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Obama taps former Placer County library chief for admin post

By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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A key post in President Barack Obama’s administration is being filled by a library executive with Placer County and Auburn roots. Susan Hildreth’s nomination was confirmed unanimously by the U.S. Senate in December as Director of the U.S. Institute of Museum and Library Services. She had been nominated in September by Obama. The institute, an independent U.S. government agency, is responsible for distributing all federal funds to the nation’s 123,000 libraries and 17,500 museums. One of Hildreth’s earliest library jobs was as assistant county librarian with the then Auburn-Placer County Library. After longtime head librarian Dorothy Sanborn retired, Hildreth served as the county library system’s chief librarian, working from headquarters at the Auburn branch from 1989 to 1991. Hildreth, who will assume her new duties in Washington, D.C. late in January, is currently Seattle’s head librarian. Since leaving Placer County, she has also served as Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s appointee to the California state librarian position and as San Francisco city librarian. Hildreth’s time with Placer County is remembered fondly by many employees. Among her accomplishments was working with then-Placer County Supervisor Susan Hogg to secure grants for establishment of a library branch in Granite Bay. The area had previously been served by a bookmobile. Karri Samson, a library assistant, said Hildreth was well-loved and remembered at the county library for her seamless interaction with staff, her intelligence, and capabilities to lead and influence that were obvious even then. When Hildreth became state librarian, she invited Placer County staff members to her Sacramento headquarters for a memorable tour of the backrooms as well as offices, Samson said. Mary George, acting director of Placer County library services, cited Hildreth’s intelligence and memory for names and details of employees as qualities that stood out during her time in Auburn. “She was always interested in mentoring and she’s still well-loved,” George said. “People still talk about ‘When Susan Hildreth was here’ with fondness.’” Hildreth said this past week that she too looks back on her time with the Placer County library with fond memories. She recalled that the Friends of the Library organizations were particularly strong in their support. “I consider it one of the best jobs I had,” Hildreth said. “Because of the county library’s size, I was able to get to know everybody and get things done.” Hildreth will serve a four-year term as the director of the federal institute. The directorship alternates between individuals from the museum and library communities. “I cannot imagine a more exciting and challenging responsibility than helping to create strong libraries and museums that sustain our heritage and culture and connect people to information and new ways of thinking,” Hildreth said. In announcing Hildreth’s nomination, along with several others in September, the White House issued a statement describing the library and museum services directorship as a key administration post. “The extraordinary dedication and outstanding achievement these men and women bring to their new roles will greatly serve the American people,” Obama said in the release.