By ELLY GRIMM
• Leader & Times
After Jill Pannkuk’s resignation as the director of Liberal Memorial Library in May, the search was on to find a new director and two weeks ago, the library board did just that in hiring Royce Kitts as the new director.
Kitts said he has always loved going to the library, which stems from constantly moving around as a child in Springfield, Mo. He has been a librarian since 2001 and worked at the Manhattan Public Library, the Tonganoxie Public Library, the Washburn University library and now continues his career in Liberal.
“Growing up, my family moved around quite a bit in Springfield – we had 18 different houses by the time I was 18 and I still went the same public library through all of those moves so it was a stabilizing force in my life,” Kitts said. “The librarian kicked me out every day and then right before I’d leave, she’d say ‘now remember, you can always come back tomorrow’ so I’ve had a love of libraries my whole life.”
Upon moving back to Manhattan in 2001, a job came open at the library, which Kitts said his family lived only about two blocks away from.
“I figured ‘I can’t be late to that,’ Kitts joked.
Kitts got the job there and after a couple years his boss at the time suggested he get a library science degree and she helped him through that process. Eventually, Kitts graduated with a Master’s degree in library science from Emporia State University.
After receiving his degree, Kitts decided it was time for a change and soon after became the director at the Tonganoxie Public Library. However, it was not just his skills in the library business which led him to Liberal – his wife also recently got a job teaching English at the high school soon after earning her own Master’s degree.
“It was a great chance for her to get her first teaching job and for me to be the director here,” Kitts said. “I had also been looking, because I had worked in an academic library for the past three years and I had been looking for a public library job...so I’d been looking and I know northeast Kansas pretty well and north central Kansas really well and I know quite a few people who live in this area as well so you’re never too far from people you know when you live in Kansas.”
Kitts acknowledged the success already seen by the library and said he hopes he can build on what’s already been done. He expects as Liberal continues to grow and change, the library will be well-positioned to anticipate those changes and work with those changes and make sure as the city grows, the library grows along with it and remains able to provide quality service
“The goal of any public library director is to make sure the community not only understands the importance of the public library in the community but also looks at the public library as a valuable part of the community so they see the library as a place for cultural enrichment, educational attainment and entertainment,” he said. “My goal is to reach out and make sure our role as part of the community is known by everyone. We also have great local support so my goal is to make sure all those pieces connect and we continue to grow what we have here.”
Overall, Kitts said he and his family are excited and happy to be in Liberal and he is happy to be on the job.
“The last two weeks have been a lot of work but I find the people who I’ve had a chance to talk to in the community so far have a real love for the community and I think that’s pretty awesome,” Kitts said.