Second library director candidate emphasizes community connections and innovation

Ames Library director candidate John Thill presented three principles he believes in and answered questions from the community during a presentation on Thursday.

Thill is the public service manager of the Meridian Library District in Idaho. He is one of three finalists to fill the Ames Library director’s position after current Director Lynn Carey announced she will retire in January.

He said there are three principles he wants to bring to the library and has already implemented in the library he is working at.

The first principle was quality. Thill said the quality of the library in Ames was created with the help of many groups in the community, and he wants to make sure it stays that way.

“I want to try to preserve the investment the community has made for the library,” he said during his presentation in the auditorium at Ames Public Library.

“The resources we may need may be different in five years,” he said.

Alongside quality was the importance of customer service, which Thill said is the most critical emphasis at Meridian. He said to achieve that, it starts with the process of hiring.

He said skills of each incoming employee are important, but so is auditing employees with their customer service skills.

Although telling a person what they are doing well is important, it’s equally important to tell them what improvements need to be made, Thill said.

“This city has a continuous improvement focus,” he said.

That factor about Ames is what made him truly connected to the city.

The second principle in Thill’s presentation was connections.

“Connections in the community come from the library,” he said. “The library becomes the connection of the community.”

Thill said he wanted to work on ensuring all community members were using the library. He said an important part of that is servicing the underserved by listening.

He said he would like the library to partner with the proposed Healthy Life Center, Heartland Senior Services, smaller groups and even the United Way of Story County to foster those connections.

Responsiveness was the final principle in Thill’s presentation, emphasizing the key to listening in order to unite Ames.

“We can help weave the fabric of the community,” he said.

Thill said he wants to educate, connect, and help the community thrive within the library and outside of it.

He said he envisions a place that honors diversity, that is connected to the community and helps people better their life.

When it came to connections, a community member asked Thill what he would do to support connections to outreach.

Thill said at Meridian, teens started a Queer-Straight Alliance (QSA) because teenagers in the community said they had a need for that kind of program.

He said the individuals tried to find that support at their schools, but the institutions would not provide it, so the library did.

Their library, the Teen Advisory Group and other partners collaborated to create a safe space for that conversation with the use of guides to foster a healthy conversation and resource center.

A community member asked Thill about how he has handled scandal or controversy, because if he is named library director, he would be the public face of the library.

Thill said he has dealt with controversy such as service issues and even materials someone may not appreciate being available in the library. He said educating those individuals is the best way to handle that situation.

“We would have a conversation with these people,” he said. “We would then talk about the idea of choice.”

When it came to professional development, Thill said he would work one-on-one with each staff member to realize their professional and personal goals.

“We would help them build (a) skill set and role to advance their personal goals,” he said.

Thill has worked in five libraries over a 13-year timeline before he started his position at Meridian in 2016.

His education includes his bachelor’s degree in English at the University of California, Riverside, and a master’s of library and information sciences at San Jose State University.

The first finalist, Cheryl Heid, the director the city of Grimes Library, gave her public presentation on Tuesday at City Hall. The third finalist Eric Suess, the director of the Marshall Public Library in Pocatello, Idaho, will hold his public presentation at 4 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 13, in the auditorium at Ames Public Library.