October 10, 2023
• Almost two months after the departure of Kim Hewitt, the search for a new library director is readying to head into the next chapter.
Finding the right person to fill an open job can be tough, as the staff and patrons at the Needham Free Public Library are well aware. Following the 65-year tenure of her predecessor Ann MacFate, Kim Hewitt assumed the role of director in November 2021. But just under two years later, Hewitt has left to serve as the director of the Watertown Public Library, having worked her last day in Needham on Aug. 31.
Deputy Town Manager Katie King is leading the search for a successor, whom they hope to find by December.
“Needham is seeking an energetic, engaged, and collaborative individual to oversee all Library operations and to ensure effective and efficient delivery of Library services and activities,” King wrote in an email. “We are looking for a Director who will provide vision and leadership for the library as a vital center of learning, culture and inclusion and who will work closely with the Board of Trustees and NFPL staff to achieve this shared vision.”
King is far from alone in working through the hiring process. Needham’s Human Resources Department is also assisting with the search, along with Town Manager Kate Fitzpatrick, members of the Trustees of the Needham Public Library, Friends of the Needham Free Public Library, the Library Foundation of Needham, library staff and town employees, all of whom are participating in three rounds of interviews. The initial plan was to spend four weeks in interviews, with the first week devoted to screening potential candidates, King laid out at the Trustees’ Aug. 8 meeting.
While at their Sept. 13 meeting, King said the second round of interviews was slated for Oct. 2-6 and the third for Oct. 9-13, but that timeline appears to have shifted. King noted via email that only the first round of interviews have been conducted as of Oct. 6, and they now plan to hold the third round of interviews the week of Oct. 16, “subject to candidate availability.”
Prior to conducting interviews, King told trustees that there was a “strong pool” of applicants, after gathering resumes from people in Florida, Texas, Pennsylvania and a few in Massachusetts. The town advertised the job post with particular emphasis on libraries in New England, King said.
The right replacement will be someone committed “to community engagement and enrichment” who can carry out and envision the library’s future, King wrote to Needham Local. After the town manager’s office appoints a final candidate, the trustees will hold a vote of approval. Until then, Assistant Director Demetri Kyriakis has served as the acting director.
Reference Specialist Allison Smith, who Hewitt hired before her departure, said she feels the library, for now, is in good hands with Kyriakis at the helm.
“A little bit of chaos is inherent in the process, I think everybody is handling the transition really well,” Smith said of the current transition period. “Everybody’s been really supportive of each other, of administration and of patrons.”
Kyriakis declined to comment while the search is ongoing.
Whoever is hired to serve as director may find they have big shoes to fill — a library director drives the “big picture” ideas and manages all the daily to-dos, Smith said, all while representing the library before the town.
“I think having consistency there and having someone who feels invested in the success of the library and therefore the success of the wider community is really integral to a flourishing community,” Smith said.
During her tenure in Needham, Hewitt began laying the groundwork for several new library initiatives, King wrote.
“The Town thanks Kim for her service to Needham,” King wrote. “Under Kim’s leadership, and in partnership with the Trustees and library staff, the Needham Free Public Library completed a new 5-year strategic plan, launched a Library of Things collection, and embarked on a feasibility study for building updates. These plans, informed by the Needham community, provide useful roadmaps for the next Director to begin their work.”
Bruce Barnett, president of the Friends of the Needham Public Library, shared his excitement in finding a new director.
“We look forward to the hiring of a new library director and to supporting the new director and the staff in meeting the library’s goals and serving the town, as we’ve done for the past 50 years,” Barnett wrote in an email.
The town is hoping to announce the new director by December.