Library district chooses leader from its own ranks

TUMWATER — The Timberland Regional Library board has offered their top job to internal candidate Cheryl Heywood, the library district’s current interim public services manager.

After a nationwide search, public forums and identifying three candidates for the executive director post, the library board voted unanimously to offer Heywood the job during its board meeting Wednesday night at the library district’s service center in Tumwater.

A compensation package must still be worked out and Heywood must still accept the post.

“It was an amazing process,” Board President Emmett O’Connell of Thurston County said this morning. “Each of the three finalists were all equally strong and were frankly so unique in what they would bring to Timberland. Cheryl is a dynamic and energetic leader. She brings a striking amount of energy to work and that’s why I supported her.”

Acting Director Gwen Culp has been in the job in April, after the Timberland board fired its previous director Michael Crose, largely over communication issues. Culp didn’t apply for the full-time job. O’Connell praised the work Culp did and says he expects her to go back to being the library district’s information technology manager.

Heywood is responsible for library operations at Timberland. Before that, she served for 12 years as the senior library manager at the Olympia Timberland Library. She’s worked for Timberland since 1996 and for libraries in general for 24 years. She has prided herself on strengthening relationships in her community, including with the West Olympia Business Association, Community Visioning Group, Thurston County Housing Task Force and Enterprise for Equity.

“Under my leadership, Olympia staff morale thrived,” Heywood wrote in a letter to the community introducing herself earlier this month. “Our unique and varied programs continue to meet our community’s needs, and our outreach activities are numerous. … We reached a level of synergy and joy in our work that is palpable.”

The library district serves about 475,000 residents across the region, has about 300 employees and a $20.2 million operating budget.

O’Connell said that Heywood has never been directly responsible for writing a budget before, but he felt comfortable with her because of her familiarity with the library system.

“She was the only candidate who hasn’t been a library director before, but I thought her knowledge of Timberland made up for that,” O’Connell said. “She’s been the leader of our largest branch for over a decade and has intimate knowledge of our budget.”

In July, the library board set the “floor amount” for the next library director’s salary at $120,000, which means it’s an automatic $5,000 bump over the $115,000 the district was paying Crose, and then Culp after him.