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Posted: October 29, 2010 12:30 a.m.

Library director Greg Heid leaves for another position

Long-time Library Director Greg Heid will be leaving the Newton County system in early 2011, after accepting the director position of the Des Moines, Iowa, library system.

As Heid approached retirement, he decided he could make one last career move, and as he was casually searching for jobs, a headhunter called and suggested he apply for the Des Moines position, he said Wednesday. The Des Moines system is larger, with six branches, and the city had a population of 193,886 in 2006, according to the U.S. Census bureau.

"It’s an advancement from this position, and (Des Moines) is also a fairly nice area. I really think highly of the city, because the public regards the library with the same enthusiasm as the public here in Newton County. It’s a very nice package," Heid said, noting that the move will also place him closer to his ailing parents in Minnesota.

One of the determining factors is the fact that about 90 percent of Des Moines residents have a library card, a number that’s unheard of, said Heid. Newton County is above average with a 59 percent card ownership rate. A rate of 30 percent to 40 percent is considered average, he said.

Heid said the Newton County Library Board of Trustees has not decided when they will begin interviewing replacement candidates, but it will advertise the job across the state and nation. He said the board has already received internal candidates and some from across the state.

Heid joined Newton County in 1997 as assistant director, because he was so impressed with the community’s desire for a library, which is now the Covington Branch Library. He allocated a $2 million state grant to Covington for construction while he was working for the state library system.

"I saw such a desire for public library services here in Newton County, and the community was so supportive. I was rather impressed and said, ‘Why not?’" said Heid.

During his 12 years as director, Heid has seen Newton County gain two more branches, including the Newborn outlet branch and the Porter Memorial Branch Library in the western part of the county, which is scheduled to open in 2011. Heid will stay in Newton County until the new branch opens.

He’s also overseen a nearly 200 percent increase in circulation, a 165 percent increase in total visitors and a 250 percent increase in reference information requests. The number of computer users per year has also increase from 8,000 to 187,000. Also, Newton County’s library system was named the best in the state in 2009.

Heid said he expects the library board will pause after the western branch is opened to allow the branch to become integrated into the system. He said it will then probably look at its core services and determine how it wants to proceed in the current economy and once the economy recovers, probably by developing a strategic plan.

"Whether it means more library branches, or a virtual library where everything is available on the Internet and the current Web page is expanded," said Heid, noting that they will also have to determine how they want to deal with e-books and other innovations.

"It’s really with mixed emotions that I’m leaving. I continue to tell people that I will still have (an) e-mail address and phone number when I’m up there and I will be visiting," Heid said.

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