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A seasoned veteran of libraries with two decades of experience — and definitive plans to relocate to the Twin Cities — has been appointed to lead the Hennepin County Library system.

Scott Duimstra, who currently serves as executive director of the Capital Area District Library system in Lansing, Mich., was unanimously confirmed by the Hennepin County Board this week and will start his new role on Oct. 9. He will be the first permanent leader for the Hennepin Library system since February 2022, when former director Chad Helton resigned amid controversy over Helton's decision to relocate to Los Angeles and run the library system remotely.

Hennepin County agreed to pay Helton a $60,000 settlement and has since instituted a policy requiring top department leaders and administrators to live and work in the Twin Cities.

That's not a problem for Duimstra, who said he's thrilled to be moving to Minneapolis, a city that he and his wife, along with their two children, ages 11 and 8, came to know through regular visits to see family. And as a cyclist, he's eager to dive into the Twin Cities bike scene.

When he learned of the library director's opening, Duimstra threw his application in along with 44 others, eventually making it through the interview rounds to become one of two finalists. "I walked away from those interviews just truly wanting the position," he said.

Hennepin County Library Board President Jane Brissett said Duimstra stood out among the applicants because his staff "loves him." She noted that the Capital Area District Library system, where Duimstra has worked since 2017, is similar to the Hennepin system. Duimstra also was elected by his peers to serve on the Michigan Library Association's Board of Directors in 2019, and was made president in 2022.

Duimstra earned an undergraduate degree in philosophy from Eastern Michigan University in Ypsilanti, even though he knew he wanted to become a librarian, he said. He went on to earn a master of science in information degree from the University of Michigan School of Information in Ann Arbor.

"He was just so great in presenting himself and telling us about his experience," said Brissett. Duimstra said Minneapolis was the only place that he would want to move to and that he wasn't "out there applying to other places," added Brissett. "He's the right man for this time," she said.

Assistant County Administrator Dan Rogan has served as interim library director since Helton's departure. He did not apply for the director's position, said Brissett.

As director, Duimstra will oversee the state's largest library system, with 41 locations, a $72 million operating budget, more than 600 employees and 461,222 cardholders. The director's salary will be $200,000.

Duimstra said he looks forward to working on the "very good" strategic plan already in place at the Hennepin County Library system. Among his first duties will be drawing more people back to the library, which saw visits fall during the pandemic.

"That's understandable," said Duimstra, "now that we're kind of moving into the next phases, library uses are starting to build back up."

Library visits fell from 5.2 million in 2019 to 1.6 million in 2020. Some visitors have since returned, with visits hitting 2.8 million last year. Checkouts, on the other hand, climbed sharply despite the pandemic, from 8 million in 2020 to 11 million last year.

The library system remains popular in Hennepin County, even with the COVID dip in attendance, and Duimstra said he could see pride in the system when he met with staff. Duimstra said he wants to advocate for more dollars for the library system while being a good steward of the funds available to him now.

He said he hopes to rely on marketing to extend the library's reach, while also using partnerships with other organizations to reach people who don't have the library on their radar.

The growth of digital checkouts continues, but e-books won't replace traditional ones, said Duimstra. "There's still a true love for print."

Duimstra said his current read is a children's book he's sharing with his 8-year-old son: "Dragons in a Bag" by Zetta Elliott. Next up: He has Colson Whitehead's "Crook Manifesto" waiting for him.