City Library Director Daniel Walters will leave Spokane next month for a similar job in Buffalo, N.Y.
Walters, who came to Spokane from King County six years ago, said Monday he accepted the job because it puts him in charge of one of the top public libraries in the country.
The new job will mean a $7,500 pay increase for Walters, who now earns $82,500 per year.
“It’s good for me and good for the health and vitality of the administration (of the library) to have some turnover,” Walters said.
Walters, 48, told library board members about his decision last week.
The Buffalo offer came after a nation-wide recruiting firm asked Walters to apply for that job.
During interviews, Walters realized Buffalo provided significant career advancement: its downtown building occupies two city blocks; its system includes more than 50 branches, compared to five in Spokane, and its annual budget is $22 million, compared to $5.3 million here.
“It also has a stupendous collection, including the manuscript of ‘Huckleberry Finn,”’ Walters said.
“It’s a very large career stepping-stone for him,” said Spokane Library Board member Ron Miller. “Dan’s a sharp guy and he should move up.”
In years here, Walters supervised an extensive library expansion and weathered a number of community squabbles.
He spearheaded approval of a $28.8 million city bond measure that built a new downtown library and is paying for five new branch libraries.
He also pushed the city to embrace state-of-the-art information technology that lets users find materials via the Internet or by dialing into databases.
His six years of leadership also ignited controversy.
The longtime sharing of services between city and county library users ended last year because of the new technology Walters had installed.
City users can use the technology, but the library board decided to charge county residents for services that used to be free.
And Walters’ goal of making the library user-friendly and less stuffy ignited a 1992 controversy when the city acquired the naughty Madonna picture book “Sex.”
He and board members defended the book and made it available at the main branch’s reference desk. Critics called it obscene and inappropriate for a public library.
That fracas lasted until someone stole one copy and cut out most of the photos in the other.
Library board members will meet in a few weeks to plan finding a replacement.
Miller noted, however, that a key factor is how voters decide on the proposed city-county consolidation.
If approved, that measure would merge city and county libraries. Hiring an interim director might be needed if that merger is approved, Miller said.
If the merger doesn’t happen, the board likely will hire an outside recruiter to conduct a national search.”We’ve put a lot of money into this library system and we want to be sure we use it properly” by finding the best person to take charge, he said.