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New director named for Bellingham Public Library

Nancy Kerr has been named director of the Bellingham Public Library. Most recently, she has been director of the Kern County Library in Bakersfield, California.
Nancy Kerr has been named director of the Bellingham Public Library. Most recently, she has been director of the Kern County Library in Bakersfield, California. Courtesy to The Bellingham Herald

Bellingham has hired a library director from a major central California library system to replace Pam Kiesner, who announced her retirement in September after 13 years.

Nancy Kerr resigned this week as director of the 24-branch Kern County Library in Bakersfield, Calif., about 100 miles north of Los Angeles.

“We’re really excited about her coming to this part of the country,” said Bellingham Library trustee Rick Osen. “She’s very passionate about libraries.”

Nancy Kerr has been hired as a “limited-term” director for 18 months to three years, as Bellingham Public Library officials examine funding options for its main library and two branches.

Osen said Kerr specifically sought a position in the Northwest.

Kerr has been hired as a “limited-term” director for 18 months to three years, as Bellingham Public Library officials examine funding options for its main library and two branches, which share a catalog with the Whatcom County Library System.

She’ll earn $9,764 a month, a salary comparable to what she was earning in California.

Kerr, who earned a master of library science degree and a bachelor’s degree in French from the University of Illinois, worked at public libraries in Illinois before moving to California. There, she served in leadership roles at public libraries in the southern desert town of Banning and the northern Los Angeles suburb of Santa Clarita. Early in her career, she focused on youth services, according to her resume at LinkedIn.com.

Her interests include collecting antique children’s and young adult books.

The Kern County Library stretches across an 8,000-square-mile area of urban, suburban and rural communities in the arid San Joaquin Valley, where the economy is dominated by agriculture and oil production. Its libraries have been struggling in the face of budget cuts caused by declining revenues in the gas and oil industry, according to articles in the Bakersfield Californian newspaper.

Voters there recently rejected a $15 million sales tax measure and the Kern County Board of Supervisors has considered privatizing the library system.

Bellingham’s library has seen struggles of its own recently, as it suffered staff and service cuts in the wake of the 2008 recession. For nearly 20 years, officials have been seeking ways to replace the current building at 210 Central Ave., which was constructed in the 1950s and is seen as too small for current needs.

Nevertheless, Bellingham remains among the most used libraries in the state, with the second-highest turnover of lending materials, according to 2015 statistics from the Washington State Library.

Hours have expanded and staff has been added in recent years, allowing expansion of the library’s electronic and digital offerings. Its new SkillShare space offers programs as diverse as weaving, gaming and paper crafts. Author visits and children’s programs frequently see packed attendance. A revamped library website debuts in mid-December.

Robert Mittendorf: 360-756-2805, @BhamMitty

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