Middebury hires new Ilsley Library director

MIDDLEBURY — Kevin Unrath, who currently heads up the borrower services division of the Middletown Township (New Jersey) Public Library, will in April begin his new job as director of Middlebury’s Ilsley Public Library.
The Middlebury selectboard on Tuesday endorsed the Ilsley Library Board of Trustees’ nomination of Unrath, one of around 30 people who applied for the top administrative job that will soon be vacated by David Clark. Clark announced last year that he would be stepping down as director on March 31 following a very successful 16-year run during which he helped, among other things, bring the Ilsley’s lending and information technology into the 21st century.
“I’m excited to continue the excellent work that David Clark has accomplished during his dedicated service to Middlebury over the past 16 years,” Unrath said. “2013 marks my 16th year working in libraries, and what I expect will be the beginning of the best part of my career: I’m looking forward to working together with everyone in the wonderful Middlebury community to keep things going strong at Ilsley.”
Ilsley Library Trustee David Andrews said he and his colleagues were impressed with Unrath’s diverse résumé, which includes experience in both academic and public libraries.
“We felt he was a very well-rounded candidate,” Andrews said.
This was the board’s second search for a new library director. The first one ended in disappointment last September when the finalist withdrew from consideration.
Unrath’s work experience includes:
•  Managing the borrower services department at a busy Middletown Township Public Library that has circulated more than a million items during each of the past three years. This work has included supervising 20 staff at the main library and three branch libraries, creating library-wide schedules, assigning and evaluating work, performing complex reporting, and troubleshooting the circulation and patron modules of the integrated library system.
•  Library area manager for the City of Albuquerque Public Library in Albuquerque, N.M. (2009-2011). During this time he managed all aspects of the main branch of a public library system and supervised branch managers at three smaller branches.
•  Access services unit head for Western Carolina University in Cullowhee, N.C. (2007-2008). While there, he managed access services operations including circulation, reserves, interlibrary loan and service to distance learners at a mid-sized university.
Unrath eagerly applied for the Ilsley vacancy when he saw it advertised.
“I could see the community was very supportive of the Ilsley Library and could tell just speaking with people and with David (Clark) and the board that (local residents) clearly enjoy their library,” Unrath said during a telephone interview this week.
“Ilsley Library impresses me in many ways,” he added. “The library has strong community support; a dedicated board, staff, volunteer and Friends group; wide-reaching programs for patrons of all ages; and a collection with breadth, depth and some fun surprises. These assets, together with a growing program of technology skills training and online resource acquisition, make for a great library.”
He likes the traditional things the Ilsley is doing — like checking out books for children and having programs and story times — and also its forward thinking programs, like helping people learn how to use the computer and doing some digitization of the newspapers.
Unrath and his wife, Shirl Sazynski, will spend the coming weeks scouting for a home in the area. Once he gets here, Unrath will assess the current library program and determine, in consultation with others, how it might be improved. For example, the library is due for another five-year plan, and Unrath will play a big role in its crafting. He also pledged to help in an ongoing effort to place downtown WiFi equipment in the Ilsley building — which is in the market for some repairs, particularly to its roof.
“I’d like to get my bearings and keep what is a very strong library,” Unrath said. “It is a good library directorship to take over.”
He is pleased with the library’s central, downtown location, making it easily accessible as a hub of social and intellectual activity.
Unrath described his management style as being collaborative, “listening to what the needs are for the community and the staff, trying to figure out what kind of solution we can come to that is within budget that’s doable for moving forward. I do enjoy the traditional aspect of library services … but I am also very interested in moving forward with things like technology training.”
Meanwhile, library trustees are planning a retirement ceremony for Clark. It is tentatively being scheduled on March 15 from 5 to 7 p.m. at a location still to be determined.
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected].

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