TELLURIDE – With Wilkinson Public Library now stabilized following a brief period of turmoil, Interim Library Director Brenda Carns is in her final week of work and preparing to pass the baton to the new Library Director Sarah Landeryou, who will lead the organization into a promising, yet challenging future.
“I look forward to getting into the job and getting to know our staff in a different way,” Landeryou said on Tuesday. She’s been working alongside Carns over the past week to ensure a smooth transition. “I also look forward to getting out into the community and listening in my new role as director.”
Carns began her work as interim director last September and was tasked with not only managing the search and hiring process for a new library director, but also approving a library budget that works within new revenue constraints.
Carns, who arrived from Fort Collins, and has over 30 years of library experience, was also tasked with refocusing the library’s services to ensure they meet the community’s desires and needs. In seven short months, Carns accomplished those objectives and set a path of future success for the Wilkinson Public Library.
“For me, it’s two thumbs up,” Library Board of Trustees President Brandt Garber said. “We are very pleased with the work she provided us. She helped to put things in perspective in difficult budget times and brought a unified vision of leadership to our staff and to the community.”
All things considered, the greater part of 2013 was a tumultuous year for the library’s trustees and staff, and for library patrons. With the realization that declining property tax revenues would mean a constrained budget, the trustees began the year with a decision to close the library on Sundays to save money. The Sunday closure decision sparked a barrage of public outcry within the Telluride community. Many suggested that other library programs could be cut rather than closing the facility for one day each week.
In the face of that ongoing criticism, the trustees in July began a three-week public outreach initiative with a series of forums, focus groups and a survey, all of which were aimed at learning which library services the community valued most. To complete the outreach, the trustees hired an independent consultant at a cost of $4,000.
Then, in August, the trustees voted to terminate Barbara Brattin from her post as library director, believing that new leadership was needed during the tough budgetary environment. It was at that point that trustees decided that an interim director was needed, not only to calm the library’s turbulent waters but to begin the process of searching for a new library director.
“It was important to calm the waters and bring the temperature down a bit,” Trustee Judy Thompson said. “We needed someone who could listen to the board but, more importantly, listen to library staff and the community. Brenda has the skill set to do that. She did great and was just the person we needed.”
Thanks to the work ethic of the library staff and the high level of service they continually provide, Carns said, stepping into the leadership role at the library was easy to do. But the budgetary decisions she faced weren’t so easy.
“When you cut over 27 percent of the budget, something has to change,” Carns said.
With a community desire for the library to be open seven days, the number and scope of services the library provides needed to be reduced.
“We are not completely adjusted yet,” she said. “We are still coasting on past objectives and goals. Staff is still adjusting to what they can do. We are going into our busy season soon, and I think it will provide new insights on what can and can’t be done.”
While budgetary challenges lie ahead, Carns said she expects a smooth transition of leadership to incoming director Landeryou, who has been an employee of the library since January 2007, serving as the adult services manager, public services coordinator, and most recently, the library’s budget and collections coordinator.
Landeryou emerged from the search for a new library director as one of five finalists, all of whom had impressive credentials, trustees said. The five finalists, four of them from out of town, met with library staff, with patrons, and interviewed with the board in March.
“She has so many wonderful attributes. I know she is going to be a great leader for this library,” Carns said of Landeryou.
Landeryou said she’s been privileged to learn from Carns and is looking forward to taking on her new role at the library, despite the challenges that lie ahead with decreasing revenues.
“What is really important is to communicate what it is we are trying to do and what we are able to do, and then listen to the community,” Landeryou said. “That is who we are. We don’t exist without community support. With drops in revenue, we have had to change our focus and have had to juggle a lot of expectations and priorities. I think sometimes we have to remind ourselves that we are the Wilkinson Public Library and we can all do this together.
“I am really looking forward to taking on this new role,” she said.
Editor’s Note: Seth Cagin is a Library Board Trustee and Publisher of The Watch Newspaper. He did not participate in the reporting or editing of this story.