Doug Henderson acknowledges a lifelong love for books and libraries, but the newly announced director of Charleston County Public Library said he’s found a new love – Charleston.
Henderson, previously director of the Loudoun County Public Library in Leesburg, Va., has moved to Charleston to become executive director of the Charleston County Public Library system.
Henderson, a veteran with 34 years of library service, said he could tell during his visits and interviews that Charleston County residents and the library’s staff are proud of their libraries and value their importance in the community. He also found himself amazed by the overall beauty, diversity, culture and history of the area plus he felt a real sense of community and happiness from people he met in the area.
“I was looking for a place that had an interest in libraries and valued libraries. I see that in Charleston. I’m excited to come and am really looking forward to working with the staff,” Henderson said, adding that he and his wife are empty nesters now that their two sons are in college, so this seemed like the perfect time to start a new adventure.
LoElla Smalls, member of the Charleston County Library Board of Trustees and the search committee, said the board felt Henderson was the right person to lead CCPL into the future. During the search process, the board kept staff involved by surveying them to get their input on a new director, setting up staff sessions with the final candidates and having candidates visit several of the Library’s branches.
Henderson is filling a vacancy created in late 2008 by the death of CCPL’s Executive Director Thomas Raines. Henderson will make $117,000 annually and has a two-year contract.
Since Raines’ death, Cynthia Bledsoe has served as the library’s acting director. Henderson noted that Bledsoe had done a great job during the interim and is now serving as deputy director. She’s been at CCPL for 11 years and worked for libraries a total of 34 years.
“We're excited we found Doug. And, to have Cynthia as deputy director, we’re going to have a truly top notch leadership team,” Smalls said. “Henderson has an exceptional background as a library director and leader. He'll bring new, fresh ideas to our mission of providing library services to all county residents. He led Loudoun County's library to a number six ranking nationally by the Hennen American Public Library Index for libraries serving communities with populations between 250,000 and 499,999, and we believe Doug's leadership can make our excellent system even better."
While in Loudoun County, which has a similar population as Charleston County, Henderson also received the American Library Association’s Paul Howard Award for Courage, ALA’s John Cotton Dana Public Relations Award twice and the Virginia Library Associations Intellectual Freedom Award.
Before moving to Loudoun County, he spent 21 years with the Las Vegas/Clark County Library District, eventually becoming assistant director. He received his master’s degree in library science from Florida State University.
Library Board Chairman Jeanne T. Holladay said board members also were impressed with the donations and community support Henderson rallied for the Loudoun County Library. "We hope to see the same thing happen here. In tough economic times when government funds are being cut, it is more important than ever to cultivate partnerships and develop private donors who will support the library."
Holladay also said the board, and the entire county, owes an overwhelming debt of gratitude to Bledsoe.
"Cynthia has kept CCPL moving forward during a time of transition. Her dedication is apparent in the library's achievements in the past two years. Because of her and the excellent staff in all our branches, CCPL was rated as one of the best public libraries in the nation by Library Journal magazine, a recognition that came when the library faced extensive budget cuts and a double-digit increase in the demand for library services."
Henderson is a real advocate for early childhood education and believes in reaching out to new parents to let them know the importance of introducing children to books when they are babies. To improve children’s services, he wants to develop or advance partnerships with area schools so the library can find ways to better serve the needs of area students.
“I really want kids in the library… Books were a part of how I was raised. They were always there,” Henderson said, adding that he is a strong proponent of pre-literacy programs. He remembers going to the library and reading sports biographies as an elementary school student, and he wants children in Charleston to have the same opportunity to fall in love with reading.
In addition to focusing on childhood literacy, another area of interest is improving the library’s collection by making sure it represents the diverse needs of area residents. He wants to improve community involvement and communication so he can learn what county residents really want and need from their library. One thing on his list is improving electronic, remote access for patrons, which also will help free up staff time to help patrons visiting the library.
Henderson said he and his wife love the outdoors, and she’s already making plans to buy a kayak so they can take advantage of the beaches and water in the Lowcountry. “We’re looking forward to becoming a part of the community,” he said. “By far Charleston is the best place I’ve seen. I want to be there.”