New Chief Librarian selected

The Seattle Public Library has a new Chief Librarian! On March 2, 2022, at a special meeting of the Library Board of Trustees, the Board selected Tom Fay as the Library’s new Executive Director and Chief Librarian. Read about the decision in this press release.

Tom Fay was one of two finalist candidates for the Chief Librarian position. See the public forums with both candidates, read their bios and find out more about the process below.

Finalist candidates

In early 2022, two candidates advanced to the finalist round of interviews as part of the hiring process for The Seattle Public Library’s next Chief Librarian. The finalist candidates were:

  • Tom Fay, the Library’s current interim Chief Librarian; and
  • Chad Helton, current Library Director of the Hennepin County Library in Minnesota.

Full bios of these candidates are provided below.

Public forums with finalist candidates

Chief Librarian finalist candidates participated in public forums in February 2022, to share more about their vision for Seattle’s Library system, and to answer questions from the public.

Candidate Tom Fay, then interim Chief Librarian for The Seattle Public Library:

Watch video of event

Candidate Chad Helton, then Library Director for Hennepin County Library, Minnesota:

Watch video of event

    Finalist Candidate: Tom Fay

    Tom Fay

    Tom Fay is currently serving as The Seattle Public Library’s interim Chief Librarian. Since 2015, as the Library’s Director of Programs and Services, Fay has overseen the Library’s Public Services and Programs, Collections, Materials Handling, and Information Technology departments at Seattle’s downtown Central Library and the 26 neighborhood branches.

    As a native of southern Nevada, Fay’s 38-year career in libraries began as a page for the Las Vegas Clark County Library District. Prior to joining The Seattle Public Library as Director of Programs and Services in 2015, he held roles as the Executive Director of Henderson Libraries in Nevada and the Deputy Director and Chief Operating Officer of Las Vegas Clark County Library District in Nevada.

    Fay graduated with a Fine Arts degree from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas and a Masters in Library and Information Science from the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee. He has been awarded the O’Callaghan Public Sector Person of the Year and selected as Nevada’s Librarian of the Year.

    Finalist Candidate: Chad Helton

    Chad Helton

    Chad Helton is Director of the Hennepin County Library system. Over his career, Helton has held progressively responsible roles in both academic and public libraries. Prior to joining Hennepin County, Helton held executive leadership and management positions at Los Angeles Public Library as the Director of Branch Library Services, and at the Contra Costa County Library as Deputy County Librarian.  In the Palo Alto City Library, Stanford University Green Library and University of California Davis Shields Library, Helton worked in Library Services, Circulation and Access and in Operations.

    Helton graduated with a degree BA in African American Studies from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, a Master of Science in Library and Information Studies, and a Master of Public Administration from the University of San Francisco.

    In addition to his passion for public service, Helton is an Emmy award winning documentary producer and a musical scholar.


    Briefcase icon

    In February 2021, after a decade of distinguished service as Chief Librarian, Marcellus Turner announced that he had accepted a position as CEO/Chief Librarian for the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library in Charlotte, N.C. Turner’s last day leading The Seattle Public Library was March 31. The Library Board appointed Tom Fay to serve as interim Chief Librarian beginning on April 1.

    The Library Board is now conducting a national search to find Seattle’s next Chief Librarian, who will be responsible for overseeing the work of all 27 locations of The Seattle Public Library.

    On June 24, The Library Board hired search consultant Koya Partners to conduct a national search for The Seattle Public Library’s next Chief Librarian. Koya Partners was selected due to their proven track record recruiting and placing strong candidates for large municipal and academic library systems; their emphasis on diversity and inclusivity in recruitment; their experience in the Seattle market; and their professional expertise in public engagement and communication.

    Koya Partners is conducting the search with guidance and direction from the Library Board and in collaboration with a nine-member Search Advisory Committee.

    In September 2021, the firm held stakeholder interviews and conducted a stakeholder survey to inform the search and hiring processes, as well as began the process of developing a pool of qualified candidates.

    In early 2022, two candidates advanced to the finalist round of interviews. On March 2, 2022, at a special meeting of the Library Board of Trustees, the Board selected Tom Fay as The Seattle Public Library’s new Executive Director and Chief Librarian.

    About the Job

    The Seattle Public Library System, one of America’s leading urban public libraries, seeks an innovative and collaborative leader for the role of Executive Director and Chief Librarian. Reporting to the Board of Trustees, the Executive Director also holds a mayoral cabinet level role on the City of Seattle Mayor’s Office leadership team.

    The next Executive Director will join a vibrant, diverse, and socially conscious urban community, a strong and dedicated library team, and supportive Trustee, Foundation, and Friends partners to lead The Seattle Public Library into the future. The next Executive Director will have the opportunity to develop and implement a new strategic vision, while continuing to provide the social and community resources that create a positive impact on community inclusiveness, information sharing, literacy, and wellbeing. Experienced in adeptly leading through change, the Executive Director will bring demonstrated success in motivating teams to achieve impact through creativity, innovative ideas, and teamwork.

    The Executive Director will have an unwavering commitment to the values of the library system, embracing diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility (DEIA) as guiding principles for Library leadership. The Executive Director will share their love of reading, education, and continuous learning and literacy with the community. The ideal candidate leads by example and remains committed both personally and professionally to intellectual freedom, racial and social justice, equitable access to library resources, and creating an inclusive and engaging culture.

    Candidates for the Executive Director must hold an ALA-accredited graduate degree, or an international equivalent, in Library Science/Library Information Science. We encourage library professionals from a variety of public library backgrounds to apply.

    To view the detailed position description please visit this website.

    The Seattle Public Library is an equal opportunity employer and strongly encourages applications from people of color, persons with disabilities, women, and LGBTQ+ applicants.

    Contact: Beth Schaefer and Marisa Chock of Koya Partners have been exclusively retained for this search. To express your interest in this role please submit your materials here. All inquiries and discussions will be considered strictly confidential.

    Search Advisory Committee

    On February 23, 2021, The Library Board formed a Search Advisory Committee comprising nine members with deep experience in library operations and community engagement.

    The Search Advisory Committee includes the following members:

    • Vaughnetta J. Barton, Committee Chair, former Library board member; former practicum instructor for the University of Washington’s School of Social Work
    • Cindy Aden, Professor of Practice and Distinguished Practitioner in Residence at the University of Washington Information School; former Washington State Librarian
    • Carmen Bendixen, Library board member and senior transportation planner for Washington State Ferries; former Friends of The Seattle Public Library board president
    • Anne Cisney, AFSCME Local 2083 union president, The Seattle Public Library
    • Tali Hairston, Library board member; director of Advocacy, Organizing and Development for Seattle Presbytery
    • Yazmin Mehdi, former Library Strategic Planning and Projects assistant for the Chief Librarian; former Library Council of Washington board member; former district director for Representative Pramila Jayapal
    • Robin Mendelson, former Seattle Public Library Foundation board member; senior fellow for Harvard Advanced Leadership Initiative
    • Jonna Ward, CEO of The Seattle Public Library Foundation
    • Rona Zevin, Former Friends of the Seattle Public Library board president