The Lexington Public Library can regain the public's trust and serve a diverse community that expects digital media and customer service, three finalists for the vacant job of library executive director said Thursday.
At a public forum at the Central Library, the finalists told an audience of more than 50 what they would do if hired. The library board plans to vote Wednesday.
The finalists agreed that Lexington must trust in the fiscal integrity of its library. Otherwise, they said, taxpayers will resent supporting the library, and potential donors will give money elsewhere.
The library board fired the previous director, Kathleen Imhoff, in July after the Herald-Leader detailed more than $134,000 she had spent on travel, meals, gifts and other items over five years, with little oversight. She is threatening to sue the library. Mediation is set for Feb. 22.
Imhoff attended the forum.
"Now, I know you recently had a faux pas here at the library regarding fiscal responsibility, and that's caused some problems," said Brian Lewis, county librarian at Tulare County Library in Visalia, Calif. "In bad economic times, if you don't do a good job in that area, the public thinks you're pompous and the public thinks you're insensitive."
The other finalists, both from Ohio, are Don W. Barlow, executive director of Westerville Public Library, and Cindy Lombardo, public services administrator at Cleveland Public Library.
Barlow showed a Power Point presentation of improvements he has brought to Westerville. These include drive-through windows, librarians who carry electronic equipment to eliminate lines and help customers on the floor and a computerized system connecting Ohio's public and university libraries, offering more than 9 million titles with next-day delivery.
"Our customers expect Amazon.com today rather than the services we traditionally provided," Barlow said.
Lombardo, a former children's librarian, said she would look for ways to boost the library's revenue and spend more on its collection.
During the question-and-answer session, Lombardo was asked how she would address a downtown library that sometimes seems like a homeless shelter.
"That's a great question," she said. "And do I have an answer to that? No."
In Cleveland, she said, the library tries to balance the needs of the homeless with those of people who want a safe, secure environment in which to use the library.