Los Alamos County Library System Manager Steven Thomas is leaving Los Alamos to work as the Regional Manager at the King County Library System in Seattle, Wash. Photo by Kirsten Laskey/ladailypost.com
By KIRSTEN LASKEY
Los Alamos Daily Post
After serving five years as Los Alamos County Library System Manager, Steven Thomas is taking the next step in his career. Thomas is leaving the County to accept a position as Regional Library Manager at the King County Library System in Seattle, Wash. His last day was Friday.
“It’s been a great five years,” Thomas said in looking back on his time at the County. “It’s been a good experience from the people to the projects to the environment — it’s just been excellent.”
During his tenure with the County library system, Thomas said there has been a lot of progress made and achievements reached. White Rock received a new branch library, a new automated system was added and a new zone area was included at Mesa Public Library. Thomas explained that 3,000 square feet in youth services that was formerly for IT was redesigned as an area for early literacy and teenagers. Additionally, the last citizen survey conducted by the library system revealed the community loves its libraries. Thomas said the survey results showed that 89 percent of the community uses the library system and that 75 percent rated library services as excellent. He added this is an 11 percent increase over the previous historical high of 64 percent.
The County libraries received 330,000-340,000 visits in 2016.
“Community support is really significant in Los Alamos and many of our measures are at triple to quadruple national benchmarks,” Thomas said.
Despite his fondness for Los Alamos, Thomas said he is excited for the next step. “It’s time for the next challenge,” he said, “but that doesn’t mean this hasn’t been really great. We’ve gotten to work on projects and achieve things that have really helped grow library services and connect them to the community.”
At his new position, Thomas will oversee a subset of 48 libraries in that system. The King County Library System consistently has been one of the handful of libraries in the country that has the highest circulation each year. Plus, the Library Journal awarded it the Library of the Year in 2011.
“It just seems like a nice step in my career,” Thomas said.
He added Seattle was always on the list of places he and his wife Lisa Caldwell wanted to live.
Thomas spent 23 years working in libraries. He started at the library in Brooklyn, New York and has worked in Fayetteville, Ark. and Charleston, WVA. He said he started out as a history major and when he was deciding on what to study in graduate school, he was drawn to library science. Thomas said he loves connecting to people through books, music, movies — things that make a huge impact on lives.
“The ways this organization can impact a community are immense,” he said. “It’s very rewarding.”
Still, there are a lot of challenges facing libraries. Thomas said libraries are in transition. Besides printed books, there are now e-books. Thomas said e-books are going up in circulation but the demand for printed books are not declining. It is important to meet both needs, he said.
It also important to maintain core services at a high level and ensure library services remain relevant, Thomas said.
Looking at the challenges, Thomas said, “they’re all fun, though. They’re exciting; they’re good. When you get them right you can positively impact the community and strive to provide even better service.”