LSSI names library director

A 58-year-old woman who heads the library in Garden City, Kan., will take over as library director in Jackson County April 15.

Maryland-based Library Systems and Services LLC chose Denise Galarraga from among three finalists. The library she works at is operated by the same company, known as LSSI.

With 20 years as a professional librarian, the director of the Finney County Library in southwest Kansas said she intends to promote public libraries locally and keep them in the public eye.

After a visit to the Rogue Valley a week ago, she said she's eager to start work.

"It's a beautiful place," she said.

Galarraga will walk into a job that will have some challenges. Jackson County has only enough money to continue operating libraries for another two to three years. In addition, LSSI is negotiating with the union over a contract with its employees, who worked for the county previously.

"There are going to be hurdles and I'm going to be involved in that, but I'm not the only person involved," she said.

Galarraga was born in Kansas, but has spent time on the East Coast working for an electronic library company that operated under government contracts. She is divorced and has two children, ages 35 and 15.

Mark Smith, transition team leader for LSSI, said he wouldn't go into details about why Galarraga was chosen.

"We picked the candidate that we feel is the best fit for this position," he said. "We're real excited. She's going to be a great library director there."

Smith said the candidates were interviewed by both LSSI and county officials.

Smith said Galarraga might play some role in the upcoming contract negotiations with the union.

"We haven't set a date to sit down and talk," he said.

Smith said Galarraga will concentrate on getting up to speed in her new job and helping reach out to the community.

Galarraga said that despite the difficulties libraries face in the coming years, she believes the community will understand.

"In the end, the majority of people understand the value of a library," she said.

Anne Billeter, who was in upper-level management before the county closed libraries for six months last year, expressed disappointment at not getting the job of library director.

"They turned me down almost immediately," she said. "They told me that I was not the right fit. That pretty well ends my career."

She said she believed she had the knowledge of the library system and the community to help turn things around.

"This has been extremely difficult for me," she said.

Despite the setback, Billeter said she would continue to support the libraries and any levy initiatives that might go before voters in the future.

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