Seattle Public Library’s executive director and chief librarian since 2011, Marcellus Turner, will be leaving his position next month, to take a new post as head of the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library in Charlotte, North Carolina, SPL said Monday.
In an eventful near-decade at SPL, Turner has overseen two successful levy campaigns (in 2012 and 2019, the latter of which included funding to eliminate overdue fines for library patrons). On his watch, SPL has been awarded five-star ratings (the highest possible rating) from Library Journal’s Index of Public Library Service for 10 years in a row, and the prestigious Gale/Library Journal Library of the Year award in 2020.
And Turner, who made about $198,000 in 2019 according to City of Seattle payroll data, has led the library through the challenges of pandemic closures and limited reopening over the past year. While some users may be frustrated at the pace of that reopening — currently, 13 out of 27 branches are open for curbside service, a much lower percentage than neighboring King County Library System — Turner spoke in November of the complexities of the process, counseling patience. At the time, he said, “we are hopeful to get some things open toward the end of the year.” But with coronavirus cases rising over the holiday season, SPL doors stayed closed.
“We are especially grateful for Turner’s leadership over the past year of unprecedented challenges, from a global pandemic that forced closure of our buildings to an economic crisis that has exacerbated already-existing inequities,” said SPL board president Jay Reich in a statement. “Turner has helped the Library pivot, no matter the circumstances, to meet the needs of our public, and he has done so even while carefully planning for an eventual reopening of our buildings.”
Turner’s last day as head of SPL will be March 31. Reich said SPL will name an interim chief librarian “very soon,” and will immediately begin a national search for Turner’s successor.