Planet Princeton

New Princeton Public Library Executive Director Chosen

library director
Bonfield

The board of trustees for the Princeton Public Library has hired a new director, Brett Bonfield.

Bonfield, currently the director of the Collingswood Public Library, was one of two finalists chosen from 25 applicants after a national search led by Library Strategies International LLC, library representatives said.

The board of trustees held a special meeting today at 5 p.m. to approve the appointment. Board members Audrey Gould, Pam Wakefield, and Ruth Miller, all voted to abstain. Some board members thought the search for Burger’s replacement should be re-opened to seek a broader applicant pool. Mayor Liz Lempert participated in the meeting via speakerphone and voted yes.

Current Princeton Public Library Director Leslie Burger did not attend the meeting. Burger has served 16 years as the head of the Princeton Public Library, which has about 70 employees.

Bonfield graduated from Drexel University with a master’s degree in library and information science in September of 2007. He serves as treasurer for the New Jersey Council for the Humanities board. Kiki Jamieson, the president of the Princeton Public Library Board of Trustees, also serves on the New Jersey Council for the Humanities board with Bonfield as a member at large.

“We are delighted that Brett Bonfield will be the next executive director of Princeton Public Library,” Jamieson said in a prepared statement. “Brett is a committed and experienced community builder. He is an advocate for public libraries and all who use them, and I have been impressed with his deep commitment to nurturing libraries as the heart and hearth of diverse communities. I think he will build on the excellence to which we as a community have become accustomed.”

Prior to his tenure at the Collingswood Public Library, which has a full-time staff of five people and a part-time staff of nine people, Bonfield worked during graduate school as a reference librarian in the library of the University of Pennsylvania in the 2006-07 academic year and St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia and Temple University during the 2007-08 a2007-08 academic yearcademic year. He co-chairs Library Pipeline, a website about opportunities, funding and services for libraries and librarians. Bonfield previously held jobs in real estate, web development, and online services, according to his resume.

“I am honored to have the opportunity to serve as executive director of Princeton Public Library, and I look forward to working with the library’s Board of Trustees and the extraordinarily talented staff at the library,” Bonfield said. “Building on the library’s tradition of success will require an intimate understanding of the community’s needs, and developing that understanding and putting it into practice will involve a great deal of listening, on my part, to the members of the Princeton community who love their library and care about its future.”

Bonfield will be paid $128,000 a yer. He begin his duties on Jan. 19.

Krystal Knapp

Krystal Knapp is the founding editor of Planet Princeton. She can be reached via email at editor AT planetprinceton.com. Send all letters to the editor and press releases to that email address.

  • Ally Gobi

    Look out, Princeton! You are so lucky to have Brett Bonfield at the helm of your public library!

  • SFB

    He’s being offered $128,000 a year to lead our excellent library, one of the best in the country. That’s a great opportunity. Frankly, he’d be insane to turn it down. Besides, there is no evidence of any deep conflict. No trustee voted against his appointment, and the rest is just hearsay.

  • guest

    Everything suggests that deep conflicts emerged within and between the library staff and the board over Mr. Bonfield’s candidacy. Given that situation, it is all the more baffling that he has accepted the position. No sane person enters into a job in which he knows a sizable group, perhaps even the majority in this case, does not support him. The very fact that Mr. Bonfield would accept the job under these circumstances raises questions about his judgment.

  • When I found out Brett was chosen I was thrilled for the library. Brett
    has a rich portfolio of executive skills. One of the advantages of
    spending time in smaller public libraries (an experience I share with
    Brett) is that you get deep experience with all aspects of the
    profession. I am sure he too chose carefully, and you are lucky to get him.

  • Princeton Techie

    Sorry if I gave you the impression that I was attacking Brett directly. I am not. I am merely stating that I have serious doubts that hiring process for this important and prestigious position was run correctly. As a result, I am doubtful we are getting the highest quality, i.e. a proven leader, fundraiser, and community advocate with a similar track record as Leslie. In other words, I take your word for it that Brett is nice and intelligent. The question is, could we have gotten better when the hiring process would have been run as it should have been: more openly and with involvement from Leslie? As for Brett he should ask himself the question how he will avoid the risk being perceived as a pawn, considering the community’s concerns over the process leading to his appointment?

