We’ve been impressed by the level of public engagement in the search for the next director of the East Baton Rouge Parish Library.
The library director position is open because former director David Farrar resigned last year after revelations that he had been convicted of a felony several years earlier. That controversy was a black eye for the image of the library system, which has generally benefited from strong taxpayer support and a good record of service to the public.
Farrar’s departure underscored the need to restore public confidence in the library system.
Mary Stein and Patricia Husband, who have led the library on an interim basis since Farrar’s departure last year, seem to have done a good job in overseeing the library’s operations and maintaining its visibility as an important public resource. But Stein, speaking recently to the Press Club of Baton Rouge, perhaps expressed the views of many others when she said she’s ready for a new library director to come on board.
The system does, indeed, need more-permanent leadership to fully advance its mission.
The next library director will have a better chance of gaining public support if the public is engaged in the selection process. Recently, a search committee conducted online interviews with a number of candidates during a meeting that was open to the public. After the interviews, the search committee voted unanimously to select Spencer Watts, now head of the public library system in Mobile, Ala., as the sole finalist for the job.
There is no guarantee that the East Baton Rouge Parish Library Board of Control will offer the director position to Watts, or that he will accept it.
But the public will get a chance to meet Watts when he offers a presentation on Friday at 7 p.m. at the Jones Creek Regional Branch Library, 6222 Jones Creek Road. The brief presentation will be followed by moderated questions from the audience, then light refreshments.
At 9:30 a.m. Saturday, Watts will be interviewed by the Library Board during its public meeting, also at the Jones Creek branch.
The public events scheduled for Watts should, at the very least, give library patrons a chance to see the man who could very well be the next library director, and ask him about how he might manage the system. We encourage residents to take advantage of that opportunity.