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Quinn-Carey resigning as director of library

Bridget Quinn-Carey, who led the Buffalo & Erie County Public Library system during its recent high-profile funding crisis, is resigning as director, effective March 4.

Quinn-Carey said Tuesday she had accepted another library job but did not want to reveal her new employer, preferring that the institution make the announcement.

She also told The Buffalo News she had not been actively seeking a new position and was recruited by another library.

"I am so thankful for my time at the library. There are amazing people there, and I feel like I've made a contribution," Quinn-Carey said. "The work was appreciated, helped move the organization along and will always be part of the history of the [library], and I'm proud of that."

She also expressed appreciation to the library's board of directors for being "incredibly supportive of me, as well as the institution."

Quinn-Carey came to Buffalo to manage the region's 37-branch library system in March 2008 from the Essex Library Association in Connecticut.

She has had to lead the library system through daunting fiscal challenges during the past four months, including a budget for this year that has a nearly $4 million gap that will have to be covered by a rainy day fund and reductions in staff and services.

This year's budget includes a loss of $1 million in county funds, which is an improvement from an initial $4 million cut recommended by County Executive Chris Collins.

The library system has had to reduce branch hours, lay off staff and consolidate Central Library operations.

Quinn-Carey declined to discuss what role county politics might have had in her decision to leave.

"To be honest, a lot of it is timing. My contract is up at the begining of March, and it was an opportunity to reassess where I am and what opportunities were available to me.

"I looked at a lot of different factors in this, but felt it was an opportunity to take on a new position and try something else," she said.

Quinn-Carey said she intends to remain in the Buffalo area with her husband and two children, ages 8 and 14.

"We love Buffalo, and we're not planning to leave the area," she said.

Sharon A. Thomas, chairwoman of the library board, called Quinn-Carey a "visionary" who would be deeply missed. The director's announcement, she said, took her by surprise.

"Bridget has been an amazingly strong leader. Bridget's dedication, energy and expertise have all gone toward making this a better and stronger library system for everyone," Thomas said.

Quinn-Carey earned $107,500 each of her three years, lower than many other leaders of nonprofits with smaller staffs and less complex responsibilities. She has to work with 23 boards and four unions in a system with about 450 full-time equivalent employees.

"Bridget has been a very strong leader for the library system and a pleasure to work with," said Robert Gioia, president of the John R. Oishei Foundation. "Our community is fortunate that we will continue to benefit from her efforts."

Salary was not a factor in her decision to take her new job, but it may be something the board needs to look at, Quinn-Carey said.

"When I came here, the salary represented a substantial increase for me. But in the grand scheme of things, if you look at comparable library systems of that size, with similar budgets and staffing, Buffalo is among the lowest," she said.

Thomas said the board will review the director's compensation as it seeks Quinn-Carey's successor. She said discussions likely will start Jan. 13, when the board's executive committee meets.

The library system will need to name an interim director during the search. Mary Jean Jakubowski, chief operating officer, was named interim director during the previous search that resulted in the hiring of Quinn-Carey. Thomas said a similar search could take six months or more.

Quinn-Carey recently proposed creating a special taxing district, which would allow voters rather than county lawmakers to decide the library system's budget. She expressed confidence that the library will emerge from tough fiscal times in a stronger position.

"We're on a great path, and there are options for the library that are being explored that will help ensure its vitality for the future," she said.

That statement recalled her own words when she was hired in January 2008, a few years after several branch closings.

"Buffalo & Erie County Public Library has weathered some storms in recent years, but with strategy and stamina, it now appears primed to regain a position of greatness," Quinn-Carey said at the time.

e-mail: msommer@buffnews.com

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