Curry Public Library Director Jeremy Skinner was recognized recently as the 2019 Oregon Library Association (OLA) Librarian of the Year .
The award was presented April 19 at the joint conference of the OLA and Washington Library Association.
Employees and community leaders alike stated that Skinner is a strategic planner with a vision. Library board member Sandy Grummond went as far as to say, “Everything he does affects something further down the line.” She also added that most of the time, he’s already accounted for those consequences, as well.
The road to this award was a long one though Grummond stated before Skinner returned to his hometown in 2013, library directors came and went.
In 2014, Skinner began preparing a five-year plan for the library. This plan called for, in part, paying off a $437,000 loan taken out in 2007 to build the library, expand and improve the library’s facilities, infrastructure and programming, as well as enhance the budget and investment strategies.
In 2015, with the help of gifts from the estates of Harald Haug, Charles Rouse and Cliff and Maxine Yandon, the library was able to pay off the original loan for the construction that ended in 2008, as well as fund the construction of a new community facility. Originally, the Curry Public Library was to have a modest one-story building designed for hosting meetings. Funding shortfalls necessitated omitting this accessory building from the facility.
Catalog librarian Jordan Popoff, a 10-year employee of the Curry Public Library, said the first thing she noticed when Skinner stepped into his role as director, was his deep, sincere interest in the feedback and ideas his employees had. As a result, employee morale skyrocketed.
Prior to the construction of what is now the Harald Haug Library Learning Center, surveys were distributed to the community requesting input for how the new building could be utilized. Additionally, the library board held meetings with community groups to receive even more input. As a result, what was once supposed to be a simple meeting space and community center grew into the learning center it is today.
When construction on the two-story addition began in 2017, the space was slated to have a meeting space to accommodate about 125 people, a catering kitchen, a 20-person conference and teleconference room, an art gallery, a technology lab with a 3D printer, audio visual editing equipment, as well as design and modeling software.
During construction, however, Skinner became aware of a grant for an after school program offered by the Oregon Department of Education. In addition to being the library’s director, Skinner was the acting project manager, overseeing the construction. The grant opportunity was too significant to pass up on Grummond said, and so, with the help of staff member Rusty White, Skinner wrote an ultimately successful grant proposal for $1.2 million.
What is now the ASCEND after school program serves 40 to 60 students Monday through Friday. Skinner states the goal of this program is to collaborate with the schools and supplement the education that they receive during the school day.
Also during construction, Skinner began talks with the Oregon Employment Department. During these talks, Skinner and his team realized one of the major hurdles to employment community youths have to overcome is a lack of work experience. In response to this, Skinner and his team wrote a grant proposal for a career services program and constructed a small coffee shop in the library to provide work experience for community youth.
Asked about his accomplishments, Skinner was quick to pivot focus from himself, electing to instead shower his staff with praise. During his acceptance speech, Skinner remarked that “I kinda feel bad for being the person that’s up here (being awarded).” Skinner also noted that he has a staff of about 15 people at the library who “do the work.”
Skinner emphasized that the library’s role is to support the community and that input is always welcomed for future improvements.