New Garfield County Libraries director settles in
The new director for the Garfield County Public Library District had his eyes on Glenwood Springs more than a decade ago.
“I said, ‘If an opportunity ever came up that seemed right, I would jump on it,’” said Brett Lear, who started as executive director for Garfield County Libraries in November.
Lear worked for the Jefferson County Public Library from 1996 to 2008, and would take weekend trips to Glenwood.
His goal to live on the Western Slope has come to fruition. He now lives with his wife, Marjorie, and 5-year-old son Wade in Rifle.
“Brett’s really wanted to be around the district and become familiar with the staff that he works with,” Alice Bedard-Voorhees, vice president of the library board, said.
“I’ve really been trying to get to know the different agencies, nonprofits, literacy outreach and various agencies,” Lear said.
During a meet-and-greet Tuesday at the Glenwood Branch Library, Lear chatted with members of the Chamber of Commerce and representatives of Colorado Mountain College, which are connected to the library building through the Morgridge Commons.
Glenwood City Councilors Jim Ingraham, Shelly Kaup and Rick Voorhees also attended the informal session, along with community members and organization leaders.
Lear considers part of his job right now is to embed himself in the community and get to know the people around the six branches of the Garfield County library system.
“If I were younger, I think I might have wanted to come in and make a mark right away. But that’s not appropriate; you kind of have to learn the ropes a little bit,” Lear said.
THE RIGHT FIT
“What we were looking for in a candidate was a leader,” Bedard-Voorhees said of the search for a director to replace Jesse Henning, who left the role of director in early 2018.
Board members agreed Lear’s graduate degrees and work history had a winning combination of business knowledge and library executive experience.
He holds a master’s degree in library science from Florida State University and a masters of business administration from Sonoma State University in California. He was the director of the Sonoma County Libraries until 2017. And he formed a library consultancy to advise districts around California before coming to Garfield County.
Lear said he hopes to improve the revenue side of the library system.
“I am always looking at finances,” he said. “We came through some pretty dark days a couple of years ago, with layoffs and reduction of hours. That’s something I’ve been focusing on for our finance manager to make sure the finances are in order and that we wouldn’t be looking at layoffs and reduced hours if the economy were to dip again.”
Garfield County voters overwhelmingly supported a ballot measure in November that allows the library district to keep property tax revenue instead of returning a portion of it, as required by Colorado’s Taxpayer Bill of Rights, or TABOR.
MO’ MONEY, MO’ BOOKS
Lear said he gets the most feedback about short and inconsistent library hours at various branch locations. But, with many staff already working full time, it’s difficult to add more hours and services at each branch, he said.
“We’d have to have more revenue to open more hours,” Lear said.
Lear said he was encouraged by the community support for libraries.
“The measure passed with 73 percent. That was really terrific to see,” he said.
The successful ballot measure, referred to as “de-Brucing” in reference to TABOR author Douglas Bruce, will add around $200,000 to the library district’s annual budget, but it won’t solve all of the challenges facing the district, Lear said.
“Right now, we’re putting 100 percent of that into books, because our book budget was halved a couple years back,” he said. “That will allow us to buy the same number of books we were buying three years ago,” Lear said.
In October, the library said that the 2017 refund amount could buy 7,000 books.