Photo by Deb Jacques New Royal Oak Public Library Director Sandy Irwin stands inside the library Oct. 8.

Photo by Deb Jacques New Royal Oak Public Library Director Sandy Irwin stands inside the library Oct. 8.

Photo by Deb Jacques

Royal Oak welcomes new library director

By: Sarah Wojcik | Royal Oak Review | Published October 13, 2021


ROYAL OAK — New Royal Oak Public Library Director Sandy Irwin’s first day on the job was Sept. 13, and she has already implemented policy changes meant to better serve the community.

The library, which is currently in phase five of its reopening plan, allows patrons inside the building. Irwin lifted the library’s ban on cellphone use, as well as the two-bag limit for patrons.

After former library Director Emily Dumas left her position to head the Troy Public Library in February, the Royal Oak Library Board of Trustees assembled a committee to conduct a national search for a new director.

City Commissioner Melanie Macey, who sits on the library board and was a part of the search effort, said the committee had done a director search two years earlier before selecting Dumas, who had served as the library’s head of youth and teen services, so it modified the application and sent it out.

“We got 12 applicants. It was a really strong pool,” Macey said.

The board conducted two rounds of interviews and brought in the finalists to see the library and meet the staff before ultimately selecting Irwin, who is originally from the metro Detroit area and was working as the director of the Durango Public Library in Colorado.

“She was an exceptional candidate,” Macey said. “One of the things we were really looking for was someone who could bring a lot of knowledge and experience, partially because it’s been a really rough year for the library.”

She said the pandemic challenged the library to pivot how it operated, more than half of the library board members are new, and that interim library Director Adrienne Breznau stepped up and navigated through the uncertainty with “steady, even-keeled” leadership while still serving as head of access services.

“Sandy was so impressive in how she answered questions really thoughtfully,” Macey said. “We were looking for someone to come with a fresh perspective. We had lost so much institutional knowledge, and we wanted someone to come get us jump-started again. She’s been great.”

Irwin said, growing up in the metro Detroit area, she always liked Royal Oak and when she graduated from Michigan State University, Royal Oak “was the place to be.” She and her husband had their first date in the city, she said.

“When COVID hit, I was managing people who decided they were going to leave to be closer to their families, and over time, I realized that’s really what I wanted,” she said. “My husband and I talked about it, and our children are adults now, so we decided we wanted to be closer to our family and friends.”

She said she was excited when she heard in January that the library director position in Royal Oak would be opening up.

“I feel so grateful and lucky to be here, and I’m really excited to be working for this library here in Royal Oak,” Irwin said.

She said she first became interested in libraries when she began working for the library at MSU as a freshman and continued to do so all the way until she graduated, eventually filling a position the school created for her. She went on to earn her Master of Library Science from Kent State University in Ohio. She has worked in libraries across the country and lived in all four time zones of the contiguous U.S.

Irwin looks forward to getting past the delta variant so the library can safely resume in-person programming, as well as the construction of the library’s new outdoor terrace and the opening of Centennial Commons. The library currently offers robust virtual offerings for all ages.

The Royal Oak Public Library is located at 222 E. 11 Mile Road, east of Main Street.

For more information, call (248) 246-3700 or visit