Cleveland, OH — The Board of Trustees of the Cleveland Public Library has selected Felton Thomas (December 1993 graduate) as the new director of the library system with its renowned Main Library, a complex of neighborhood branches, and important regional and state-wide computer-based information services. Mr. Thomas presently is Director of Regional Branch Services for the Las Vegas-Clark County Library District (LVCCLD).
“Mr. Thomas has more than 20 years of service in the library field and is highly regarded as an innovator and a rising star in the library world,” said Board President Alice G. Butts. “We feel very fortunate to have been able to attract him to a great library system where he will lead our efforts to keep pace in a challenging and rapidly changing library environment. His vision for the Cleveland Public Library and inspiration for the future were most compelling.”
Ms. Butts said the selection of Mr. Thomas was made difficult because of the high quality of final candidates Library Trustees interviewed. Each would have made a very good director for the Cleveland system and others had more years of experience than Mr. Thomas. However, Mr. Thomas demonstrated “the highest quality of leadership and innovative approaches to addressing urban public library issues,” said Ms. Butts.
“The library world is changing rapidly with new technologies and demands for information and services. We felt that Mr. Thomas brings the combination of leadership, experience and intellect that will be needed to ensure that Cleveland Public Library maintains its role as a vital institution in our community,” Ms. Butts added.
Mr. Thomas succeeds Andrew Venable Jr., who retired June 30 after 10 years at the helm of the Cleveland Public Library. Mr. Thomas said he was inspired to become a library director years ago after meeting Mr. Venable at a library conference. Mr. Thomas will take the lead of a renowned Main Library, 28 neighborhood branches, the CLEVNET consortium for automation and online services for 30 library systems in nine counties, the federally-assisted Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, the Ohio Center for the Book, and two mobile libraries.
Reflective of the economic challenges facing other libraries and businesses in Ohio and the entire country, Cleveland Public Library also is experiencing budget reductions. On Thursday, December 18, the Board of Trustees rescinded a 2007 resolution that granted across-the-board increases to all non-bargaining unit library employees. Passed unanimously by the board, this act eliminates a 3% pay increase for 2009. Bargaining unit library employees are not affected by the decision. The current union contracts expire at the end of 2009, with negotiations expected in the Fall of 2009. Budget reduction challenges await the new library director, but the most recent levy passage showed strong local support.
Remarking on the selection, Patrick Losinski, Executive Director of the Columbus Metropolitan Library and Chair of the Executive Board of the Urban Libraries Council (ULC) said: “I am very glad to see Felton Thomas accede to Cleveland. The ULC is proud of him as a star graduate of our Executive Leadership Institute and we are delighted as the emerging generation of library innovators takes the stage. We welcome him as one of the metropolitan library directors in Ohio. He will bring a fresh perspective and help us shape library policy on a statewide basis.”
Mr. Thomas’ entire career in libraries has been at the Las Vegas-Clark County Library District where he gained attention in the library world with a proven record of success in assuming increasing levels of responsibility. He received a Master’s of Library and Information Science at the University of Hawaii and is a Ph.D. candidate in Managerial Leadership in the Information Profession at Simmons University.
CONTACT: Tena Wilson
Interim Public Relations Administrator