Charleston library system snags librarian of the year as new director

Nicolle Davies, Library Journal’s 2016 librarian of the year, will take over as director of the Charleston County Public Library.

As the Charleston County Public Library gears up for a massive renovation and construction effort, it has hired a heavy hitter as its new executive director: Nicolle Davies, Library Journal’s 2016 librarian of the year.

The national industry publication praised Davies in January for her leadership of the Arapahoe Library District, which serves the suburbs of Denver, Colo. Since starting as executive director there in 2012, she stocked the system’s libraries with 3-D printers and virtual-reality headsets, oversaw the construction of a new branch and pushed for renovations that included a recording studio and live theater space. The magazine also credited her leadership for constituents’ decision to raise their own taxes in 2015, increasing the library system’s budget by 25 percent.

Arapahoe Library District Board President Katie Schroeder said she recently attended a conference on library innovation and heard about practices that Arapahoe librarians had adopted years ago. She said Davies transformed everything from the way staff interact with patrons to the addition of “forward-facing” hands-on technology experiences, such as robotics and drone piloting.

“She is driven, she knows what she wants and she is willing to be dedicated to whatever she is working on and make sure it gets done,” Schroeder said.

In announcing her move to Charleston County, Davies said she was pleased to join “a community that invests in their libraries.”

“During my interview, I was impressed with the warmth and passion that the staff and board have for this work,” Davies said in a press release. “My hope is to serve even more patrons and members of the community as our libraries change and expand.”

Davies will take over in October for Cynthia Bledsoe, who has been serving as acting executive director since previous director Doug Henderson retired in January. She will oversee a $108.5 million building and renovation program that voters approved in a November 2014 referendum to build two new libraries, replace three existing libraries and renovate 13 libraries.

The move is a step up for Davies, a former television news producer. The Arapahoe Library District serves an area containing about 250,000 people with eight branches, a jail library and a mobile library. The Charleston County Public Library serves a county of 390,000 people with 16 branches and a bookmobile.

Davies’ starting salary will be $151,250. She was one of more than 100 applicants for the post and one of three finalists alongside Alan Kornblau, director of the Delray Beach Public Library in Florida; and Michael Steinmacher, director of the Barr Memorial Library at Fort Knox Army Base in Kentucky.

Charleston County Public Library Board Chairman Andy Brack said Charleston is “blessed” to gain a leader like Davies.

“A world-class city attracts world-class talent,” Brack said.

Reach Paul Bowers at (843) 937-5546 or twitter.com/paul_bowers.