Princeton Public Library Executive Director Leslie Burger will retire in January of 2016 after 16 years at the helm, the Princeton Public Library Board of Trustees has announced.
“This is a bittersweet moment for the Princeton community,” said Princeton Public Library Board of Trustees President Kiki Jamieson. “We’re very happy for Leslie as she starts a new chapter of her life, but we will sorely miss her leadership, vision, hard work and dedication to the Princeton community and public libraries in general.”
During Burger’s tenure as executive director, all library usage statistics, including overall attendance, circulation of materials, growth of technology and digital collections, and public programming attendance either doubled or increased dramatically. Her leadership was marked by the establishment or strengthening of ties between the library and all key sectors of the Princeton community.
“During Leslie’s time here, a library that was well loved by the community grew to become a recognized, national leader for library service and innovation,” Jamieson said. “There can be no greater testament to Leslie’s tenure and contributions than the fact that leading municipal libraries across the country look to Princeton Public Library as a thought leader in the ever-evolving role of public libraries.”
In anticipation of Burger’s retirement and to ensure a seamless transition for both library customers and staff, the library’s Board of Trustees will retain the services of a top-tier executive search firm to conduct a national search for Ms. Burger’s successor.
Before joining the Princeton Public Library, Burger served as a development consultant at the New Jersey State Library, where she focused on developing leadership and marketing initiatives within the state’s libraries. She served as executive director of the Central Jersey Regional Library Cooperative, which served Mercer, Monmouth, and Ocean counties. She also worked at the Connecticut State Library. Her library career began at the Bridgeport, Connecticut Public Library when she was hired to develop a community information and referral service.
Burger led the Princeton Public Library through an unprecedented period of growth highlighted by the design, construction and opening of the Sands Library Building in 2004 and a successful campaign to build a $10 million endowment to support innovation. In all, Burger led development efforts resulting in more than $25 million in private funding for the library.
She served a year-long term as president of the American Library Association from July 2006 through June 2007 and is also a former president of the New Jersey Library Association.
“Being Executive Director of a library in a town that places a premium on reading, learning and community engagement has been the highlight of my career,” Burger said. “In 42 years as a librarian, I’ve seen the profession evolve from one marked by slow, deliberate planning to one driven by technology to rapidly meet the ever-changing and growing demands of library customers.”
After retiring, Burger will turn her attention full time to Library Development Solutions, the private consulting firm she founded in 1991 with her husband, Alan. Their firm has worked with more than 200 urban, suburban, and rural public libraries, academic, special libraries, state libraries and library cooperatives across the U.S. in strategic planning, facility assessment, program implementation and evaluation, and organizational development.
Burger’s retirement announcement comes as the library is in the midst of a campaign to raise $3 million in private funding for a planned renovation of the second floor. She hopes to have all funds secured and for the project to be under way at the time of her retirement.
Earlier this year, the Board of Trustees approved the second floor renovation plan called 2Reimagine that highlights flexible space and is expected to include a dozen new collaboration rooms more suitable for co-working or individual study; a new 60-seat quiet reading room; a dedicated quiet magazine room, dubbed the newsroom, with seating for 30 people; a technology discovery center for hands-on digital exploration; an information commons with the latest technology and functional instructional space for classes; a more robust wireless network to better manage the ever-increasing digital load; an enlarged living room space with more comfortable lounge seating; a business center equipped with technologies to even better support those working away from home or office; and a new 40-seat event space.
“This is an ambitious and much-needed project that will deliver a 21st century library space where traditional library values of books and quiet space will coexist with the technological tools our community needs,” Burger said. “I’m confident that we can get this project well under way by the time of my departure. The library has always been able to rely on an engaged and generous community to maintain the difference between a passive library as a repository of information and an innovative and empowering community library, and I have no reason to doubt this will continue when my term as executive director ends.”
Jamieson said she can’t think of a better way for Burger to complete her legacy as executive director of the Princeton Public Library than by her overseeing the funding and launch of the planned renovation.
“Her vision and inspiration will forever be part of our community and a reimagined second floor is a wonderful and enduring gift from Leslie to all of us,” Jamieson said.