February 17, 2018

Susan Hauer | Movers & Shakers 2002

“No” Is Not in Her Vocabulary

Sharing the vision of what librarians can do

If you read an e-mail about Susan Hauer’s accomplishments, you’d think it was spam: Take your budget from $22,000 to $250,000! Double your hours of service! Quadruple your cardholders! Win grants for capital improvements! Make the governor fund libraries better! Thanks to Hauer’s ability to dream big and then work like crazy to make it happen, all of that is true.

Hauer thinks she was always meant to be a librarian; she remembers carefully cataloging her father’s book collection when she was little and keeping track of who didn’t return his books. But when she graduated from college as an unemployable English major, she married a chef and helped him start and run a restaurant. The managerial and public service skills she picked up running the business side of the restaurant stood her in good stead when she got the opportunity to manage a small-town library.

Since she was working on her MLS while running the Esopus Public Library, it became a laboratory for applying everything she learned, though in her view library school didn’t teach anywhere near enough about coalition-building, grants, or influencing politicians on legislative issues.

She quickly realized that the library not only didn’t have enough money but that it never would unless it had the ability to tax. Getting special tax district status would require a special referendum, so Hauer spent her first six years on the job building the image of the library and winning friends.


Current position: Assistant Director for Development and Operations, Southern Adirondack Library System; very recently Director, Town of Esopus Library, Port Ewen, NY

Degree: MLS, SUNY-Albany, 1993

Active in: New York Library Association, Legislative Committee, Chair LAMRT (1995-97), Mid-Hudson Library System, Ulster County Library System

She enlisted new, enthusiastic board members who helped her raise annual donations while she also applied for and won $225,000 in grant money. She not only led a successful capital campaign but created an endowment for the library as well. That funding allowed her to retrofit the library and add 14 public Internet workstations. She created a John Burroughs collection; most townspeople hadn’t known until then that their picturesque little town by the Hudson had been the home of John Burroughs, one of the Hudson Valley school of painters. With four times as many cardholders, and much wider public awareness of the facility, Hauer was then able to win the referendum and get special tax district status for her library.

Hauer is frequently invited to speak at state and regional library organizations to share her knowledge of fundraising, tax campaigns, and financial management. She created a Fundraising Information Center for the Mid-Hudson Library Association and wrote a $250,000 Legislative Grant for the Ulster County Library Association. In her new job at Southern Adirondack Library System, she will help other librarians learn to advocate for libraries and demand an adequate tax base. She works tirelessly to get library funding that is “stable, sufficient, and secure.”

As a member of the New York Library Association Legislative Committee, she conceived the Dollars for George campaign; librarians each sent a dollar bill to Governor Pataki and asked for matching funds, with a stated goal of $100 million for libraries. Because each dollar bill had to be logged in and, ultimately, returned to the senders, the governor and his staff had to pay attention to the request, with the result that funding increased. Unfortunately, September 11 has changed the state’s economic picture, but don’t expect that to stop Hauer. As one of her colleagues said, “Susan doesn’t understand the word no.”

She’s so good, she makes people want to be a librarian just like her. Literally. Five of her staff members have gone on for their professional degrees. Maybe that’s because, like all the best librarians, what Hauer does is share–not just books and videos and information but a compelling vision of what libraries, and librarians, can do.