Following nationwide search, Tuscaloosa library stays local in choosing new executive director

·3 min read

After almost seven months and a nationwide search, the Tuscaloosa Public Library has a new executive director.

And, as it turns out, the chosen candidate was here all along.

Jennifer Gladden Pearson, the library’s former deputy director who has been serving as the interim executive director since November, has been named the Tuscaloosa Public Library’s new, permanent executive director.

“After an extensive search and several candidate interviews, we’re excited Jennifer Pearson has been selected as our executive director,” said Terri Olive Tompkins, chair of the library’s board of trustees, in announcing Pearson’s hire. “She has been a tremendous asset to the library for many years and has done an outstanding job as interim executive director.”

Jennifer Pearson has been named the new, permanent executive director of the Tuscaloosa Public Library.
Jennifer Pearson has been named the new, permanent executive director of the Tuscaloosa Public Library.

Pearson was chosen from a pool of 11 candidates who had submitted applications from Alabama, Connecticut, Georgia, Kansas, Mississippi and North Carolina.

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She was the only internal candidate, library officials said, and her selection came from a nine-member executive director task force that reviewed, scored and interviewed the applicants.

“I sincerely appreciate this opportunity and I’m excited to lead the outstanding and dedicated staff of TPL,” Pearson said. “I am very excited about this opportunity, and the future of the Tuscaloosa Public Library.

“Our public library is such a valuable asset to our community and I look forward to the library continuing to provide needed services and unique learning opportunities throughout the entire county.”

The job posting, which was made available through the American Library Association, the Alabama Library Association, the University of Alabama’s School of Library and Information Studies as well as the Tuscaloosa Public Library’s website, Indeed.com and Glassdoor.com, said the new executive director would be charged with providing “strategic and dynamic leadership of the Tuscaloosa Public Library” and offered a salary range from $90,258.19 to $122,882.14.

Pearson's salary will begin at $105,883.52, Tompkins said.

The board’s decision means Pearson now officially takes over for former Executive Director Rick Freemon, who had been the library’s interim or full-time executive director since November 2014.

Freemon left the position on Nov. 4 following a unanimous vote of the board of trustees' vote to accept his resignation and the approval of a severance package.

Pearson is now the third executive director for the library since 2011 when the board chose Mary Elizabeth Harper, who had served as director of the Romeo District Library in Washington, Michigan, since 2007 from a pool of 20 candidates to replace Nancy Pack, the library’s popular executive director, who retired after 11 years in the position.

Harper’s tenure lasted just more than three years before Freemon’s began.

Pearson, meanwhile, brings an added level of stability to the position.

She holds an undergraduate degree and a Master of Library and Information Studies from the University of Alabama and began her career as a librarian assistant at the Tuscaloosa Public Library in 1998. Since then, has served in multiple capacities, including deputy director and, until now, as interim executive director.

As interim director, Pearson – who is married to Adam Pearson, and has two children: Sam Henry and Mae – initiated new and successful outreach programs, updated equipment and secured additional grants, according to the board of trustees.

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Previous coverage: Tuscaloosa Public Library seeks new executive director

She also spearheaded the library’s transition away from charging late fees for overdue items. Now, instead of assessing fines, the library will implement automatic renewals of checked-out items while increasing the flow of courtesy, auto-renewal or overdue notices.

The move follows the latest recommendations from the American Library Association, which believes the elimination of fines should be considered in an effort to assist those residents who may most need the services of a free public library.

“Jennifer has worked in practically every area of TPL, understands our community and its needs, and has a strong commitment to making the library the best in this region.” Tompkins said. “We are very excited about the bright future of TPL under Jennifer’s leadership.”

Reach Jason Morton at jason.morton@tuscaloosanews.com.

This article originally appeared on The Tuscaloosa News: Tuscaloosa library board stays local with new executive director