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Kanawha library board is searching for a new director for second time in just over a year

The Kanawha County Public Library system’s board is accepting applications through Dec. 15 for the $100,000-$120,000 per year job of being its top administrator.

Board members aren’t using the search firm John Keister & Associates LLC for this new search, after the last search from that firm led to a director who is leaving after holding the position for just over a year.

Vernon Hills, Illinois-based John Keister, which specializes in library executive searches, was paid $20,500 for the search that led to Riti Grover, who is resigning Dec. 13.

“We have a lot of talent on our team,” said Monika Jaensson, president of the Kanawha library system board. “And we’re just excited about the new search.”

Asked why the board is not using the firm and going it alone instead, board member Betty King, co-chairwoman of the board’s search committee, said with a short laugh, “I can’t really put that in words.”

“We just decided that, uh, that we would do our own search this time and see what would come out of it,” King said.

The $20,500 that the library paid John Keister for the previous search included advice from and travel for search firm members, and advertising the Kanawha library director vacancy. It didn’t include costs for candidates to travel for interviews.

Under its contract with the library, John Keister would have restarted the search for free if the chosen director left “within the first year after acceptance.” The library system still would have had to pay expenses directly related to the search.

The departure of Grover, who accepted the position last summer and started her job here in September 2018, didn’t trigger that provision.

John Keister, co-founder of the firm that bears his name, said of Grover that, “I think Riti did a lot to move the library forward.” He said he based much of that impression on local news reports.

In its contract, John Keister & Associates wrote that “we are proactive in searching for and recruiting top candidates, rather than relying solely on passive approaches, such as job postings, to locate talented leaders. Our success is the result of networking and actively building long-term relationships with the best and brightest library leaders.”

The contract also said that “in addition to attracting candidates through traditional advertising and use of the custom website, we will carry out an extensive networking and social media effort to identify outstanding candidates who do not normally respond to ads or announcements.”

“I’m hoping, just having gone through that process, it will help them the next time,” Keister said of the board doing another search on its own. “I very much enjoyed working with the library last time around.”

For Grover’s replacement, the Kanawha library board wants applicants with a master’s degree in library science or library and information science, at least eight years of experience in a library setting and at least five years of library management experience, including financial management and implementation of “sound personnel practices.”

Board members would like someone experienced with construction and renovation projects. The system’s main library, on Capitol Street in Charleston, is being extensively renovated and expanded.

Reach Ryan Quinn at,, 304-348-1254 or follow

@RyanEQuinn on Twitter.

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