Westport Library Names New Director

And the new Maxine Bleiweis is — William Harmer.

The Michigan librarian — one of 2 finalists introduced to the public last month — takes over as Westport Library executive director on July 27.

William Harmer

William Harmer

In a press release, the library called Harmer “an experienced and innovative leader in the library field.” He spent the past 6 years as director of the Chelsea District Library, after serving 3 years as head of adult services.

The Chelsea website calls it the “best small library in America.” That’s no idle boast: The selection was made by The Library Journal and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

The Library Journal also named Harmer to the Class of 2009 Movers & Shakers — emerging leaders from around the world making a difference in the library field.

The “Movers and Shakers” writeup — titled “Buzz Master” — said that in 2005, Baldwin Public Library (Birmingham, Michigan) teen services librarian Harmer “became nationally known for the buzz he created with his Rock ’n’ Roll Library Tour. A former DJ, Harmer convinced the Detroit-based band The High Strung to take its act to Michigan public libraries and then to over 200 libraries in 48 states.”

The story continued:

Now, as head of adult services at Chelsea District Library (CDL), he’s generating buzz around such programs as a senior “lock-in” and “A Day in the Life of Chelsea,” in which seniors document their town using library-provided disposable cameras. Chelsea Senior Center director Tina Patterson says, “Some days I feel we need a leash or a butterfly net to keep up with him.”

Harmer helped CDL earn LJ’s 2008 Best Small Library in America Award with his aggressive outreach to community organizations, including a grant for a 6-year local oral history initiative.

William Harmer leaves

William Harmer leaves “the best small public library in the country.”

Harmer came late to librarianship, which means, he says, “I didn’t have any previous conceptions, so there were consequently no boundaries.”

But he does more than just push boundaries. Former CDL librarian Elizabeth Goldman says that “once his ideas come—and they do with startling frequency—he not only brings them to fruition but shares them.” In fact, he’s starting a business called Black River Group, which combines consulting and program planning for libraries.

Buzz is contagious. Stand next to Harmer, and you’re likely to catch it.

In 2013, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation chose Harmer as one of 120 world library leaders to attend its global conference on the future of libraries in Cape Town, South Africa.

This year, the Chelsea District Library was cited by the area Chamber of Commerce for its support of local economic development, and its focus on community-building programs and services.

Harmer has also served on the Board of Directors of the Michigan Library Association and as president of the Rotary Club of Chelsea. He has been a  keynote speaker at many library-related conferences, including the Ontario and Alaska annual conferences and at the University of Illinois.

“I am delighted to be joining the talented team of library professionals at the Westport Library; an organization that exemplifies what a world-class, 21st century library can be,” he say.

“I look forward to getting to know the staff, our patrons, developing collaborative relationships with organizations and leaders throughout the community and building on the exceptional work of Maxine Bleiweis.”

William Harmer swoops into the Westport Library on July 27. (Photo/Dave Elgart)

William Harmer swoops into the Westport Library on July 27. (Photo/Dave Elgart)

Mike Guthman, president of The Westport Library board of trustees, says, “Bill Harmer possesses the intellectual, creative and entrepreneurial spirit that is at the heart of the Library. He comes to us with the experience, talent and leadership skills to maintain the Westport Library at the forefront of innovation, and to propel the Library into its next phase of development and transformation.”

Harmer began his library career in 2001. He has held leadership positions at libraries in Farmington and Birmingham, Michigan. He earned a bachelor of arts in literature and creative writing from Eastern Michigan University, and a master’s in library and information science from Wayne State University. He is married, and has 3 children.

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