New director supports team effort in improving library system

The Las Vegas-Clark County Library District has a new executive director.

Former executive director Jeanne Goodrich retired at the end of the summer. Her successor, Ronald R. Heezen, Ph.D., started in early September.

Since 2009, Heezen has been the executive director of the Shreve Memorial Library System in Shreveport, La.

Heezen said he has found the library district staff in Las Vegas to be “compassionate and yet to believe in accountability, and I think that’s the primary sign of a staff that would make a great library. Plus, the fact that (Las Vegas has) a board that has supported innovation and making the library a leader in technology, as well as continuing standard library services, speaks volumes about what the library is capable of doing and where we’re capable of going.”

He said innovation could be seen in the library district’s early adoption of digital content programs, such as Freegle and OverDrive. Those are indicators that it’s embracing change for the good of the public, he said.

The library board was just as complimentary of Heezen, with library board chairwoman Keiba Crear saying, “Ron Heezen is a seasoned library professional who brings extensive experience in administration, automation, budgeting, building design and space utilization, among other relevant experience. The board looks forward to working with him to meet the challenges to come.”

Heezen holds a bachelor’s degree in history from the University of Utah, a master’s degree in library science from Brigham Young University and a doctorate in library science (rhetoric cognate) from Texas Woman’s University. He also was the director of the Green Gold Library System, consisting of 12 parishes in Northwest Louisiana. The Shreveport system consists of 21 branches. Among other previous positions, he was the director of the Frisco Public Library in Frisco, Texas, and the executive director of the Omaha Public Library in Omaha, Neb.

Heezen traveled to Las Vegas to attend a wedding in 2009 and visited a couple of Las Vegas library branches, where he looked at the sorting system. His interest stemmed from the fact that Shreveport was moving toward implementing an automation process, and he wanted to see how things worked here.

“It’s like a busman’s holiday,” he said. “You can never get a librarian in a community without that librarian going to the area libraries.”

The following year, he sent six Shreveport staff members to Las Vegas to get a handle on how the library district was integrating its information process. He purposely did not go with them in case his enthusiasm tainted their perception of the new system.

“I’ve always told my staff, ‘Tell me if my baby’s ugly,’ ” he said. “That’s my standard watchword. It’s hard for a staff to look at a boss who is totally smitten and say, ‘Ooh, that’s an ugly baby, boss.’ That’s not the kind of thing I wanted to put on them, so I was like, ‘You go on this trip; you evaluate.’ And they came back as enthralled as I was.”

Heezen has known his wife, Candace, since she was 7. Married for 39 years, they have one daughter, Jennifer, and four grandchildren.

Heezen’s hobbies include reading, woodworking, building design and space utilization — with the last two leading the couple to consider building their dream house in Las Vegas.

Heezen said Las Vegas and Shreveport are similar, in that the latter’s economy relied on oil fields. People could get good paying jobs working on the oil derricks without needing a higher education. In Las Vegas, he said, the casino industry made for the same type of situation.

“So, the question is, how do we help people truly achieve their full potential? Education is the key,” he said. “You go out and provide the training, the opportunities for them, and then you wait for the word to spread. A friend tells a friend, who tells another friend, and pretty soon it becomes public knowledge that we can get this kind of advantage by using a public library.”

He called his leadership style as supporting a team effort. He said the biggest lesson learned in his career wasn’t about budgets or what digital system to use but was a more human one.

“Every person is making a hard journey,” he said. “We can’t look at other people and say, ‘This person did this, that person did that,’ or whatever, because every person is fighting a hard battle, and it’s up to us to step up and say, ‘How can I help you with that battle?’ “

Contact Summerlin Area View reporter Jan Hogan at jhogan@viewnews.com or 702-387-2949.

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