The Fort Vancouver Regional Library District’s newest executive director has spent much of her time working on the east side of the country, but she relishes a chance to return to the Pacific Northwest.
During its Oct. 16 meeting, the FVRL Board of Trustees approved hiring Jennifer Giltrop to the position. She was a final candidate following a national search that also included Justin Keeler, who has served in the interim director position since prior executive director Amelia Shelley left at the end of July, being considered.
Giltrop, who has served in a variety of library industry positions for over two decades, won out over Keeler, who has worked for FVRL for more than 17 years, including as librarian at the Vancouver Mall, La Center and Woodland community libraries before taking the role as outreach and community partnerships director prior to the interim executive director position.
Born and raised in Michigan, Giltrop received a bachelor of science in business administration at Aquinas College and a master of library and information science from Wayne State University in Michigan. She said she first encountered library culture while working at a newly formed library district as a finance and human resources director.
Her first job in the position was reforming staff classifications, something not done in 20 years when it was part of the county government. During the process she shadowed the different positions, which is where she said she fell in love with public library systems.
“I am truly blessed to be part of such an important institution in our country and in our world,” Giltrop said.
Giltrop has worked in a variety of systems, from single-building districts serving fewer than 20,000 population to large ones like Seattle and Washington, D.C., with dozens of locations.
She also worked at Library Systems and Services, a private company that manages municipal libraries across the country. As chief library officer for the company, she spent most of her time on the road, meeting with libraries managed under the company.
Giltrop said that experience let her see “every kind of issue you can imagine” with operating a library.
She acknowledged the idea of a private, for-profit company managing public libraries might not be popular with those committed to the concept of a library directed by citizens.
“I invested my public library expertise in making sure we were handling things to the best of our ability,” Giltrop said.
The best part for Giltrop is working with employees of the library, she said.
“It’s the library staff, day in and day out, doing what they do, committed to great customer service, intellectual freedom, accessibility, making sure everyone makes sure everyone feels safe and welcome in our spaces,” Giltrop said, adding outreach involving the community outside of the district building’s walls is a priority.
She said her range of experience will help keep the district running.
“I think that I bring a lot of business acumen to the position, but also I am a staunch public library advocate,” Giltrop said.
Working for an independent library district like FVRL was attractive to Giltrop, given her range of previous experience. Such a district doesn’t have to compete with other municipal services when it draws up its budget.
“Will you ever have all the funding in the world that you want? No, no one does,” Giltrop said. The district also has its foundation, different “friends of” community library groups and grant opportunities to help fund operations and projects.
Giltrop said she will help to wrap up the current strategic planning process and begin a new one. She has experience taking them on, mentioning she particularly enjoys the community engagement sessions.
“Whether we agree or disagree, I still think it’s important that we hear all voices,” Giltrop said.
She said the mix of urban and rural areas also caught her eye for seeking the position. Her time working for the Seattle Public Library gave her an appreciation for the Pacific Northwest.
“If I’m not working at the library, I’ll be outside,” Giltrop said.
The district still has to finalize the contract with Giltrop, a spokesperson for FVRL said. The district will release more details about the transition to the new position as that contract is finalized.