Library goal is public engagement

Candidates for the director of Mesa County Libraries director are, from left, Peter Genovese, Laurel C. Prysiazny and Royce Kitts.

Community engagement will be one of the goals library trustees will have for their new director, and three finalists for the vacant job had their opportunity to mix with the community at a reception Thursday evening at the Central branch.

All three finalists — Peter Genovese, most recently of Rochester, New York; Royce Kitts, currently of Liberal, Kansas; and Laurel Prysiazny (sounds like Disney), most recently of Fresno, California — comfortably moved among library staff, board trustees and interested members of the public, as part of the reception held for the three. The gathering followed a whirlwind day of site tours, staff meetings and interviews with the board.

One theme that all three echoed was an impressive sense of community throughout Mesa County Libraries, and the brightness of staff who make the libraries welcoming places day to day.

"There seem to be two things here that everyone is wearing — one of them is a name tag and the other one is a smile," Kitts said, adding that all the people he talked with during the day who work at the library seem happy to do so.

"I think that's one of the great resources of this library, the people who work here," he said.

Kitts, who said his wife previously lived in Fort Collins, and that he has friends in Boulder and Greeley, said his family was drawn to the Grand Valley in part for the natural amenities in the area.

"The thing that Colorado has, which a lot of states don't have, (are) natural wonders and beauty," he said.

Peter Genovese, who's been a consultant for a number of years and had his own agency, noted the greater community as well, saying the library district serves a community size that's just right, in his estimation.

"It's a size of a community that you can get your arms around. You can learn about the stakeholders, you can learn about the leaders and you can get to really know them," he said.

Genovese has a son who lives in Boulder, and sought a job "someplace beautiful" in applying for the director's job.

He said he was impressed with some of the modern approaches within the district.

"I like the idea that the library has taken some chances," he said. "You've got to offer traditional services, but you've also got to offer the changing paradigm that's occurring everywhere. This looked like a place that might be open to some of those things."

Lauren Prysiazny arrived from Fresno, California, where she said community funding of libraries is far below the level of support for the library that you see here.

"This is a well-run system. It's a well-funded system," she said. "This is a community and state that really values its libraries and it shows. It shows in your buildings, it shows in the programs and their quality."

As for what she'd focus on as director, Prysiazny referenced the upcoming capital campaign to construct a new library building in Clifton. "That has to be a major focus. We've got to get the new building built in the East Valley," she said.

Prysiazny is a dual Canadian-U.S citizen, though she's been in the U.S. almost 20 years. She's originally from Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada, a city east of the Rockies that she described as an "almost identical city" in terms of demographics and geography.

"It's kind of coming home in a way, but staying in the United States," she said about possibly being named director.

That will be up to the libraries' Board of Trustees, who will meet in public session today at noon at the Central branch, 443 N. Sixth St. Trustees are set to discuss the three candidates, and may decide to extend an offer to one of them. Trustees also may decide not to offer any of the three the job and continue with their search.