Exit Interview: Library Director Jose Gamez
Posted Friday Apr 20, 2012
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 20, 2012
Contact: Kate Horan, McAllen Public Library, 956-681-3000, firstname.lastname@example.org
Exit Interview: Library Director Jose Gamez
After 6 years leading McAllen Public Library through a crucial period of change and transition – all of it centered on the opening of a New Main Library – Jose Gamez has announced his retirement effective June 1, 2012.
"When I learned of the position, I felt that it was a chance of a lifetime," Gamez told The Monitor in June 2006 on his first day as library director. "I just am very grateful for the opportunity to be here and I think McAllen should be very excited about this new facility."
Gamez had assumed the role of McAllen Library director in 2006 after a three-year stint leading the Pharr Memorial Library, where he oversaw a 20,000-square-foot expansion.
This experience and others enabled him to guide McAllen’s library system to its new facility, which opened with great fanfare December 10, 2011. Since opening day, the New Main Library has recorded a huge increase in visitors. In March 2012 alone, the library served 70,265 patrons.
On the cusp of his departure, we posed a few questions to Mr. Gamez. In the exit interview below, he shed some light on his background, the changes he’s most proud of, and how he plans to use the library during his retirement.
Library Director Jose Gamez sits in front of the sunflower mosaic
in the outdoor children's area at the New Main Library, April 20, 2012.
You began your tenure as library director in 2006, right as the planning and development of the New Main Library began to take off. What aspects of your professional and/or personal background motivated you to take the reins at such a crucial juncture in the library’s history?
I gained library construction/relocation at Texas State Technical College in 1984 where I worked with Harlingen campus librarian to start the library at the newly created McAllen Extension Campus. With the growth of the campus, the college built the Learning Resource Center in 1989. That building is currently the library at South Texas College. I also had a role in assisting the library director at McAllen Memorial Library in 1999/2000 in planning and starting two concurrent branch libraries. In 2003, I accepted the position of library director for the City of Pharr, my childhood hometown. The City had already started an expansion/renovation project adding 20,000 square feet and renovating the existing 10,000 square feet. I gained valuable experience that prepared me for the tasks associated with the new McAllen Public Library construction project.
MPL experienced an enormous amount of change under your watch these past 6 years. What are the changes you’re most proud of?
We planned and implemented dozens of projects, some small and some large, in preparation for the new realities we anticipated at the new McAllen Public Library. Change is never easy, but I am very proud of how the staff worked together to accomplish the goals. If I had to select some I would choose the Weeding project1 and Collection Reinvention project2. Circulation at the Memorial Library had dropped for about 10 years. With the implementation of these two projects, the drop was halted and reversed leading to a positive trajectory that continues to this day at the New Main Library.
The New Main Library opened its doors only 4 months ago. It may be too soon to tell, but how do you think the new library will affect the McAllen community in the months and years to come?
I think our tagline says it all, “Where people and ideas meet and connect.” People seem very happy to be in the building.
What are your favorite features of the New Main Library?
I would have to choose the floor plan. I am proud of the small role I had with this important aspect. I am also still astonished at the skills of the architects that worked on the project. We had very talented architects that were good listeners. Many of the staff’s ideas were absorbed by them and ended up in the drawings. Now that we are using the floor plan, we can see and use the space planning skills the design team brought to the project.
How do you plan to use your McAllen Public Library card during your retirement?
I really enjoy using the DVD and Blu Ray collection. When I check out a movie that my wife and I had not seen and it turns out to be a great film, I feel like our lives were just improved a bit by this free service available at our local library.
Any words of wisdom to staff and colleagues as they carry on the library’s service to the community?
Everyone working at McAllen Public Library should be very proud of the new facility. It is definitely making a positive impact in the area and everyone coming to work should be doing their part to make sure the success continues.
1. In the library profession, “weeding” is the recurring, systematic practice of evaluating a collection and removing damaged and unused material in order to make room for newer, more current material.
2. “Collection Reinvention” was a project led by Mr. Gamez in 2007-2008 at the Old Main Library with the central goal of revamping the library’s entire collection to increase circulation and prepare it for the New Main Library.
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