The Salt Lake City Public Library named an Illinois native John Spears as its new executive director on Thursday. The selection follows a year-long, nationwide recruitment process that began after the library’s former executive director stepped down.
Thirty-nine-year-old John Spears comes to Salt Lake City after leading a public library system in the Chicago suburb of Naperville for about two years. Library Board President Kevin Werner says he was looking for an effective collaborator, communicator and manager who can think strategically about the future.
“All of those characteristics I think we found in John," Werner says. "We have a lot of confidence in him moving forward and I think the whole staff and community will as well.”
The Salt Lake City Library Board of Directors voted unanimously to appoint Spears, who Werner says inspired staff and board members with his vision and leadership in redefining the role libraries play in their communities.
Werner says with search engines like Google, people no longer go to libraries for information and answers to common questions. That’s why he says the library needs to redefine itself as a gathering place in which ideas are exchanged, rather than a space to consume information resources.
“There is a place for engagement with the community on a face to face basis as libraries as a community gathering place," Werner says. "That role needs to continue into the future. I’m certainly looking forward to hearing more about what John thinks that vision looks like as well as our own staff and the professional librarians that we have.”
In 2011, Beth Elder the library’s former executive director resigned amid criticism. But employee morale at the library has since improved under the leadership of Acting Director Linda Hamilton who will live at the end of June.
Spears will officially become the new director July 15th.