Las Vegas library director named Librarian of the Year, to retire in 2014

Jeanne Goodrich came to Las Vegas to lead one of the nation’s largest library districts just as it was about to plunge off a financial cliff.

She led the district through those financial troubles, oversaw the opening of a new library and a new district headquarters, and watched the industry start a profound change as digital books began to take hold.

Now, four years after arriving, Goodrich, 64, has announced her retirement. It won’t take effect until October 2014, giving the board time to find a replacement. A search firm is expected to be hired next month to start a national search.

As she prepares to head out the door, Goodrich was named Librarian of the Year last week by the Nevada Library Association.

“I love libraries. I’ve been doing it for 43 years,” Goodrich said. “But it’s time for something different.”

Goodrich arrived in 2009, taking over after Daniel Walters retired after more than a decade at the helm.

She previously operated her own library consulting company for a decade and had experience working directly for large and small library districts.

She moved here from Oregon, where she had lived since 1990 when she took over as the deputy director of the Multnomah County Library. She said she probably will move to Portland, Ore., after her tenure here is complete.

In nominating Goodrich for Librarian of the Year, Board Trustee Michael Saunders said she made “difficult but necessary leadership decisions” as the district’s executive director.

Faced with budget cuts of 14 percent because of the Las Vegas area’s high foreclosure rate and accompanying tax revenue decline, she was able to keep the urban libraries open seven days a week. Hours were cut, and almost 100 staff positions were eliminated.

But the budget for resources — new books and the like — never dropped below 15 percent of the district’s budget. The district’s overall budget is about $67 million this year.

The library, she said, is a community resource. It’s a place where people can take classes or use the computers to apply for jobs or learn about how to be a better small-business owner.

“It’s a lot more than that now,” she said. “It’s a community center. It’s an engine of economic development. It’s a place that brings people together and helps them.”

The Las Vegas area has begun to grow again, and the district will need to keep up, she said. Even during the recession and with minimal growth, the libraries were busier than ever.

For the next fiscal year, there probably will be another small drop in property tax revenue and a small increase in sales tax revenue. The two combined make up about 95 percent of the district’s revenue.

This year, the district was able to keep the libraries open an hour later than they have been the past three years. And Goodrich said pay raises probably will be implemented this year.

“I feel optimistic,” she said. “But we have to be careful.”

Contact reporter Richard Lake at rlake@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0307. You can find him on Twitter at @richardlake.