Portland Public Library's next executive director eyes health, science initiatives

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PORTLAND — The Portland Public Library has picked a new executive director.

Sarah Campbell, who has been a library administrator for 14 years and its associate director since April 2013, was selected by the board of trustees on March 31 following a nine-month search.

She will replace Stephen Podgajny, who announced last June he would be retiring after holding the position for nine years. Campbell will assume the position on July 11.

Campbell previously headed the library’s Lending Services, Technical Services, and Systems for 12 years.

She said she is committed to “the things we’ve done and the progress we’ve made” and is looking forward to the future.

“We have a number of initiatives that we will be going after the next little while,” Campbell said, including “pursuing health issues in the community, building citizen scientists, and building people’s awareness of science and technology and the other STEM aspects.”

She added the library staff is working towards offering more opportunities for people to learn about government and engagement, opportunities for readers to meet local authors, and opportunities for people to learn about Portland’s history.

“Portland is such a dynamic place and the mission of the library is to absolutely embrace the community and evolve with the community’s interests,” Campbell said.

Library President Eric Altholz said there were more than 25 applicants for the job from around the country, and the search began in September. A search committee narrowed that group to finalists who met with the board and library staff.

“It really was a very in-depth process,” Altholz said. He said they received applications from as far as California with various backgrounds, including public libraries and academic libraries.

“We were looking for someone who had relevant urban library experience, was going to be really effective in deepening the kind of partnerships that we’ve built over time,” Altholz said.

He said Campbell’s history with the library was not the deciding factor in her selection.

“I think it was an advantage that she knew us so well,” he said, “but we never would have done a national search if that was the most important thing.”

Colin Ellis can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or cellis@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @colinoellis.

Sidebar Elements

Sarah Campbell was named the next executive director of the Portland Public Library, after a nine-month selection process.

Reporter covering the Portland Public School District as well as the town of Falmouth for The Forecaster. Can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or cellis@theforecaster.net.