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Library board to choose director this week
Sep 10, 2013 - By Alejandra Silva, Staff Writer
The spot has been vacant since former Fremont County Library System director Matt Nojonen resigned May 31.
By the end of this week, the Fremont County Library System will have a new director to head the Riverton, Lander and Dubois libraries.
On Monday and Tuesday, the final candidates, Emily Scherrer and Dale Collum, gave short presentations and participated in question-and-answer sessions at each library.
On Wednesday, the Fremont County Library Board will conduct its last interviews with Scherrer and Collum before choosing one as the new director.
"We have exceptional managers and staff, and the director will be making sure nothing falls through the cracks," said Jackie Meeker, vice-chairman of the library board.
The previous library system's director, Matt Nojonen, resigned May 31, and Meeker said library staff have stepped up since then and helped each other manage the three branches. Meeker said the board is looking for a director who will maintain a relationship with communities and people and be the face for the libraries.
Scherrer began her presentation by detailing her education background and experience with library systems. Her current job is in Yuma, Ariz., where she has helped obtain grants, especially for the American Indian community in her area, and directs eight libraries and eight youth departments.
Scherrer said she is originally from a small town in Wisconsin with a similar population to Riverton's. She also has had experience in politics and writes a library column for her local newspaper. She is working on her master's degree in public administration at Northwestern University.
Scherrer said mixing the traditional library customs with the technological advances in reading and software is an area she has done well with and incorporated with her past employers.
"You don't need a director to revamp the libraries, you just need a leader to help continue to grow," she said. "I'm just overwhelmed everywhere I look (with) all the opportunities that are here for you."
Scherrer listed a number of traditional and modern-day activities or events libraries can offer for all ages. She mentioned a drive-in movie event for families, geocaching classes for adults, movie chat for teens, tent or fishing rod check-out opportunities, and acquiring the latest tablet applications for parents, children or teenagers.
Scherrer said she also has experience in advertising to certain events or activities for specific ages or demographics.
Collum said he has been the library director in Evanston for 13 years and he has experience working with library systems that have had abundant financial support and others that have struggled. For instance, Evanston's library system had to lay off four employees last year and decrease the number of days the library was open.
"The bad thing is that we're not seeing a light at the end of the tunnel," Collum said.
He stressed the importance of libraries not becoming obsolete and always having the responsibility of providing information to the public and answering their questions. He agreed that the way people obtain information has changed and referenced a Pew Research Center survey that said 80 percent of people said they think a library is important in their community but 77 percent of those people also think it's important to be able to use a computer at a library.
"We can't forget that there's a lot of people who want to come in to the library and get a book and want a quiet place to read," Collum said, adding that libraries have to shift into a "community hub."
He placed children's programs at the top of essential programs at a library; he said he would not be opposed to moving the children's section to the front of the library and expanding it.
"In order to survive, the library has to have relevance to the community," he said. "You got to look at who the users are and what they want."
Library patron Sandy Mossbrook asked the candidates about the their past relationships with county commissioners and what they would do to make sure the library and commission maintain a good relationship.
Collum said he was glad the Evanston commissioners are big library supporters, and that he made sure he was keeping them informed and established a good relationship as a new library was built and renovations took place over the years.
Scherrer said she frequently spoke to the board and commissioners and welcomed the communication and calmly dealt with any issues.
The candidates were asked what they would do if a library patron requested a book be removed from the library.
Scherrer said she often has found the person making the request has never read the book.
"I've never removed a book, and I don't plan on it," she said.
Collum said that although librarians usually oppose that action, there always can be a way to compromise. He said if the library managers can't come to a conclusion, he and the library board can make a decision.