BY FAIMON A. ROBERTS III
Advocate staff writer
August 18, 2012
The next director of the East Baton Rouge Parish library system needs to be a visionary who has experience overseeing construction projects and can reach disparate segments of the community, two members of the system’s governing board said Thursday.
The lone finalist for the position, Spencer Watts, will be in Baton Rouge on Friday and Saturday for two days of events that include library tours, a public presentation to the East Baton Rouge Parish Library Board of Control and a formal interview by the seven-member board.
“We need someone that’s got vision,” board member Jason Jacob said. “Someone who can improve on public-private partnerships.”
Jacob said engaging in such partnerships will be important in the next several years.
“He needs to get to people who maybe can’t drive or don’t have computers at home like some do,” board member Melanie Way added.
Jacob said the new library director will have to be able to adjust to new technologies.
According to his résumé, Watts has experience overseeing construction projects, something library board members have said is important for a new director.
“It’s important because of our capital improvements budget,” Way said. “It’s certainly something I am looking forward to talking to him about.
The East Baton Rouge Parish library system has two branches currently under construction, the Fairwood Branch Library on Old Hammond Highway and the new main library on Goodwood Boulevard. The design phase has been completed for another new branch, at Rouzan, and the downtown River Center library project is in the design phase.
Watts, director of the public library system in Mobile, Ala., oversaw the construction or renovation of several new facilities as part of a $23 million capital improvement program, according to his résumé.
Watts was selected from a pool of five semifinalists who were interviewed via Skype on Aug. 4. Watts was the only candidate invited to Baton Rouge for an on-site interview.
Watts said he is looking forward to seeing the East Baton Rouge Parish library system.
“I have a whole host of questions about how the library operates,” Watts said when reached by phone Thursday. “A lot of it is to find out about staff.”
Watts’ on-site interview will begin at 11 a.m. Friday with a 10-minute tour of the Eden Park Branch Library on Greenwell Springs Road, and will continue with a tour of the Bluebonnet Branch Library starting sometime around 11:45, according to a schedule released by the Library.
Watts will make a public presentation at the Jones Creek Regional library. The presentation, and the informal reception that follow begin at 7 p.m. and are open to the public.
On Saturday morning, Watts will be interviewed with the full Library Board of Control at 9:30 a.m. in a public meeting also at the Jones Creek Regional Library, according to the agenda for the meeting.
The library has been without a director since December, when David Farrar resigned after information became public about a 15-year-old criminal case in Alabama in which he was accused of sexual abuse and impersonating a police officer.
The trial judge threw out the jury’s conviction on the two sex abuse charges but let stand the impersonating conviction, for which Farrar received a three-year suspended sentence.
Since Farrar’s departure, assistant directors Mary Stein and Patricia Husband have shared the director’s duties and the title of co-director.
Neither of them applied for the position of director.