Portland Public Library director to retire in 2015

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PORTLAND — Stephen Podgajny, executive director of the Portland Public Library since 2006, will retire on July 1, 2015.

“It has been such a privilege and honor to lead the library for the past eight years. It is an enormously important institution, not just to the city of Portland, but also to the region and the state,” Podgajny said in a statement released June 26 by the libary board of trustees. “There is much yet to be done over the next year. We have a talented and committed staff, a board that is skilled and energized, and a wonderful partner in the city. I certainly feel a great urgency to help move the institution further ahead in the next year.”

Podgajny, 63, helped modernize the library system and in 2010 spearheaded a $7.3 million renovation of its main branch on Congress Street. That construction job, widely praised for both its aesthetic and functional improvements to the library, earned Scott Simons Architects, of Portland, an Honor Award from the Maine Chapter of the American Institute of Architects.

“It wasn’t just an update of the building, it was a redesign of the way the services are offered. Steve was really the visionary behind that,” said Sarah Campbell, associate director of the library. “He has brought very dynamic leadership, moving the library forward as the needs of the community changed and the role of the library broadened to become a cultural center and community hub.”

The board of trustees this month plans to appoint a search committee to find a new executive director. Campbell said the next steps for the library also include the creation of more “maker spaces” – areas containing cutting-edge technology (3D printers, for example) that enable creative, collaborative work.

Podgajny (pronounced puh-GO-nee) previously directed the Curtis Memorial Library in Brunswick for 18 years and the Dyer Library in Saco for six years. He plans to dedicate his retirement to travel, civic organizations and occasional consulting work, he said.

“It is not an exaggeration to say that Steve Podgajny has transformed Portland Public Library,” said Eric Altholz, president of the library board. “His leadership and passion produced the award-winning renovation of our main library, a major restructuring of internal operations through the adoption of a service team approach, the development of new collaborations with other leading cultural organizations in Portland and around the state, and a deeper partnership with the city of Portland. There is no replacing a leader like Steve Podgajny, but we will work very hard to find a worthy successor.”

Brendan Twist can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or btwist@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @brendantwist.