  • guest

    This is how Brett describes himself: “People who know me now imagine that I was like the male lead in Juno: trim, polite, studious, and a little artsy: the sort of kid who you root for in the big race even though he knocked up your daughter. I wish it were true.”

    Is he allowed to say this? Did the Trustees even bother to question these types of thoughts and expressions?

  • Reader

    He definitely sounds radically under qualified. Nothing in his background suggests he’s up to this challenge, but who knows? Perhaps there’s more here than his rather thin resume would suggest. Even so, I’m amazed they couldn’t attract someone with a lot more experience. Maybe the salary was too low?

  • njlibrarian

    Congratulations, Brett! I’m thrilled to see this news. Through his innovative programming and fundraising ideas, his commitment to the ongoing improvement and transformation of the library field, and his tireless efforts to provide equitable access to information for all library users, Brett is an inspiration to librarians everywhere. PPL is lucky to have you at the helm.

  • Yes, you can learn “an awful lot” from a quick Google search — but far from everything.
    I can’t speak to the process; I wasn’t following that or part of it. If you think the Board was irresponsible, then talk to its members. All I’m saying here is, Don’t judge a person’s abilities by a simple Google search, or by one short article, or by the fact that he comes from a smaller library. That doesn’t reveal all of someone’s accomplishments or tell you what he or she is capable of.

  • Ha! I wasn’t offering “see what happens” as a strategy; rather, as a bit of assurance.
    If you need a strategy, then contact your Board members to learn more about why he was chosen.

  • SFB

    Brett, welcome to Princeton! I hope the coming years bring you and our excellent public library much success!

  • pplfan

    Sorry Kathy, I agree with the others. In fact, these days you can learn an awful lot about a person with a quick Google search, particularly if they are accomplished. Compare the search for Leslie Burger to the one for Brett Bonfield and you will see why people are so disappointed. The process here was clearly flawed and it seems like the Trustees were more concerned with making an appointment rather than finding the right person. That is the terribly irresponsible stewardship.

  • PrincetonNJFan

    I don’t think “see what happens” is a very good strategy. We’re talking about a multi-million dollar budget, a pending multi-million dollar renovation, tens of thousands of patrons and dozens of employees. His resume paints the picture of a strong number 2, who happens to be local and known by a board member, not a proven leader with experiences that are larger than, or at least similar to, our needs in Princeton. We are world class, can attract world class and deserve world class.

  • Please see my other response above. And don’t be too concerned about Brett coming from a smaller organization — he’s done amazing things for Collingswood’s library. The two towns have a lot in common.
    Since you’re commenting here, I’m guessing that you’re a library fan and supporter… so you know that “a quick Google search” is not the best way to learn about someone. I’ve been in the library field for more than 25 years, and I find Brett impressive. Give him a chance and see what happens.

  • To both Princeton Techie and PrincetonNJFan: It’s wonderful that you’re both so concerned about your library’s leadership. And I can see why you might be worried, after reading the very tiny bit of info in the article above. Clearly, you haven’t met Brett Bonfield yet. As a fellow member of the NJ library community, I can assure you, he’s incredibly intelligent and innovative. He’s also been involved in the American Library Association at high levels, an important fact that this article omits.
    I encourage you to get to know him, and to support him. I think he’ll do a great job at PPL!

  • Princeton Techie

    Very disturbing. This poses a lot of questions… especially about the process that led to this. What about the credentials of the recruitment firm used? What about the extent and quality of the candidate pool? Was the relationship to the president of the Trustees more important than qualified candidates? Was Leslie involved? Was the rest of the staff involved? We currently have a great library with wonderful staff and leadership. Are we really settling for less?

  • PrincetonNJFan

    This is truly shocking. We’ve gone from a world class leader, to someone running an organization that is tiny with an equally tiny budget. Based on a quick Google search, nothing seems to set this person or his library apart from thousands of other small libraries around the country. Perhaps he’s the best – but with this small pool of applicants, that’s hard to swallow.

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