Chances are, you've checked out a book, CD, or DVD from the Dayton Metro Library recently, and if you have, Tim Kambitsch thanks you.
The library system's executive director works every day to provide his fellow Daytonians with one of our most cherished public resources, a center full of knowledge and accessibility for every income level, age group and interest. And as massive renovations to the downtown branch are underway, it's obvious even as you drive along St. Clair Street that Kambitsch and the whole executive team are hard at work to make Dayton's libraries accessible, fresh, modern and dynamic. It's all a part of giving back to his hometown.
"I am proud to be a native Daytonian," Kambitsch said. "I’ve spent all but six years of my life here. I’ve been lucky to follow my career aspirations, keeping close to relatives and life-long friends, and still live in the city I love."
Meet our Daytonian of the Week.
What do you do as executive director for the Dayton Metro Library?
Tim Kambitsch: I really enjoy helping to improve the relevance of libraries and the impact of librarians on the residents we serve. I have an incredibly talented, creative and energetic staff that is focused on great service. They constantly find ways to align and extend library efforts with community partners and discover best practices to match the needs of our community. The hardest part of my job is knowing we cannot do everything we’d like to do nor can we attempt to do everything others want us to do. We have to be strategic in our thinking and our execution.
The Library construction projects are a big part of my work right now. We’ve had six groundbreaking events this year and by this time next year, we will likely have six more projects under way. Plus, we’ll have celebrated seven or eight grand openings. For each individual Library Branch, we have two or more public meetings to hear directly from residents about what they want from the Library. Once actual design begins for a branch, we spend scores of hours in meetings figuring out the details.
Can you briefly describe the renovations and improvements the Metro Library system is going through?
TK: Any discussion of the projects begins with how voters overwhelmingly approved a $187 million bond issue in 2012 to replace, expand and update all of our libraries. When completed, we’ll have 16 sparkling new or expanded branches, averaging twice the size of our current branches, plus a new and expanded main library that will be more than three times larger than it was.
But these projects are much more than just the size of our buildings; it is about what we are looking to accomplish in them. We are redesigning our spaces for people to gather, create and learn together. Collections of books and media will continue to be a key feature of our libraries, but new meeting spaces and enhanced technology will be one of first things people will notice. Many of our current city branches don’t even offer a single meeting room; however, all of the new branches will offer larger community rooms and different-sized study and conference spaces. There will be quiet reading rooms for the serious researcher and dedicated spaces for teens to enjoy just being teens. We are improving the quality of all of our public spaces; we want them to be inspiring.
Now, especially at the main branch? How do these improvements benefit not only the library, but the city as a whole?
TK: The Main Library renovation and expansion will represent a new icon for downtown Dayton. It will be a year-round venue for individual patrons, families and groups of every size. It will be spectacular, and I envision residents bringing visitors downtown to show off their pride in the new building.
The Eichelberger Foundation has generously funded enhancements to the Forum, a dynamic and flexible 290-seat auditorium that will host performances, speakers and special events. That gift will fund not only enhancements but also programming that will draw people from throughout the region.
This new Main Library will be vibrant and ever-changing. We are creating new spaces that didn’t have a parallel in our former building. For instance, we will offer a recording studio, computer labs for hands-on teaching, flexible programming spaces for library events and community groups, and a black box theater.
For people who may not frequent the library, how does a public library benefit its community?
TK: Our mission is to inform, inspire and enrich.
Parents and caregivers have always brought kids to library storytimes and other programs that improve school readiness, but we are also arming parents with the skills to help them awaken their imaginations through reading. Growing young readers into successful adults is vital to our community’s success; the public library is uniquely positioned to do this year-round.
Access to technology is another important role that libraries serve in today’s society. Nearly one in three households in Montgomery County doesn't have access to the Internet through broadband services, and the library’s computers give many residents their only connection to an increasingly virtual world. Libraries are about a lifetime of learning. Technology is changing so fast that we are helping adults ready themselves for their next chapter, whether it is discovering what career options might match their skills and interests or helping them prepare their resumes or find that next employer.
Libraries enhance the quality of life for all who use them. I often hear from our patrons who want to share with me their personal library story. People have thanked me for the laughter of a child reading a book or shared tears of appreciation for enabling them to explore their family’s history. Librarians hear all the time, “I just love the library.” You just don’t hear people talk about other public institutions that way.
What do you love about Dayton?
TK: There are so many activities and amenities in Dayton that match my outdoor passions. The leadership of the Miami Conservancy District and Five Rivers MetroParks and governments all over the area have worked hard to build out hundreds of miles of bike paths and hiking trails. This has given Dayton a unique advantage over other cities in the Midwest.
If there were one thing you could improve about Dayton, what would it be?
TK: Several years ago I would have said, “Dayton needs to improve its confidence.” People were very down on this city, and it was frustrating. But people are feeling good about this town now. New housing options and grassroots organizations are adding a new vibrancy to downtown. It’s fueling an optimism I’ve not seen before in Dayton. While a number of neighborhoods close to downtown have also shared this momentum, there are other Dayton neighborhoods and inner ring suburbs that are still struggling.
What do you wish people knew more about in Dayton?
TK: Dayton is a creative place. Look at the number of arts organizations producing and creating original content. There are lots of opportunities for entertainment and culture that one would not expect.
What's a fun fact about yourself?
TK: My first job after giving up my paper route was as a “page” shelving books at the Main Library.