After searching almost a year for a new director, Spokane Public Library officials hired the man they knew instead of the woman they didn’t.
Assuming the library’s top job today is Aubrey George, who’s been with the library since 1991 and has worked as acting director since last fall.
George, 46, and Susan Hildreth of the Sacramento Library Authority were the two finalists interviewed last week by library board members.
They had equal skills, said board chairwoman Diann Brown in announcing George’s hiring Wednesday.
“We would have been happy with either,” Brown said. But “Aubrey knows Spokane Public Library, he’s worked well with city officials, and he’s been a strong leader.”
The board narrowed the field to two this summer, using a New York search firm that spent several months finding 20 candidates nationwide.
The city will pay a finder’s fee equal to one-fourth of George’s $78,007 annual salary to the firm, Gossage Regan Associates.
The same firm hired director Dan Walters away from Spokane Public Library last fall. Walters went on to be director at the Buffalo Public Library.
Brown defended using the search firm to find a man who was inside the library all along. “The search firm brought to us the best candidates at the time, people interested in working with the library and being integral in keeping it successful.”
Most city library workers expected George to be the board’s choice.
“It’s pretty normal for the board to take the inside guy when the organization’s doing well,” said one employee who didn’t want to be named.
“If we were not in good shape, they’d have taken the outside person - if both were equal.”
George said he’s committed to keeping the library in strong shape and building on its positive image in the community. Public use grew after five branches were rebuilt and a sixth was added with a $29 million bond approved by voters in 1990.
“I want to be in a leadership position to keep that excellence” and move the library through its next growth phase, George said.
One goal is mounting a long-term strategic plan to help library officials make sure they give patrons what they expect for their tax money.
The library will need to find ways to pay for “extras” beyond the main services and programs that city money now pays for, George said.
“One way that might be done is through a library foundation,” a non-profit, fund-raising arm of the board of trustees.
George joined the city library as manager of public services in 1991. After becoming deputy director in 1994, he supervised the construction of new branches for Shadle Park, East Side and the South Hill.
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