This story has been updated to include additional information from Atlanta.
John Szabo was named City Librarian of the Los Angeles Public Library (LAPL) today by Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. Szabo is perhaps best known for turning around the troubled Atlanta-Fulton Public Library System, where he’s served as director since 2005.
Szabo is expected to start at LAPL by the end of the summer. Once there, he’ll oversee LAPL’s Central Library and 72 branches, whose 900 employees and $113 million budget serve a population of four million people. Villaraigosa has tasked Szabo with restoring hours—two nights per week and Friday mornings at every library—funded by Measure L, which was approved by voters in 2011.Villaraigosa also asked Szabo to initiate a strategic planning process “to ensure that the Los Angeles Public Library continues to be the national leader in innovative library service.”
Szabo is no stranger to innovative services: in Atlanta, where he lead the creation of the eCampus online learning initiative and championed services that celebrate diversity and address health disparities, workforce development, adult literacy, school readiness and emergent literacy for preschoolers. Not to mention successfully passing a $275 million bond referendum to support and enhance the infrastructure that provided those services. Atlanta built eight branches under Szabo’s leadership and renovated 25 including the Central Library, which served as a design challenge at the 2010 Design Institute that Szabo partnered with LJ to host.
During his Atlanta tenure, Szabo also served as director of quality of life services for Fulton County. He currently serves on the Executive Board of Urban Libraries Council and the OCLC Global Council, and is a member of the External Advisory Board to the University of Michigan’s School of Information.
He succeeds Martín Gómez, who announced in February that he was leaving LAPL to serve as vice dean of the University of Southern California (USC) Libraries beginning April 2.
“Angelenos love their libraries,” Szabo said in a statement. “At a time when public libraries are busier than ever, it is extremely exciting to provide services that address critical needs and that are so essential to the diverse communities we serve.” He could not immediately be reached for further comment.
Kelly Robinson, public relations and marketing director at Atlanta-Fulton Public Library System, told LJ that Group Branch Manager Anne Haimes will serve as interim director of the Atlanta-Fulton system while a search for a permanent director is conducted. Robinson does not expect Szabo to be part of the search process for his successor.
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