AMITE--It was the job opportunity of a lifetime for Tangipahoa Parish Library Director Barry Bradford Saturday.
Fortunately for Tangipahoa Library patrons, he's staying here in Amite to guide the $3.5 million system and complete the new Amite Branch Library, which will have a gala opening party Nov. 17.
Bradford was one of five semi-finalists in a national search to lead the East Baton Rouge library system.
"I think it went well. I was interested in this because these kind of opportunities do not come up often. I am quite happy here. I have a good job. I love the community. Everyone has made me feel quite welcome in Tangipahoa Parish," he said Monday. "I am happy to be staying here."
Bradford has a good story to tell:
--the Tangipahoa Library System just received a clean audit of financial operations in the past year by Lee Gray and Associates.
--the system is on budget.
--the new Amite branch construction will be complete within an acceptable target after a few rain delays and so far on budget.
--the public gala is Saturday, Nov. 17 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
--patrons are happy with double the number of e-books available. Amenities like Community Coffee and the newspapers are popular in Hammond and Ponchatoula branches and will be part of the Amite branch.
--Branches large and small have been evaluated for classes in computers, children's programs and making the library more accessible for things like community meetings.
--the summer reading program has been popular for adults and kids.
Bradford was one of five semi-finalists Saturday morning for a large opportunity to lead the East Baton Rouge Library System. It was a 40-minute interview.
By Saturday afternoon, the EBR Library Board there sent him an email saying they had selected a single finalist. He and candidates as close as Terrebonne Parish and as far as Hernando County, Fla. and Sonoma, Calif. got the news quickly and without even meeting those who conducted the job interview.
Even though Bradford is just down the road from the EBR system, the board there chose to interview him on the Internet phone service Skype. "They were trying to make sure all the candidates were on the same footing." It was a new experience.
"They could see me. I could see the board and the chairman. I could not see who else was in the room," he said. "The video could be a little choppy at times."
The EBR board chose as finalist E. Spencer Watts, who runs the Mobile public library system. It, too, is smaller than the Baton Rouge system.
When you look at the numbers about EBR and Tangipahoa library systems, you see how much of an opportunity exists for a new chief library officer in Baton Rouge.
--EBR has 500 employees vs. about 50 in Tangipahoa.
--EBR has a $33 million budget vs. $3.5 million in Tangipahoa, with an additional $5 million or so in capital budget to build the new Amite branch.
"It was 10 times our budget and 10 times our staff. These opportunities do not come along often," he says.
Not all the numbers are impressive. The EBR library director salary range for example, which starts at $72,388 minimum to $115,000 max. "I make $68,000. I don't think that $72,000 as a starting salary is reasonable for the large responsibilities with that position," he said.
The Chattanooga public library system, where Bradford has personal knowledge, pays around $121,000. "It is a much smaller system that East Baton Rouge as well," he said.
Many agreed the salary range is too low. Starting with the the recruiter hired by the EBR system. And the job candidates. And the finalist Watts. And the editorial in The Advocate last week supporting a higher pay range.
The buck stops with the Metro Council, which refused in July to raise the range by 50 percent. The failed proposal was a minimum of $100,202/year to a max of $160,000.
How do you prepare for a Skype video job interview? "I dressed up," says Bradford.