Robin Westphal began as the new director of the Johnson City Public Library June 19, 2017. Coming from a small town near Topeka Kansas, Robin most recently was the director of Livingston County Public Library in Chillicothe, Missouri. She held that position for twelve years. She’s also worked in other public libraries, a law library, and a school library over her professional career. Robin loves the role libraries play in a community, which dates back to her love of the library as a child. The public service component of librarianship drives Robin, and she says, “A librarian not only helps people find books and information, they are teachers, confidantes and counselors.”
Of course, there is much more to Robin than her job. She also loves music—she says she’s attended at least 100 concerts in her life. “I love to listen to jazz, alternative, and blues,” although she says she would be happy to listen to anybody live. Her favorite album is Willie Nelson’s Red-headed Stranger, and her favorite concert was Buddy Guy, who she saw at his bar in Chicago, sitting only about 5 feet from the stage. She’s also an avid vinyl collector, saying, ”I collect across all genres. It sounds better on vinyl than any other format…that’s how musicians intended music to be heard.” Although Robin is a lover of music, she doesn’t play. “I tried drums in the band and learned quickly I had no rhythm,” Robin laughs. “I remember the band teacher saying at the concert at the end of the year ‘it would be ok if you didn’t actually hit the drum.’” She’s also a baseball fan, and has enjoyed attending Johnson City Cardinals games, despite being more of a Kansas City Royals fan.
Robin appreciates the “unique mix of rural and urban setting” in Johnson City. “You still have that history and deep roots, yet it’s a community that is working to be an innovator in health services and technology.” She is also excited about the downtown revitalization happening in Johnson City, and enjoys the diverse demographics of the area. “There are so many young people that want to stay here or come back here, that’s fantastic for a community, but people also want to retire here. That’s what you want.”
Robin is also pleased to be a part of the Johnson City Public Library team. “The Johnson City Public Library is working to stay above the curve…but is going to hold on to those traditional values of what people see as a library—a place where children learn to read and where adults find their next favorite book.” This is a time of redefinition for libraries in the face of changing technology and expectations, but she feels the Johnson City Public Library has done an excellent job of figuring out what its patrons want and need. “This is a library that’s known across the state as being well-run and has the potential to be extremely innovative in the things we do.”
This innovative spirit is something that Robin wants to foster at the Johnson City Public Library. “I think we need to become more of a destination. Families and individuals could come here for hours and there’s plenty for them to do.” At the same time, she wants to expand the library’s online opportunities. “It’s okay if someone has a library card and never steps into our building!” She also wants to dig into new opportunities and expand the library’s reach. “I really want to do an in depth demographic study to see what areas of the community we’re missing and why.” She wants everyone to feel there is something here for them.