Canadian Urban Libraries Council/Conseil des Bibliothèques Urba

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Preparing to Write a New Chapter - Ken Robert's Retirement Announcement

Preparing to Write a New Chapter

Hamilton Public Library’s Chief Librarian Announces Retirement

After 18 years Ken Roberts, the highly respected Chief Librarian of Hamilton Public Library has announced his retirement effective May 31, 2012. There are so many words that come to mind to describe Ken’s remarkable career as a librarian – community builder, consummate administrator, mentor, award-winning author, story teller, teacher and lover of all things technology. He’s truly one for the “books”.

Ken joined the Hamilton Public Library system in 1994. Then Library Board Chairman, John Syko, indicated that Ken would have his work cut out for him managing a downsized operation at a time when major technological changes were taking place. Syko referred to Ken as “…a true renaissance man. He is a tremendously well-rounded and gifted individual. He possesses a keen mind and is very knowledgeable about current and emerging technologies. With Mr. Roberts, our system will be prepared for the next century.”

Accomplishing just that and so much more, Ken’s passion for technology has never changed. Embracing eAudio/eBook technology, when it was in its infancy, put HPL in a unique position as the first library system in Canada to do so. Under Ken’s leadership, technological solutions have been adopted to manage the library’s ever-growing circulation which surpassed the 6 million mark last year and shows no sign of slowing. This included RFID – Radio Frequency Identification – which has enabled the implementation of Self-Check terminals and Automatic Materials Return to free up staff time to do what they do best – serve our customers.

Ken helped steward the Hamilton Public Library through drastic changes and rose to the occasion when the former Dundas, Hamilton and Wentworth Public Library systems were amalgamated. Since amalgamation in 2001, Ken has built upon strong legacies and helped to shape one of the most respected library systems in North America. Technologically innovative, the library system has used community partnerships and a collaborative work culture to ensure that Hamilton residents receive superb library services.

Ken’s dedication to the librarian profession is unwavering as has been his support of professional associations as President of the Canadian Library Association (CLA) and Ontario Library Association (OLA) as well as significant involvement in the Canadian Urban Library Council (CULC). His passion for mentoring the next generation of library leaders has taken him to the Northern Exposure to Leadership a number of times.

Says former Board Chair, Jennifer Gautrey: “What stands out for me with Ken is that, in spite of all his accomplishments, he is a librarian first and foremost and a humble man. I really admire that about him. He has created a culture at HPL where collaboration is the key and leads by example. This has resulted in building a leading library system with a remarkably talented and passionate team, not to mention fostering City/community partnerships, all while demonstrating leadership beyond our city.”

Ken has reinvented Hamilton Public Library with a focus on renovating many of the 23 branch locations to better serve our customers. Building new locations like the Turner Park Branch through a unique partnership with the YMCA and City of Hamilton, created a destination for residents of the South Mountain.

The revitalization of Central Library was a labour of love for Ken and he is always happy to show off the new first floor. The impact of this project has provided another shot in the arm into Downtown renewal in conjunction with the Hamilton Farmers’ Market. That transformation continues as Central Library prepares to meet the needs of customers not only today but into the future. He has worked tirelessly to bring improved library service to the rural parts of the city with a new Lynden Branch going under construction next Spring. As well, the long-awaited Waterdown Branch is in the design, planning stage and will bring everything that HPL has to offer to that growing community.

George Geczy, the Hamilton Public Library Board’s current chair sums it up: "Ken has earned recognition for the Hamilton Public Library from all around the world for his innovations yet the real beneficiaries are the people of Hamilton. He has brought them new technologies, expanded choices, and is leaving us with a library system that is being used more than ever before in its history. There are some people that feel that libraries may be less relevant today, but Ken has shown that when the library pays attention to its community it will result not only in record circulation but also branches crowded with families, new Canadians, and an entire cross-section of our city."

About Hamilton Public Library
The Hamilton Public Library (HPL) serves the residents of the City of Hamilton with the Central Library, 23 branch locations and two Bookmobiles. With over 3 million in-person visits and 2.8 million on-line visits, Hamiltonians borrowed a record-breaking 6 million plus books, CDs and DVDs in 2010. For more information, visit www.hpl.ca, contact askHPL@hpl.ca or call 905.546.3200.

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