New library executive director promises community engagement

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The Pierce County Library System Board has selected Gretchen Caserotti as its new Executive Director.

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The Pierce County Library System has named a new executive director to lead its 20 libraries.

Gretchen Caserotti was chosen by the board to oversee the library system that spans 15 cities and the unincorporated county. Caserotti told The News Tribune she wanted to discuss waiving late fees, expanding digital service and listening to community needs.

“The Pierce County Library’s outstanding reputation has attracted a strong pool of applicants. Gretchen’s impressive business acumen, leadership success and excellent community building skills made her our first choice,” said Board Chair Jamilyn Penn.

She will replace Georgia Lomax, who announced her retirement last year. Lomax will retire next month and Caserotti will take office on May 16. She will serve as the fifth executive director of the 76-year-old system, overseeing a $43 million budget and more than 400 employees.

She told The News Tribune that she prioritizes listening to the community and breaking down barriers to access.

Caserotti has served as director of the library in Meridian, Idaho since 2013 after beginning her career as a children’s librarian at the New York Public Library. She earned a master’s degree in library science from the Pratt Institute in New York.

Library Journal magazine named her a Mover & Shaker in 2010. The American Library Association awarded Caserotti the Fellowship for the Center of the Future of Libraries in 2018. The Idaho Business Review named her one of the Women of the year the following year.

“I am thrilled to join the Pierce County Library and look forward to meeting the residents served by the incredible library system,” Caserotti said in a statement. “Building community is central to my work. I advocate bringing library services and resources to where people need them most.

The Pierce County Library System is about to undergo some big changes.

The board is considering continuing to waive late fees, a decision made during the coronavirus pandemic. The Pierce County Library System is reviewing potential revenue impacts after a unanimous board vote to seek the removal of late fees in February. Caserotti is supportive, saying his former library was the first in Idaho to eliminate late fees. She said more materials had been returned and library revenue had not been affected.

Caserotti is excited about the library system’s plan to seek public input on the future of library buildings. She plans to visit all 20 libraries in Pierce County, including those described as dilapidated. The library system will have a community committee that will decide the fate of the Lakewood and Tillicum libraries, which have been described as “in critical condition”.

“I’m glad this is the approach the library has started: building a solution for and with the community,” Caserotti told The News Tribune.

Pierce County Library System currently offers thousands of e-books, magazines, audiobooks, and other digital media on its Libby app. Caserotti wants to increase awareness of the free app. She went door-to-door in Idaho, registering residents for library cards and teaching them about online services.

“Most people didn’t even know that,” she says. “We need to reduce barriers to access. Everyone can access it and it can make the library more convenient and accessible to everyone.

Josephine Peterson covers Pierce County government news for The News Tribune.


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