March 17, 2018

Homecoming: Director Bob Pasicznyuk Departs Cedar Rapids, Returns to Douglas County Libraries

PasicznyukBob Pasicznyuk started as director of of Cedar Rapids Public Library, IA, in 2009, a year after the city’s main branch had been entirely destroyed by flooding.  Pasicznyuk came from his position as Associate Director at Douglas County Libraries, CO, to take the helm of a team that had collectively won Library Journal’s 2009 Librarian of the Year award and led the rebuilding of Cedar Rapids Library. Now, he’s returning to Douglas County to take over following the retirement of long-time director Jamie LaRue. Library Journal spoke with Pasicznyuk about his return to Colorado.

LJ: What does the transition look like so far?

Bob Pasicznyuk: We just started, really. Cedar Rapids is a great library that’s on the move, and we’re concentrating on recruiting a great leader to help it move forward. I’m working with trustees to secure a recruiter, and have reached out to people I know to get names we should be looking at. We’re looking at what leadership for the next three to five years should look like, and moving forward to minimize the gap between the time I leave and the time we get a new great leader in here.

What have you accomplished in your tenure at Cedar Rapids that you’re most proud of?

Following a natural disaster and losing a library, there was no way we weren’t going to rebuild. But we pushed that goal: we weren’t satisfied with just rebuilding, but became a better service for the entire community. That community now looks at the library as a hub. Since last September, we’ve had 35,000 use our library for civic space alone. We’re aligned with 20 different nonprofit organizations, and we have people working with youth in the building, teaching English in our facilities. We’re making satisfying partnerships in a way we haven’t been able to before.

What’s comparable in these systems, and what’s going to take some time to adjust for you?

These libraries represent very different challenges. Library support in Cedar Rapids had waned in past decades, and then in 2008, the primary library was destroyed in a flood. That meant we had a twofold goal: to both build the physical infrastructure of a new library and to rebuild the trust and support that the library needs.

In Douglas County, you’ve got a different situation. There, the support is solid, library use is high, and now capacity has to grow. From whom much is given, much is required, and keeping Douglas County a library that leads is going to be a priority. They’re two very different communities grappling with how libraries are going to move into the 21st century.

What made you want to head to Douglas County?

The opportunity to lead Douglas County is an amazing and provocative one for me. My roots are in the Midwest in public libraries, but I cut my teeth in libraries in Pike’s Peak and Douglas County, so I know the culture and understand the charge to be relevant and excellent now, while also preparing for the future.

What are you leaving undone in Cedar Rapids?

The biggest work going forward is to solidify the library’s support platform. The library has benefitted in the last five years from funding streams and sources that aren’t sustainable – private money, disaster funding, and things like that. The next leader [will need] to work with the city to build a sustainable budget program and to make sure we continue to have the resources available to make a library we’re proud of.

Are there any projects or programs at Douglas County that you’re particularly excited to take a swing at?

Libraries are much more than just the buildings they inhabit, and we’ll have the opportunity to use the building program to provoke discussion about who Douglas County is and who they will be. It’s a reexamination of what the library identity will be going forward, and that’s something I really want to be a part of. I’m excited by the chance to engage the community in a conversation about how to build a library that knocks our socks off.

What advice would you offer a successor?

Forge strong partnerships. We’re all stronger together than individually. These partnerships we’ve built in the last four years are just a start. We need to keep finding people we need, and who need us.

Ian Chant About Ian Chant

Ian Chant is a former editor at LJ and a freelance journalist whose work has appeared in Scientific American and Popular Mechanics and on NPR.