for reconstruction of the Main Street bridge, which is the pedestrian access way from downtown to the library.

Weir said no architectural plans have been developed yet, but society members have spoken to four architectural firms in the past year. He said the group has no plans to change the use of the town-owned Kyes-Sage house, which is used by the Friends of the Library as a used-book store.

“We’re not touching it,” Weir said about the Kyes-Sage house. “We wouldn’t be taking down any buildings.”

For now, the 1833 Society’s focus is on fundraising. Weir said a feasibility study has been done that shows substantial community support.

“Our tentative plan is to finish capital fundraising this year.” Weir said. “We may need more time on that. We hope to be working on construction of new facilities in 2015 and 2016.”

Dave Anderson can be reached at 924-7172, ext. 233 or danderson@ledgertranscript.com. He’s on Twitter at @DaveAndersonMLT.

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