Longtime Director Bill Ptacek resigns from King County Library System

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Bill Ptacek at the opening of the new Burien Library in 2009. Photo by Michael Brunk.

Longtime Director Bill Ptacek resigned from his position at the King County Library System (KCLS) this week.

Ptacek, who served in that position since 1989, has been named CEO of the Calgary Public Library in Alberta, Canada effective Feb. 1, 2014.

As many of our Readers may recall, Ptacek had his share of controversy in the south end, mostly stemming from attempts to close and consolidate two libraries in White Center (read more of our coverage here).

“For Bill, this is a great opportunity to take on exciting new challenges…and it’s not easy to top the challenges Bill has tackled with KCLS, said KCLS Board Chair Lucy Krakowiak (also a Burien City Councilmember). “We are sorry to see him go.”

Here’s more from KCLS:

During his 25-year tenure, Ptacek’s vision for technology and collection management kept KCLS in the forefront of public libraries nationally. Continual innovation, including upgrades to computer-based data and materials handling systems, public computer access, and organizational and library staffing models enabled the King County Library System to stay ahead of the curve and provide seamless service through both economic booms and downturns.

In 1990, KCLS operated 36 community libraries with an annual circulation above nine million items. Under Ptacek’s leadership, KCLS experienced unprecedented growth as King County’s population and economy expanded and local municipalities voted to join the Library System. Voter-approved capital improvement bond measures (passed in 1988 and 2004) funded new, replacement, and expanded libraries, adding nearly 515,000 square feet of library space, while annual circulation grew to more than 22 million items. Voters also passed a one-year levy increase during the 2009 economic crisis, demonstrating the community’s support of KCLS.

KCLS typically shares one of the top three spots for highest circulating public library in the United States and leads the US, Canada and Australia in eBook circulation. KCLS was named Busiest Library in 2010 and Library Journal’s 2011 Library of the Year.

KCLS Trustee Jessica Bonebright added, “Bill’s move marks the beginning of our search for a candidate who can fill his well-worn running shoes. KCLS’ recruiting campaign for a new Library Director—a job opening rarely seen —will be conducted both nationally and internationally.”

Trustee Robin McClelland said Ptacek’s departure will be felt far beyond KCLS. “Through his civic engagement and community advocacy, Bill has made a difference across a wide range of issues touching many lives in many ways.” Trustee Jim Wigfall added, “It would take a long time to list Bill’s many contributions over the years. Firmly committed to equal access, lifelong learning, and community development, Bill has served in leadership roles in a number of local and statewide organizations since he came to King County.”

In addition to his role as Library Director, Ptacek has served on the King County Board for Developmental Disabilities and State of Washington Developmental Disabilities Life Opportunities Trust, United Way of King County Campaign Cabinet, King County Governance Task Force, KCTS Public Television Advisory Board, City of Bellevue Arts Commission, and Cascade Bicycle Club Board of Directors. He has also served on the University of Washington Bothell Advisory Board since 2008.

Trustee Rob Spitzer summed up the Board’s sentiments: “We’re delighted for Bill, and daunted by the task of finding his successor. The search and selection process will be thorough and inclusive, and we are confident that there will be many interested, qualified candidates. Watch for opportunities for public input on the final phases of the selection process.

Julie Brand, Director of Community Relations & Marketing has been appointed to serve as Interim Director until a new director is hired.

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4 Responses to “Longtime Director Bill Ptacek resigns from King County Library System”
  1. Greg Duff says:

    I believe that Mr Ptacek is out of touch with the general public. The voters were promised a new library in White Center and after the vote passed, he changed the location of where the library should be. I hope the next director will be a little more trustworthy.

  2. TbC says:

    “out of touch with the general public”……… People who live in glass houses…… IMHO

  3. Kerrick Mainrender says:

    I don’t know the story of what happened in White Center, but it sounds a lot like what went down here in Renton [covered by an article in the November issue of Seattle Met.] He and his pack have steadfastly refused to listen to the patrons, and our city council was not much use in sticking up for us. Our own world-unique library was saved by a ballot measure from being moved to a pathetic location, but it is going to be remodeled, most likely somewhat shrunken despite our protests, and the entrance moved to one side for no sensible reason–also despite our wishes.
    This might be a good time for some smart people to get together and form some sort of organization to keep the KCLS leadership in line…because we who pay the piper should get to call the tune.

  4. Mark Ufkes says:

    Bill Ptacek and his staff listened to the White Center community. Mr. Duff is mis-informed. There were 5 or 6 of the same group who did work hard to save the library, who after this good work, felt they also deserved the right to determine where the library should go (away from White Center, further south into Burien). Over 25 White Center business owners and community leaders, including the White Center Chamber of Commerce, pushed for the current location (across from Mt View Elementary School) in a vacant lot that had been filled with trash and homeless camps. Over 300 low income residents live nearby, and over 600 apartments are on the same block. And the kindergarten children could walk across a non arterial street to visit the library. And it was the cheapest site too. And it will help transform this part of the White Center business district. It was a good decision for White Center.

    Mark Ufkes

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