With South Pasadena’s library director, Steve Fjeldsted, now retired, assistant Cathy Billings has been named acting director – and she told the Review she’s looking to tackle some immediate challenges while also hoping to be considered for the big seat recently vacated by the long-serving Fjeldsted.
“I would be interested,” Billings said of succeeding Fjeldsted, who was director since 2006, and who announced his retirement June 13 during a meeting of the Library Board of Trustees.
“This is a great library,’’ Billings added. “People in the community love it, and it’s highly used. It would be a nice place to lead.”
Billings, with a Master’s degree in library and information science from the University of Washington, came to the South Pasadena job two years ago.
In a 30-plus-year career, she’s also worked as senior library, arts and culture supervisor for Glendale’s Brand Library & Art Center, and done stints at the Center for Fiction in New York and the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. In addition, she worked at a nuclear research facility in Switzerland.
“We are extremely fortunate to have someone of Cathy’s experience and skill in the associate role who can step in and provide a seamless transition for our library department,” said City Manager Stephanie DeWolfe, who announced Billings’ move to acting director.
In announcing Billings’ new role, DeWolfe pointed to her role in helping to upgrade the library’s public catalog interface; the creation of a Facebook page; adding automatic email due-date reminders; plus new summer reading program software, a new public service desk, new computer workstations and a self-check kiosk.
“We’ve made a lot of progress our last two years,” Billings said.
While Billings said she was interested in becoming director – the city manager ultimately makes that call, with input from the library’s trustees – she was not publicly lobbying for the promotion. Instead, she said she’s focused on three key challenges in the coming months:
• Filling two librarian vacancies.
• Launching a mobile app.
• And getting a “Library of Things” off the ground.
What’s a “Library of Things”?
It’s a program, Billings said, that’s become more popular among libraries, in which they lend out not only books but also all manner of other items, from household tools, cameras, hiking kits, bicycle repair kits … even cake pans.
Palos Verdes had such a program, and Berkeley has had one for years, Billings said.
“One of the challenges is finding the space,” said Billings.
There are also openings, which will be posted on the city’s web site, for a children’s librarian and an adult services librarian with a focus on digital services, Billings said. Vetting for those positions will be done internally, she said.
And there’s the in-the-works app, which will give library users “a better interface with resources,” Billings said.
That’s especially key to keeping young people engaged with the library’s many services, she said.
“People almost expect you to have an app,” she said. “Kids today hardly ever sit down at a PC — everything is on their phone.”
In a release issued by the city, Billings also said, “Getting to know the South Pas community has been wonderful, and seeing how the citizens support and love their library confirms what a good decision it was to join the team here.
“Working with such dedicated colleagues to implement recommendations from the Library Operations study has been an exciting and rewarding challenge.”