Library’s leadership in transition
Retired library director looks to scale next challenge
Eve Tallman has her whole life to be a librarian. For now, she wants to be a rock climber.
Tallman, 52, officially retires as Mesa County Libraries director later this month after a six-year tenure at the libraries’ helm. She is finishing up some transitional work at her home in Moab, Utah, as her successor, Joseph Sanchez, begins his work at the libraries. She said she plans to work again at some point and may do some library consultation work between climbing trips and volunteering for causes she believe in. For now she wants to pursue other passions while she’s in the shape to do them.
“I can always put my hair up in a bun and be a librarian,” she said. “I want to enjoy (rock climbing) before I’m too old and broken to do it.”
Tallman leaves behind a mountain of accomplishments in the county library system. After building a library in Moab and receiving the Best Small Library in America Award from Library Journal and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Tallman said she felt there wasn’t much wiggle room for further accomplishments in a small Utah town.
“I was in my peak years and I was just kind of stuck,” she said.
She decided to give commuting to Grand Junction a try when the library director position opened in 2007. Linda Davidson, who was on the library board of trustees when Tallman was hired and still serves on the board, said the library was hoping at that time to hire someone who could help expand the library.
“We lost two bond issues and we knew we needed her help,” Davidson said.
Tallman saw the need for change when she arrived and immediately began searching for ways to improve library usage. She led the district into five new or remodeled branch locations, started screening new hires for customer service skills, debuted a self-checkout system and oversaw a service expansion that allows locals to reserve books from as far away as the University of Utah to the University of Colorado at Boulder. Circulation increased 40 percent during her tenure.
“She had a great vision and great follow-through with that transition,” said Library Board President Barry Blanchard. “She’s made great strides.”
Tallman may be best known in years to come for overseeing a $7.1 million renovation and expansion of the central library at 443 N. Sixth St. The remodeled library opened in June with 9,000 additional square feet, a new mezzanine, outdoor patios and extra events space. A $1.25 million capital campaign and library funds paid for the project.
Still, there are other milestones Tallman will remember just as vividly. She tried to sort books at Fruita and Palisade library branches by labeling sections with a subject, the way most bookstores sort material, instead of cataloging them with numbers a la the Dewey Decimal system. It didn’t catch on and the branches switched back to the old system, but Tallman said the innovative approach was worth a try.
One of her proudest moments was opening a library branch in the Fruita Community Center. The location allowed patrons to get one-stop access to exercise, senior meetings, swimming and reading, she said.
“At the end of the day the facilities are clearly the way I made my mark, if you will, in Mesa County,” Tallman said. “People asked me how I could leave now that I have this nice office, but that’s not the reason I did it. I have been thinking about retirement for some time. I wanted it up and running before I stepped away.”
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New library director hopes to attract new generation, keep books
Joseph Sanchez’s modes of transportation are a metaphor for his philosophy on libraries.
Ever since he became the new director of Mesa County Libraries in early August, the 39-year-old San Diego native has arrived at work in a 1956 pickup. But if he needs to get anywhere in town within a 10-minute radius of the library, he leaves the old truck in the parking lot and takes off on his skateboard.
The blending of the traditional and the modern is what he would like to see in Mesa County’s libraries as well, maintaining the branches as places to check out and discover paper books while offering a glimpse into the future with broader technology offerings. Those offerings will involve library employees helping community members not only discover new things — like how to create an effective website or use a tablet — but help citizens create new material as well with the help of library equipment.
Sanchez said he envisions the library helping artists capture their images in higher resolution for their websites, aiding businesses in creating more eye-catching websites and possibly helping local musicians release their music to a local audience that can find tunes more swiftly through the library’s catalog than they would in a sea of songs on iTunes. In return, the library would only ask that all material they help with be available in the library collection.
“We’ve always connected people to content. We want to go from a content warehouse to a content producer,” Sanchez said. “We’ll still spend the same amount on books. What we want to do (with new technology services) is expand into that other 50 percent of the community that isn’t using the library.”
Sanchez has a reputation as an innovator. He is known nationwide as one of the first librarians in the world to circulate e-readers, although he says he doesn’t envision all books becoming digital. Not only are books less valued in a non-physical form, he said, but e-book licensing is more expensive for libraries than individuals because publishers charge more to allow multiple people to read a book.
Sanchez also teaches online graduate courses at San Jose State University and speaks around the country about the future of libraries. He said he hopes libraries remain a place to pick up a hard copy but emphasized libraries cannot survive with that use alone.
“Libraries need to be prepared for some differing possibilities,” he said, adding the common thread with old and new ideas for the library is “we have to keep our core identity to have somebody who can mediate that exchange” of services.
Sanchez’s history with technology made him an attractive candidate, according to library trustee Linda Davidson. The library had already grown physically under Eve Tallman’s leadership. Growing in technology was an obvious next step after her retirement, Davidson said.
“We had a structure in place because of Eve. We wanted to keep that going but also knew about e-books and how we’re becoming a digital society,” Davidson said. “He thinks in the future. Eve calls him the rock star of the library world.”
Tallman said Sanchez is a leader in electronic library use, something she said helped him stick out in a national search for her replacement.
“I feel the library is really in good hands with Joseph. He’s an advanced thinker when it comes to the future of libraries,” she said.
During his seven years in Colorado — five as a library director at Red Rocks Community College and the last two as an instructional designer at the University of Colorado at Denver — Sanchez said he and his family, wife Nicole and children David and Lucy, were ready for a move to the Western Slope. He added he was ready to return to public libraries, where his passion for reading began as a boy in a working class California barrio.
“The public library changed my life. We would go twice a week and I’d max out my library card,” he recalled. “The public library is basically what made up for the lack of education I wasn’t getting at my disadvantaged school, where you were basically trying to survive, and I want to keep that part of the library really valid.”