Henning departure puts Garfield Libraries in director search mode again
Garfield County Libraries will soon be recruiting a new leader for the second time in three years, following the announcement by current Executive Director Jesse Henning that he will be leaving to take a director’s position at the Barrington Area Library in Illinois.
Henning joined the Garfield County Public Library District in 2016 as Rifle Branch manager and was quickly elevated to district director amid ongoing financial difficulties. He made the public announcement Tuesday that the new position will bring him closer to his family in the Midwest. His last day will be March 9.
“I’m very grateful for the opportunity I’ve had to work with the dedicated librarians and staff of the Garfield County Libraries,” Henning said in a news release issued by the library district. “I will miss this place and appreciate the support I’ve received in pursuing this new opportunity for my family.”
Henning moved from Ohio in August of 2016 to take the Rifle position. Soon after, the district learned of a 30 percent decrease in its operating revenues for the 2017 fiscal year. The drop was due to a decline in oil and gas property assessment in the county, plus an ongoing withholding of sales taxes from the state that’s been going on for several years related to a court settlement, also involving oil and gas businesses.
Henning became executive director for the district that October following a multi-month, nationwide search to replace former director Amelia Shelley who had left the district at the end of 2015. Immediately, Henning began the work of transitioning the libraries to the new budget reality, including staffing cuts and reduced hours of operation.
“During the initial transition, Henning could often be found working at the front desk of libraries throughout the district, and even led storytime in Parachute for a few months,” the release noted.
“We appreciate Jesse’s leadership in getting us through a difficult time in the library district’s history,” Garfield County Libraries’ Board President Todd Anderson said. “His enthusiasm for libraries will be greatly missed.”
The Library Board of Trustees met last Thursday to finalize a plan for the transition, and is in active negotiations with an internal candidate for the interim director position. The board hopes to fill the interim position as soon as possible, according to the release.
The board is seeking a search firm to recruit a new executive director, and is looking to leverage a search firm’s resources to find a qualified candidate quickly.
“The Library Board believes the talented staff, modern facilities, engaged community members, and outdoor amenities of the county make for a desirable library director position,” the release went on to state. “The libraries have a rich history in this area, and are celebrating their 80th anniversary this year.”
County voters in 2006 agreed to form a library district separate from Garfield County government, and to levy a property tax to fund several new library facilities across the county from Carbondale to Parachute. Those facilities have since been completed.
The six-branch library system now serves more than 425,000 visitors a year, and hosts some 4,000 local civic groups, nonprofits, and businesses in its meeting facilities. Library staff is also working on a new strategic plan, for which it is gathering public input.
“Our Garfield County Libraries have a lot of key pieces already in place,” said Anderson. “We’ll be looking for an enthusiastic candidate who can build on our foundation and confidently lead us into the future.”