After nearly five months of interim leadership, the Fayetteville Public Library has a permanent executive director.
The library’s board of trustees announced the decision Friday evening to hire David Johnson following a closed-door, executive session meeting that lasted about an hour and a half.
Johnson’s annual salary will be $85,000.
Lolly Greenwood, former youth services manager, has served as the library’s interim executive director since the resignation of Shawna Thorup who left the library in August during an investigation by the board. Neither party has chosen to openly discuss details of Thorup’s departure.
“The board of trustees is so grateful that Lolly has been able to take the helm during this time,” said Suzanne Clark, president of the library board. “It’s been very clear that there is an exceptional staff at the library and we are immensely proud of what’s gone on in the last few months helping shepherd us to the next phase.”
Clark said the decision was a difficult one to make.
“We were blessed with the wonderful problem of having two really well-qualified candidates,” she said.
Steven Thomas, who is currently assistant director of the Washington County Library System in Fayetteville, was also vying for the position.
In the end, the board chose Johnson, the son of a librarian and a 27-year resident of Fayetteville.
He is a past employee of the library where he became head of the adult services department in 1995 before entering the corporate world two years later.
“I envisioned, when I came to the Fayetteville Public Library, working my way to the top,” he said in a public session last week. He said his goal was to become executive director, but that his $24,000 salary was too limiting at the time.
“I felt like I wanted to create an opportunity for us to have some choice about whether or not Holly (his wife) wanted to stay home and be with the children or whether or not she wanted to continue to pursue her career,” he said.
Johnson said he decided to step aside and go to work at Tyson Foods where he found an opportunity to apply his library and information science training. He stayed with Tyson for 14 years where he became information systems lead for product research and development.
Johnson wasn’t looking for a job when the library position became available, but said his wife recently became executive director of the Fayetteville Education Foundation which gave him an opportunity to possibly return to the library field.
When asked last week if 14 years of corporate work might detract from his ability to serve in a public position, Johnson said it’s just the opposite.
He said leadership skills learned at Tyson have given him an appreciation for the idea that investors are shareholders.
In the library world, he said, the community is writing the check, and it’s up to the library’s leadership to make sure that they’re getting the best return on their investment.
When reached for comment Friday evening, Johnson seemed excited and a little relieved.
“It’s been kind of a grinder,” he said, speaking of the wait for a phone call from the board, “but yes, I’m very excited.”
Johnson spent last week interviewing with library employees, volunteers, city staff, school officials and members of the Fayetteville Chamber of Commerce. He also spoke to local residents during a public candidate session Tuesday night.
“The citizens of Fayetteville should be proud of the selection process,” he said. “The board took it very seriously and found two great candidates.”
He also seemed eager to make the transition back to the library.
“I really feel like my calling is library work,” he said. “It’s what I was trained to do and although I took a sidestep, I’ve always wanted to come back. I’m overjoyed that the board could see that in me.”
Master’s degree in library science: University of Tennessee, Knoxville, Tenn., 1993.
MA in Communication: University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, Ark. 1991
BA in Communication: University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, Ark. 1989
2010-Present: Information Systems Lead, Product Research & Development, Tyson Foods, Springdale, Ark.
2006-2010: Information Systems Project Leader in Sales & Marketing, Tyson Foods, Springdale, Ark.
2004-2006: Information Systems Project Leader, Tyson Foods, Springdale, Ark.
2003-2004: Information Systems Communication Manager, Tyson Foods, Springdale, Ark.
2002-2003: Information Systems Training Manager, Tyson Foods, Springdale, Ark.
2001-2003: Information Systems Manager of Technical Writing, Training & Office Automation, Tyson Foods, Springdale, Ark.
1997-2001 : Information Systems Help Desk Manager, Tyson Foods, Springdale, Ark.
1995-1997: Department Head, Adult Services Department, Fayetteville Public Library, Fayetteville, Ark.
1993-1995: Head of Reference, Arnold Ledoux Library, Louisiana State University, Eunice, La.
1992-1993: Reference Librarian, Hodges Library, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, Tenn.