City Hall

Glacial Pace of Dallas Library's Top Job Head Hunt Is One Reason the Interim's Out of Here

Dallas Public Library system interim head Corinne Hill says she wasn't pushed out. The decision to quit Texas for Tennessee and helm Chattanooga's Public Library system was hers alone. But the city's leisurely search for a new director -- and a blown Thanksgiving deadline -- sure "didn't help," she told Unfair Park following a Tuesday presentation at the downtown central library for members of the city council titled, apropos, "The Future of Libraries."

The news of her departure broke late last week, not in a city memo, but as a result of a news story in a Chattanooga paper heralding her appointment. It was quickly followed by a terse announcement and an apology from city manager Mary Suhm to city staff. "Unfortunately, this appointment was announced in the Chattanooga media before we could notify you or the library staff of this change. Please accept my apologies for this situation."

Hill said the announcement "kinda got away from me." When word got out, she added, she wasn't in Chattanooga, inking the deal. She was skiing in Durango.

"I did have an offer from Dallas on the same day I had an offer from Chattanooga," she said. "I want to do the kind of work I want to do, and that's to take a place like Chattanooga and turn it around. There's a lot of work to be done there, and they know it, and they're willing to take it on."

Aside from the briefest of statements from council member Ann Margolin, the vacuum Hill's leaving in just less than a month wasn't addressed. At all. "I just want to say I'm sorry you're leaving," Margolin said, "and I wish you well with your new position."

And so began, at last, a teleconferenced lecture given by Dr. David Lankes, director of Syracuse's School of Information Studies. The CliffsNotes is that he sees your local library metamorphosing from "a quiet building with loud rooms to a loud building with quiet rooms" -- as a rehearsal space for budding musicians; a place where entrepreneurs can meet with venture capitalists, or where a single mom can find daycare while she works upstairs on a start-up. He sees online databases, virtual libraries and information sharing as important, maybe even more so, than the books and mortar. Library as platform, or something like that.

His message -- outlined in a big, glossy coffee table-looking book called The Atlas of New Librarianship -- will probably send your kindly, gray-headed custodian of bound volumes into fits of apoplexy.

But it's the kind of digital age Hill says she's looking forward to ushering Chattanooga into.

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Brantley Hargrove