Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Bill Knott, retiring

This is strangely difficult for me. Bill Knott has been, for the past 35 years or so, the director of the Jefferson County Public Library System. Bill is canny and astute. He is the only person I know who could make a county library perform like a library district. County libraries, in Colorado, are deeply flawed. That Jeffco did so well is a testament to Bill -- an absolute triumph over the system.

When I dig into library statistics, I find that Jeffco's library has done, for decades, something altogether noteworthy: generate statistics that are not only consistently above average, but are remarkably stable. My own library's stats graph like roller coasters. Jeffco's hit a plateau, and maintain it. That's Bill -- a mind that groks logistics, a man who knows how to organize complex systems to deliver services that hit the mark.

I count Bill as a friend, a thoughtful and probing mind. The hard part is imagining a library environment that doesn't include him.

I know that this is the beginning of a wave: the Boomers stepping down from their leadership positions. I suppose my inchoate sorrow is in part about the awareness that one day, I too must step down. We have the privilege of leading public institutions, but they don't belong to us.

Jeffco citizens have much to be grateful for. Bill gave them an enormously competent and capable library. Acting Director Marcellus Turner is also a fine mind, spirit, and frankly, an administrative savant.

But boy, Bill set the bar of library leadership pretty high. He's a tough act to follow. I look forward to some beer and Irish whiskey with him. I suspect I have a lot to learn from him, still. And I'll miss him at library doings.

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