When Nancy Ledeboer moved to the Inland Northwest in March 1992 after accepting a job with the Spokane Library District, she was greeted by a typical hodgepodge of local spring weather.
“I remember one day we had rain, sunshine, snow and hail,” Ledeboer said.
Ledeboer will be in for another transition in climate and landscape as she moves back to Spokane from Arizona in a few months. On Tuesday, the Spokane County Library board of trustees announced that the Montana native would replace Mike Wirt as executive director, beginning March 1, 2012. Wirt, who has served as SCLD director since 1979, announced his retirement earlier this year.
“Spokane is a community that feels like home,” said Ledeboer, who has served as director of the Pima County Public Library in Pima County, Ariz. since 2005.
Ledeboer has a son and grandchildren in Spokane as well as a daughter who lives in Seattle.
Currently the president of the Arizona Library Association, Ledeboer has also worked as the deputy director of the Clark County Library District in Nevada and as associate director of the King County Library System. She served as deputy director for the city of Spokane Public Library from 1996 to 1998.
“Nancy has the background and experience,” said Wirt. “As a district, we’re trying to get out more in the community and I think Nancy can help us do that.”
Wirt will provide his successor with updates from SCLD meetings over the next several months, although there are no plans for an overlapping phase once Ledeboer begins in March.
“I’ll be there to answer questions, but I intend to kind of stay away,” Wirt said.
Ledeboer will be moving from a district that covers 9,000 square miles and includes 27 branches and 500 employees. SCLD is currently home to around 180 employees at 10 branches throughout Spokane County.
A total of nine candidates applied for the director’s position when the job was announced in late August. Applications were accepted until Oct. 14. Ledeboer and Diane Smikahl Vieira, library director of the Benicia (Calif.) Public Library, emerged as the two finalists in November and visited Spokane for two days earlier this month.
On Dec. 2, both candidates toured three SCLD branches, including the Spokane Valley Library, before meeting with residents during an open house at the CenterPlace Regional Events Center that evening. On Dec. 3, Ledeboer and Smikahl Vierira fielded questions from nearly 60 SCLD employees at CenterPlace.
Ledeboer said Pima County and Spokane County both feature a mix of urban, suburban and rural settings where libraries have their own distinct civic niche.
“It’s about how connected the library is in the community,” she said.
With the rapidly changing terrain of technology, Ledeboer said libraries can play an integral part in “helping people learn throughout their lives.”
“Libraries should be in the educational business,” she said. “They really should be learning centers.”