The Bloomington Public Library faces a number of challenges and opportunities, most of which will wait until a new director is found.
Terry Lindberg is the Interim Director. He talks with Charlie Schlenker about the search process. Search firm John Keister and Associates has met with area leaders about the culture and needs of the institution. Lindberg says the initial assessment is that the BPL has "a strong and engaged staff."
Whoever is selected as the next Bloomington Library Director has dual roles that may require different skill sets. Some Library Directors tend to view the job as one of fostering the programs and building them over time. Others come in, are change agents who sign up for specific projects such as a new facility or an expansion, and then move on. Interim Director Terry Lindberg said Bloomington needs both roles. "We're advised that typically in this day and age, a director in a situation like ours has a tenure of somewhere between seven and ten years," Lindberg said. In 159 years, the Bloomington Library has had directors serve as little as a month and as long as 41 years.
Some Libraries such as Oak Park, Illinois and San Francisco employ social workers to deal with constituencies that spend a lot of time in such public areas, such as the elderly, mentally ill, and the homeless. Lindberg said one of the largest segments predicted by most research is youth, and in that regard the Bloomington Library already is strong, he said.
Lindberg said he also thinks the right person for the job is going to be anxious to take charge of a major building project and put their stamp on any improvements to the library as well as consider innovative services.
Though there are many things to work on at the library, Lindberg said the committee will not rush the selection process. He expressed hope they can have a successor to Georgia Bouda chosen in a couple months, but the panel is far more concerned about making the right choice than in setting a timeline.
Lindberg said there will be an opportunity for the community to meet all of the finalist candidates and offer input before the decision is made. He says the form of that access and input has yet to be determined.
He says the Library needs a new director who can not only manage a building or expansion project, but also one who can envision the changing role of libraries in the multi media age. Lindberg says libraries are no longer just a box of books, they are community gathering places, performance spaces, and service centers.
Lindberg said there is no particular time line for an expansion project, though city workers have begun demolishing the old sausage factory to the south of the downtown Library. The city must also decide where to put some public works offices to finish clearing the way.
Lindberg said the Library Board hopes to have more substantial talks with the nearby YMCA to see if there are opportunities for joint programming or facilities once the expansion project scope gets more definition. Five Points, in Washington, Illinois combines community gathering facilities with a fitness center, performing arts space, and that community's library. Lindberg said another example is Cedar Rapids, Iowa, which links library video and electronic print collections to video screens at the fitness center there.
The Library has also begun pricing out improvements to the existing facility that a recent report by Farnsworth and Associates indicated need to be done. Those may include new roof membrane, paint, carpeting, and some cosmetic issues, Lindberg said. The conversation about when to do some of those improvements would involve the City Council, Lindberg said.
The Interim Director also said he's pleased with the way board members and staff are working together on studying bookmobile service on the west side and elsewhere in the community.