Hilary Theyer has worked in libraries since she was 15, and grew up in a family of librarians, teachers and writers. She brings that personal history—and her most recent professional post, at the Torrance Public Library in Southern California, where she served for 20 years—to her new role as director of Monterey County Free Libraries.
The county library system includes 17 branches, three bookmobiles, a range of programs for people of all ages—from interactive activities for youth to tutoring adult English-language learners—and an annual budget of roughly $10 million.
Theyer is taking up the mantle after former MCFL director Jayanti Addleman departed following 14 years in the top county librarian role for a position in Hayward.
Theyer says first on her agenda is to continue her predecessor's work, including a strategic planning process for MCFL. Surveys and consultants have established a basis of reporting as to what should be done to keep them up to date.
“A plan will emerge based on the great background that was done,” Theyer says. “There are programs that are running and working beautifully; the goals that are set forth for us by the county; and the ones that we’re hearing from the public about.”
While applying to the job, Theyer visited the libraries throughout the county to try and understand what each one offered. What she found was a unique sense of community in each branch.
“It’s hard to describe, but you can feel the presence of community in that branch from displays to activities to what was in the lobbies and how community members were interacting with their library,” Theyer says. “That’s something that’s almost intangible, but I love it when I feel it in a library and I felt it in every branch I visited here in Monterey County.”
Early on in her role as director, which began Aug. 5, Theyer will be returning to each branches to introduce herself and ask questions about each location.
She grew up in Los Angeles and worked there for two decades, but Theyer has roots in the Monterey Bay area; she attended UC Santa Cruz and met her husband there.
She also learned about Monterey County Free Libraries while working elsewhere in California, due to MCFL's award-winning reputation.
One big goal, she says is to be welcoming to all, both individually and for the library system as a whole. “Once I have my name badge—which I’m still ordering—please come up and say hi and talk to me about libraries, ask me about libraries, tell me about my libraries,” Theyer says. “I definitely want to do that, and I enjoy doing that.”
As to a beloved book she returns to, it goes back to early memories of being read to. When she wants a book that will always sweep her away, Theyer says picks up Fellowship of the Ring, part of J.R.R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings series. When she was a child, she says, her father would read it to her and her sister; it was one of the novels he reserved as a favorite to read to his kids.
“While my Mom did most of the reading aloud to us, my Dad reserved certain of his favorites to read to us,” Theyer says. “And that was one of my Dad’s, so often when I start it—even reading it to myself—I’m brought back to that moment with a parent of being read aloud to.”