Cathy Russ began her new role as the director of the West Bloomfield Township Public Library in December.

Cathy Russ began her new role as the director of the West Bloomfield Township Public Library in December.

Photo by Deb Jacques


New West Bloomfield library director takes the helm

By: Mark Vest | West Bloomfield Beacon | Published January 8, 2021

 Prior to assuming the position of the director of the West Bloomfield Township Public Library, Cathy Russ was the director of the Troy Public Library.

Prior to assuming the position of the director of the West Bloomfield Township Public Library, Cathy Russ was the director of the Troy Public Library.

Photo by Deb Jacques

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WEST BLOOMFIELD — As someone who grew up in Troy and served as the Troy Public Library director for more than 13 years, it was going to take a pretty good opportunity for Cathy Russ to leave her position there.

Just such an opportunity came along earlier this year, when she learned that the West Bloomfield Township Public Library was searching for a new director after Clara Bohrer, who was in that position for approximately 30 years, decided to retire.

West Bloomfield has been recognized on a national level for its accomplishments, and when Russ learned the position of director was open, she decided to try to seize the opportunity.

That decision paid off, as she was hired for the job, assuming the position Dec. 14.

“Troy library is close to my heart,” Russ said. “It was the first job posting I had seen in 13 years that actually tempted me. … I was happy where I was, but West Bloomfield is West Bloomfield.”

Aside from experience, Russ also comes with proven success, as she was the recipient of the Michigan Library Association Librarian of the Year Award in 2019 while at Troy.

Bohrer expressed confidence in her successor.

“She is going to be fantastic,” Bohrer said. “She’s very enthusiastic, and she did an excellent job of running the Troy Public Library. … I didn’t have any say in who the library board selected, but I was hoping that it would be Cathy.”

From Russ’ perspective, West Bloomfield is a “gold standard” library.

“It has a very supportive community; it has (a) robust offering of programs, services and collections,” Russ said. “It’s well used. The board is fantastic. It’s like everything you could possibly want in a library, in terms of being a director. It’s got a beautiful building. … You name it, they are strong in it, and so, to a library director, that’s the dream.”

The popularity of the library among community members is no secret, and being part of a wanted commodity can make the job of a library director a more interesting one.

Russ, who has a bachelor’s degree in communications from Loyola University Chicago and a master’s in library and information science from Wayne State University, said the community interest in the library is the best part of the job.

“You can tell that a community supports its library and has affection for its library by its usage of that library, and West Bloomfield, the usage statistics are off the chart,” she said. “Especially when you consider that it’s a main branch, and then a small branch. They’re doing the equivalent business of libraries that have multi-branch systems. So, even if you only look at that, it’s a clear indicator that it is a well-loved place in the community.”

Before COVID, according to Russ, the library was averaging 2,900 visitors per day. She also cited an annual report, which had it as the “fourth highest circulating library in the state,” behind only the Ann Arbor District Library, the Kent County District Library and the Capital Area District Library in Lansing, which all have a “multi-branch system.”

Russ said her intent is to build on the success the library has already had: “I do not believe in change for change’s sake.”

From her perspective, the library is “where I would want it to be and where it should be.”

“People are using the digital resources, and people are also coming into the library so they can browse the collection, taking advantage of that,” Russ said. “Based on what I knew of the library before, the research I did before I applied, West Bloomfield service levels across the board are A-plus.”

Perhaps the biggest challenge facing Russ will be attempting to help lead the library back to a sense of normalcy.

“I think the challenge is COVID,” she said. “I think that’s everybody’s challenge these days.”

Russ shared some thoughts as to what patrons can expect with her leading the way as the library’s director.

“They will continue to experience the same fantastic service that they have come to know and come to expect,” she said. “They might not see any changes right off the bat, and if there are any changes, I would expect that they would be building on the accomplishments that have already happened.”

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