Ferndale residents, meet your new library director
By Jeremy Selweski and Andy Kozlowski
November 28, 2012
FERNDALE — She didn’t have to move very far, but Jessica Keyser was thrilled to make the transition to her home community as Ferndale’s new library director.
Keyser, 31, who previously served nearly two years as director of the Hazel Park Memorial Library, worked her first day in Ferndale Nov. 19. Leaving Hazel Park was not an easy decision, despite the fact that she only had to travel about a mile and a half down Nine Mile Road to reach her new destination.
“If it was any city other than Ferndale, then I don’t think I would have even considered it,” said Keyser, who has lived in Ferndale for almost 10 years. “It was really difficult for me to leave Hazel Park because of the wonderful community and all the great friendships that I’ve made there. The hardest part was saying goodbye to the staff and all the people and knowing that I’m not going to be seeing the same faces every day. I found working there to be a really rewarding and enjoyable experience.”
Keyser was still settling in at the Ferndale Public Library last week, but she was already feeling energized and looking forward to the future.
“I’ve been getting to know everyone here, and they’ve all been very welcoming and very friendly in showing me the ropes,” she said. “It’s so exciting to have the opportunity to become the library director in my own hometown. When I did my interviews, I was really impressed with the professionalism of the board and the staff, so the possibility of being a part of this was very exciting.”
The Library Board of Trustees announced Nov. 2 that it had appointed Keyser as Ferndale’s new library director. The board’s decision came about six weeks after it revealed Aug. 23 that former director Kate Pohjola had departed after a little more than a year on the job. No reasons were given for Pohjola’s sudden resignation. Ed Burns, head of adult services at the library, served as acting director during the interim.
Keyser has a Master of Library and Information Science degree from Wayne State University, and she also has a background as a property manager. While a student at Wayne, she had no intention of pursuing a career in library administration; instead, she pictured herself going into academic libraries to pursue intensive research. But after starting at the Hazel Park Memorial Library as a part-time reference librarian in September 2008, she found herself in the right place at the right time, and the board soon promoted her to library director in March 2010.
Under Keyser’s leadership, the Hazel Park Memorial Library flourished. It was immediately apparent that the library needed to secure a 0.49-mill millage extension in order to avoid cuts to staff, programming and materials, and Hazel Park voters approved the proposal by an overwhelming margin in November 2011. Keyser also helped expand and diversify the library’s reach with the addition of an Arabic-language collection, the revival of its senior outreach program, the growth of its youth and teen services, and the implementation of a new e-book program.
Ferndale Library Board President Jim O’Donnell said that the board was thorough when selecting a new director, interviewing three finalists two times each and deliberating for five or six hours before making its final decision. And at the end of the process, Keyser emerged as the best choice for the job.
“Jessica met all the criteria that we were looking for, and then some,” O’Donnell explained. “We wanted someone with strong management skills who understood the needs of our library and was willing to work with us on our strategic plan. It was remarkable to see all that she had accomplished as library director in Hazel Park in such a short time, which I think says a lot about her value to the community. We were also very excited that she’s a Ferndale resident who is already a patron of our library.”
In addition, O’Donnell pointed out that Keyser already seemed eager to get involved, as she had attended at least one of the board’s strategic planning meetings in May. Loyalty and dedication were very important to the board, since Pohjola had barely lasted a year as library director, and previous director Doug Raber had lasted less than three years.
“We were very careful because we wanted to make sure that we found a new library director who was in it for the long haul,” O’Donnell said. “We wanted to have a director who was fully committed to our specific library. I think that Jessica will not only make a great director, but she will make a great director for a long time. With her as our leader, we are in great position to continue moving our library forward.”
Keyser is confident that her transition to Ferndale will be a smooth one because both Hazel Park and Ferndale are members of The Library Network, which includes 65 libraries in southeast Michigan that share many of the same services. She believes that this, combined with her good working relationship with the library staff and board, should prove to be a recipe for success.
“Libraries are really becoming destinations and gathering places in the community,” Keyser said, “and I feel like the Ferndale library is truly ahead of the curve on that front. I’m really excited about helping us grow our collection and expand our programming, and I also want to be part of the ongoing strategic planning process. I just hope that I can help us keep moving in the right direction.”
For more information on the library, call (248) 546-2504 or visit www.ferndale.lib.mi.us.
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