The Trustees of the King County Library System (KCLS) reluctantly bid farewell to long-time Director Bill Ptacek, who has led KCLS since 1989. Ptacek has been named CEO of the Calgary Public Library in Alberta, Canada effective February 1, 2014.
During his 25-year tenure, Ptacek’s vision for technology and collection management kept KCLS in the forefront of public libraries nationally. Continual innovation, including upgrades to computer-based data and materials handling systems, public computer access, and organizational and library staffing models enabled the King County Library System to stay ahead of the curve and provide seamless service through both economic booms and downturns.
In 1990, KCLS operated 36 community libraries with an annual circulation above nine million items. Under Ptacek’s leadership, KCLS experienced unprecedented growth as King County’s population and economy expanded and local municipalities voted to join the Library System. Voter-approved capital improvement bond measures (passed in 1988 and 2004) funded new, replacement, and expanded libraries, adding nearly 515,000 square feet of library space, while annual circulation grew to more than 22 million items. Voters also passed a one-year levy increase during the 2009 economic crisis, demonstrating the community’s support of KCLS.
KCLS typically shares one of the top three spots for highest circulating public library in the United States and leads the US, Canada and Australia in eBook circulation. KCLS was named Busiest Library in 2010 and Library Journal’s 2011 Library of the Year.
KCLS Board Chair Lucy Krakowiak announced Ptacek’s departure with mixed emotions. “For Bill, this is a great opportunity to take on exciting new challenges…and it’s not easy to top the challenges Bill has tackled with KCLS. We are sorry to see him go.”
KCLS Trustee Jessica Bonebright added, “Bill’s move marks the beginning of our search for a candidate who can fill his well-worn running shoes. KCLS’ recruiting campaign for a new Library Director—a job opening rarely seen —will be conducted both nationally and internationally.”
Trustee Robin McClelland said Ptacek’s departure will be felt far beyond KCLS. “Through his civic engagement and community advocacy, Bill has made a difference across a wide range of issues touching many lives in many ways.” Trustee Jim Wigfall added, “It would take a long time to list Bill’s many contributions over the years. Firmly committed to equal access, lifelong learning, and community development, Bill has served in leadership roles in a number of local and statewide organizations since he came to King County.”
In addition to his role as Library Director, Ptacek has served on the King County Board for Developmental Disabilities and State of Washington Developmental Disabilities Life Opportunities Trust, United Way of King County Campaign Cabinet, King County Governance Task Force, KCTS Public Television Advisory Board, City of Bellevue Arts Commission, and Cascade Bicycle Club Board of Directors. He has also served on the University of Washington Bothell Advisory Board since 2008.
Trustee Rob Spitzer summed up the Board’s sentiments: “We’re delighted for Bill, and daunted by the task of finding his successor. The search and selection process will be thorough and inclusive, and we are confident that there will be many interested, qualified candidates. Watch for opportunities for public input on the final phases of the selection process.
Julie Brand, Director of Community Relations & Marketing has been appointed to serve as Interim Director until a new director is hired.