East Lansing’s new library director Kristin Shelley never intended to become a librarian.
With a degree in political science and no real job prospects, Shelley said she wanted to help people but wasn’t sure which career would allow her to do so.
Shelley said her friend recently had graduated with a library science degree and loved her job, so Shelley went back to school and received a graduate degree in library science from Indiana University, Bloomington. As the current deputy director of Worthington Libraries in Worthington, Ohio, and recently selected director of East Lansing Public Library, or ELPL, Shelley does not regret her change of heart.
“I haven’t looked back with any regret,” she said. “I can honestly say that in the 22 years I’ve been librarian I have loved it.”
Shelley recently was selected as the replacement for Sylvia Marabate, ELPL’s former director, who retired in June, and will start her position Jan. 18, said Beth Prince, president of ELPL’s board of trustees. Shelly was chosen by a unanimous vote of board members, Prince said.
“(Shelley) seemed to have a vision for the future of the library,” she said.
Shelley has served at her current position since 2007 and prior to that was a librarian at the Columbus Metropolitan Library in Columbus, Ohio, from 1989 to 2007.
Shelley’s experience in diverse communities will be valuable to the East Lansing area, Prince said. Managing budgetary constraints also will be an important part of the director’s job, she said.
“We’re hoping to do a strategic plan in the near future,” Prince said. “The board didn’t want to do a strategic plan without a director and their input. Between the budget and the strategic plan for the library we need to make sure services do not suffer from budgetary constraints.”
Ohio funds its libraries differently than any other state, so it will be necessary to learn a new funding system, Shelley said. It will be vital to research the Michigan library laws and see what can be done to efficiently use funds, she said.
“I want to meet with those who are in charge of the budget for the city, and I want to listen to what the staff, city, community and library users want in a library and figure out how to best allocate those funds to meet those needs,” she said.
Understanding the library’s various users is important to understanding what the East Lansing community needs from its library, said Diane Goddeeris, city council member and liaison to the selection committee.
“The makeup of the population is a lot different than what you might have in a smaller town or in urban area because of university and business connections,” she said.
As the product of a Big Ten university and a lifelong library user, Shelley said she is up to the challenge.
“I’m looking forward to meeting the community at large,” Shelley said. “There’s nothing better than connecting a book with a person and turning them on to something more.”