WASHINGTON — Lexie Walsh didn't need to hit the ground running last month when she was named director of the Washington District Library. She had already run several laps.
Walsh had served as interim director since June 23 following the resignation of former director Randall Yelverton, who left to become executive director of the Peoria Public Library.
Before being named interim director, Walsh had been Washington's youth services director since February 2015.
At age 30, Walsh has become one of the youngest library directors in the area. Her salary is $62,000, a nearly 35 percent increase from her salary of $46,000 as youth services director. Yelverton was making $70,000 before he went to Peoria.
"Lexie is young and energetic. That really appealed to us as we were making our decision on who to hire as director," said Joan Ruppman, president of the Washington library board.
Ruppman said the board was impressed with Walsh's performance as interim director.
"If we needed a question answered or an explanation, even for something as relatively minor as when the library's windows were last washed, Lexie responded to us in a day or two," Ruppman said. "She also showed an understanding of our community and its needs."
Walsh said she loved being the library's youth services director, but it was an easy decision for her to apply to be the interim director and director.
"I wanted to become more involved with the library as a whole," she said. "I have some ideas I think will benefit the library."
One idea is to improve access to technology for library patrons by increasing the bandwith for those using public computers and their own devices.
Another idea is adding community partnerships that will increase knowledge of the library's services and create more programming.
The technology boost is a future goal because the library is several months into its 2018-2019 fiscal year, which began May 1. Work on the partnerships can begin immediately.
The main branch of the Washington District Library, at 380 N. Wilmor Road, is in an unusual location for a library. It's part of the Five Points Washington multi-purpose facility that includes workout facilities, a gym, a swimming pool, meeting rooms and an auditorium.
Walsh thinks the location is a benefit for the library.
"A lot of people stop in at the library when they come to Five Points for another reason," she said. "You may not come to a library four days a week, but you'll come to a gym four days a week. We have a nice collection of water bottles that have been left at the library."
Walsh said she has increased communications with Five Points sales and marketing director Shae Harris so both are on the same page when it comes to Five Points and library events.
The lone challenge for the library being a part of Five Points really isn't a big deal, Walsh said.
"People confuse us with the rest of Five Points. Every once in a while, for example, we get someone coming in and asking how much it costs to swim at Five Points," she said.
Washington's library branches at Five Points Washington and Washington Plaza, which once again will have a combined 23 employees (seven full-time) when Walsh's youth service director position is filled, are busy places.
There were 156,272 visitors and 242,821 books and other items checked out during the 2017-2018 fiscal year, which ended April 30. The branches had 87,294 items in their collections at the end of the fiscal year and there were 12,226 library card holders.
The numbers of visitors and checked out items could increase this fiscal year because the main library branch is open on Sunday for the first time.
Sunday hours (1 to 5 p.m.) began in early April. The library board is expected to discuss the future of Sunday hours at its monthly meeting in November.
Walsh, a Morton resident, earned a bachelor's degree with a dual major of Spanish and international studies from Bradley University in May 2010 and a master's degree in library and information science from the University of Illinois in May 2013.
Her first library job was a temporary position of reference librarian at Illinois Central College from January 2013 through April 2013. She was director of youth services for the Dunlap Public Library District from April 2013 through February 2015.
Ruppman said the seven-member Washington library board received 17 applications for the director position and two finalists were interviewed by the board. Walsh was appointed to the position by a unanimous vote in October.
"We required a master's degree in library science from an accredited university, which, of course, Lexie has," Ruppman said. "Plus, we were looking for someone who would be successful running a public library, which has different uses than say, a medical library."
Yelverton became Washington library director in November 2012 following Pam Tomka's retirement. He had been assistant director since April 2011. There no longer is an assistant director.
Steve Stein can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (248) 224-2616. Follow him on Twitter @SpartanSteve.