Tualatin library manager tapped as new Beaverton Libraries director

by: TIMES PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Tualatin Public Library Manager Abigail Elder is leaving this month after five years to take over the helm of Beaverton City Libraries.There are those who believe the technological revolution and its attendant Kindles and E-readers foretell the demise of books, libraries and the joy of reading as we know it.

Abigail Elder is not one of those.

“Libraries are busier than they were in the past,” says Elder, Tualatin Public Library’s manager since 2008. “We’ve got to change with the times. Libraries are doing a very good job of that. I have no fear about the future of libraries.”

As spring segues into summer, the future of the Beaverton City Library appears to be in experienced, enthusiastic hands with Elder, who city officials recently hired to succeed retiring Beaverton Libraries Director Ed House. June 21 will be her last day at Tualatin’s library. Elder will start as Beaverton director on July 8, overseeing the two-story, 69,000-square-foot City Library at 12375 S.W. Fifth St. and the 2-year-old, 7,000-square-foot Murray Scholls Branch at 11200 S.W. Murray Scholls Place, suite 102.

“What I was looking for most is a bigger city and a more diverse city,” she said. “Both things appeal to me. I was not looking to leave. I love it here in Tualatin.”

Elder will earn $100,164 for the role. House’s salary topped out at $112,370 in the 2012-13 fiscal year.

Building programs

A 15-year resident of Oregon, Elder has lived in Beaverton’s Denney/Whitford/Raleigh West neighborhood with her husband, Brian List, for 10 years. She came on board to manage the Tualatin Public Library right after its extensive remodeling project finished in August 2008.

“It was a brand-new building handed to me on a silver platter,” she said. “It was pretty amazing.”

Before that, Elder worked for three years as central library administrator at the Multnomah County Public Library in downtown Portland, as circulation manager for the Vancouver Public Library and as manager of the Beaverton City Library’s Adult Services Division.

“We’re very pleased to add Abigail to the Beaverton team,” said Beaverton Mayor Denny Doyle. “She brings a wealth of experience and a record of success to the Beaverton City Library.”

Raised in Minnesota, Elder holds a master’s degree in library studies from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a master of public administration from Portland State University. She also serves as chairwoman of Library Services to an Aging Population, a national library committee.

Even though she was plucked from the Washington County Cooperative Library Services system, Elder called the selection process to replace House — who’s served as director since 2001 — notably thorough. Twenty-two candidates were narrowed down to four finalists.

“I definitely had to go through a process,” she said. “The fact that I already worked in the Washington County library system was a real benefit.”

House, 64, decided earlier this year to step down to enjoy his passions for outdoor activities and hobbies such as music and woodworking. He praised Elder as an ideal professional and personal fit for the libraries director role.

“Abigail is an enthusiastic, capable manager who is highly respected by her peers,” he said. “She has a clear vision on how to lead the Beaverton City Libraries into the future and is up-to-date on the latest technology.”

Oasis for all ages

Elder considers herself an advocate of technological advances in library services as well as extending the library’s influence beyond building walls. She applauded the Beaverton City Library’s brand-new automated circulation system, which allows for the hands-free sorting of returned media, as well as the circulation of DVDs and E-books at both facilities and diversity-savvy services such as multilingual children’s storytime sessions.

“They’ve done a good job using technology to be more effective and cost efficient,” Elder said. “The automated handling system, that’s a big step. Both Beaverton and the county are showing how to be good stewards of taxpayer dollars, and knowing how to stretch them out.”

She also would like to look for innovative ways to serve aging populations, including mid-life and Baby Boomer patrons who are retiring or working less and seeking more leisure opportunities close to home.

“When you look at Beaverton, the demographics, you see a lot of aging in place,” she said. “How can Beaverton Libraries respond to those demographics? Beaverton’s doing some great things, and I want to carry those farther.”

Aside from the proposed plans to expand the already overcrowded Murray-Scholls Branch Library, Elder admitted she doesn’t see much that needs attention in the facilities she’s taking on.

“It’s a very successful place,” she said. “I don’t think there are things we’d necessarily go in and fix. I hope to go in and improve upon existing services.”

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