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Loutit District Library Board Names Sara Derdowski Director Select

On November 2, Loutit District Library’s Board of Trustees voted to approve a succession plan for the library director position. The Board unanimously approved a proposal to name Sara Derdowski as Library Director Select and enter into an employment agreement. Derdowski currently serves as the library’s Assistant Director of Finance & Human Resources. John Martin has been the director of the library since 2011 and will retire from this position at the end of June 2022.

John Martin, a 1974 graduate of Grand Haven High School, returned to Grand Haven in 2011 when he was appointed director of Loutit District Library (LDL). Martin served as the library director of the Oak Park Library in Oak Park, Michigan for 21 years prior to accepting the position of director at LDL. In December 2015, through Martin’s leadership, Loutit District Library became the first library in Ottawa County to host US naturalized citizenship ceremonies. In October 2019, the LDL became the first library in Ottawa County to completely remove late fees, removing a stigma and barrier to library service for countless individuals. Through a grant from the Library of Michigan and the Grand Haven Area Community Foundation, Loutit expanded community access to the internet with 40 circulating Wi-Fi hotspots beginning in October 2019. In 2021, Martin was awarded the inaugural annual Visionary Award from the Grand Haven Human Relations Commission to honor and celebrate individuals who demonstrate courage in the face of resistance to change by affirming diversity and advocating for justice in the civil and social arenas of the community. For the last decade, Martin has proven himself to be a strong advocate for marginalized and underserved residents of our communities.

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Martin led the library in discovering new ways to offer vital services to the community. Library programs began to be offered online or outdoors. In cooperation with the Spring Lake District Library, with funding provided by the GHACF, StoryWalks® were created and placed in numerous outdoor areas throughout the region, providing a safe, distanced alternative for parents and caregivers to story time sessions. This same concept was recently utilized to provide a self-guided, distanced walking tour of Lake Forest Cemetery. Access to digital materials was expanded and staff made phone calls to more than 1,400 seniors to help connect them to digital resources. Curbside service was implemented so that patrons could pick up library materials without entering the building. Additionally, an after hours holds locker was installed in the library’s parking garage so that patrons would have access to pick up their holds 24/7.

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Martin will work over the next several months to begin training and transferring duties to Derdowski. The choice of Derdowski, an internal hire, as Library Director Select ensures that the projects Martin and the library staff have initiated as part of the library’s 2019-2022 strategic plan will be brought forward to completion. One of Martin’s strengths is his ability to develop partnerships throughout the community. This succession plan allows Martin to introduce Derdowski to stakeholders and ensure that these partnerships will continue to flourish after his retirement. “With Sara, we have a talented leader who is both passionate about the library and vested in our community. We look forward to the future of Loutit District Library under Sara’s leadership,” board president Dave De Young remarked.

Sara Derdowski was hired as the Business Manager of LDL in 2018 and assumed the role of Assistant Director of Finance & Human Resources in 2020. Sara’s background in finance and business operations as a CPA has led Loutit District Library to greater fiscal responsibility and astute care for taxpayer dollars. As Assistant Director, Sara has helped develop and implement innovative ideas, streamlined practices and fostered staff talent. “I am pleased and honored to accept the position of Library Director Select,” shared Derdowski. “Over the last three years, it has been a privilege to work alongside John. I am thrilled to be able to build upon the foundation that has been established and I look forward to leading our incredible team to fulfill the library’s mission of expanding horizons, enriching minds, and engaging community”.

“I want to thank the LDL Board of Trustees for their trust, integrity and confidence in selecting me as Library Director in 2011,” said Martin. “Our working relationship has been exceptional. The Board has been a great partner and supporter of programs and initiatives enacted over the years and has been willing to take chances on new services intended to benefit library users of all ages.” Martin stated further, “by announcing this library leadership early in the process, a smooth transition to library leadership under the direction of Sara Derdowski is ensured, providing a continuity of service. None of the great work and services provided by LDL would be possible without the extraordinary efforts of our outstanding library staff, Friends of the Library, and volunteers. I’ve worked for universities, large and small public libraries and I will attest that I have never worked with a more kind, caring, industrious, and committed group of people. The support for library services from our residents is amazing. We should all take pride in the materials and services provided by the LDL”.