Monday, April 9, 2012

What to expect from the new library CEO

By choosing Lee Keesler as their next CEO this morning, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Library trustees selected an executive who should be able to form strong connections with partners throughout the community and continue healing the library’s relationship with its primary funder, Mecklenburg County.

Keesler, a longtime executive with First Union and the president of the Arts & Science Council for five years, will replace Vick Phillips as library CEO. He starts July 1.

Keesler is one of the more likable guys in Charlotte’s public life, and is well-suited to form and strengthen bonds with the county, with individual branches, with employees and with all the different groups that have a stake in the future of the library. His experience managing the ASC’s relationships with its dozens of affiliates should translate well to the library. He has well-established relationships already and has equity with many of the community leaders who can help make the library’s continued transition a success.

The library has been through a transformational period the past couple of years. County commissioners backed most of County Manager Harry Jones’ huge budget cut two years ago. Then library chief Charles Brown and library trustees mutually agreed to part ways. A community task force spent about a year brainstorming the library’s future in an age when public resources are scarce and technology is changing the face of libraries across the nation.

Keesler does not strike us as someone who will come in and make bold, transformational changes. One could argue that the library needs someone who will. Keesler was known as a steady hand, not a change agent, at ASC. The community should expect him to bring that same steady hand and congenial personality to the library, but not to be a catalyst for dramatic change. Trustees must have believed Keesler’s strengths were more important than those of someone who is a strategic innovator at his core.

Keesler endured his share of headaches navigating political terrain at ASC. He has either forgotten some of that pain or has missed that type of challenge after being away for a couple of years, because he’ll get those headaches and more leading the library.

We can’t let Vick Phillips leave as interim CEO without noting what a vital role he played the past year-plus. When Charles Brown left, the library was in disarray and its relationships with the county and other partners were in critical condition. Phillips quickly repaired all that and put the library back on track. He has earned this community’s deep appreciation.

-- Taylor Batten


Wiley Coyote said...

What "bond with the Couny"?

The library systems is indicative of public schools; old, antiquated and many put in the wrong places.

Prior to the budget mess a few years ago, 75% of the library budget went to salaries and bennies.

With technology constantly advancing, it's time to look at scrapping the current system and put smaller, more technology friendly branches around the County and cut out the waste.

I saw an article today about the death of the pay phone.

The current library system needs to meet the same fate.

Anonymous said...

Color me shocked - SHOCKED - that they hired another uptown mafia shakedown artist.

Anonymous said...

I remember Lee from when I work on an ASC campaign. He is a good guy. I wish him well in his new challenge. We don't need a change agent as much as we need someone who can work well with others to find mutually beneficial solutions to problems.