If you care about the future of the Chattahoochee Valley Libraries, then Thursday evening is a significant chance to influence it.
Each of the three finalists to be the director -- Alan Harkness of the Georgia Public Library Service, Karen Odom of the Houston County (Ga.) Library System and Anne Shepherd of the Charlotte County (Fla.) Library System -- will make a five-minute presentation during a free public reception from 5:30 to 7 p.m. in the Columbus Public Library.
Then for 30 minutes, search consultant June Garcia of Denver will ask the finalists questions compiled by the search committee and the Muscogee County Library Board. The rest of the reception will be reserved for an informal meet-and-greet, where residents can ask the finalists their questions in person and fill out a comment card to help decide the top choice.
"Everybody has their own cause they identify with about the library," said board chairwoman Meridith Jarrell. "They may sense something that we don't see."
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Here is a glance at the finalists:
Harkness is assistant state librarian for library development at Georgia Public Library Service, where he has worked the past two years. He has 28 years of experience in Georgia's public libraries, including four years as director of the Piedmont Regional Library System in Winder, Ga. He didn't provide his educational background in the fact sheet he submitted, but he noted that he is a native of Georgia, married to a medical librarian and the father of four children, ages 21, 10, 6 and 3.
Karen Odom is a month shy of two years as director of the Houston County Public Library System in Perry, Ga. She has worked in that system for 6 1/2 years and 13 years in libraries overall. She earned master's and specialist degrees in library and information science from Florida State University.
Anne Shepherd has been manager of library and historical services for the Charlotte County Library System in Port Charlotte, Fla., since 2010. She has been a senior manager or director of libraries for more than 20 years in five states. She earned a master's of library science degree from Western Michigan University.
Jarrell explained why the committee selected these finalists among approximately 40 applicants.
"They've all been library directors and have worked in libraries where they had increasingly responsible positions," Jarrell said. "But they could each bring something different to the table that we could use."
The board will interview the finalists Thursday in 40-minute closed sessions, starting at 2:45 p.m. Then on Friday, the finalists will meet the library staff, tour the area and have a final interview with the search committee.
The committee is scheduled to recommend its top choice by May 23, when the board expects to vote on that recommendation.
The board's leadership has known since late December that Claudya Muller was going to end her directorship of more than 11 years on Feb. 28. Muller's salary was $150,628, plus $3,339 for travel, in the past fiscal year (July 1, 2011 to June 30, 2012). That is the second-highest salary in the Muscogee County School District, which owns and operates the county's public libraries. Susan Andrews, the last full-time superintendent in Muscogee County, cost the district $190,713 in salary and $9,144 in travel before she left last summer.
Wanda Edwards has been serving as interim library director. She is head of the popular materials and circulation departments.
SEARCH COMMITTEE Lyn Anderson, Chattahoochee Valley Libraries chief financial officer
Silvia Bunn, Mildred L. Terry Branch Library manager
Alice Budge, Muscogee County Friends of Libraries vice president
Abbie Dillard, Chattahoochee Valley Libraries Board chairwoman
M.A. Dowdell, Muscogee County Library Board member
Wanda Edwards, Chattahoochee Valley Libraries interim director
Linda Hyles, Chattahoochee Valley Libraries funding coordinator
Meridith Jarrell, Muscogee County Library Board chairwoman
Carole Rutland, former Muscogee County Library Board member