Life As We Know It: October 21, 2013

        Any discussion of Toledo’s “jewels” always includes the same predictable and certainly deserving gems. The Toledo Museum of Art. The Toledo Zoo. The Toledo Area Metroparks. The Toledo Mud Hens and Fifth Third Field. The Huntington Center.

        Most of us add the Toledo-Lucas County Public Library. There’s a good reason for that: It’s one of the country’s best.

        Seldom, however, does the community’s list of its greatest assets include people. Mine does. Mine includes Clyde Scoles.

        Mr. Scoles was heavily recruited a few years ago to leave his job in Toledo and become director of the Salt Lake City, Utah, public library system.

        When I say heavily recruited, trust me. This was a full-court press. After all, here was a candidate who emerged from a field of 22 as the clear favorite of the search committee, a man who had run a big-city library system so well for so long it is always ranked in the top 10 nationally in its size category for public usage. Clearly Salt Lake City’s kind of guy.

        He met with the mayor of Salt Lake City. He met with members of council. He met with the Mormons. He met with community groups. The people of Salt Lake City displayed a welcoming warmth that was overwhelming. It was dazzling and almost irresistible. But Mr. Scoles did was must have seemed the unthinkable to the good people of Salt Lake. He resisted.

        Certainly there were professional concerns. The Salt Lake City system is smaller than the Toledo-Lucas County system. Salt Lake has a main library and five branches serving a city of 178,000 citizens. Toledo-Lucas County has a main library and 18 branches serving a half million people or so.

        City government provides some financial support for the Salt Lake system, but there is no built-in and guaranteed formula for state aid such as public libraries in Ohio enjoy.

        In the end, after nearly eight months of discussions and negotiations and more discussions, it all seemed so clear: Toledo was the better choice. Clyde Scoles stayed right where he is. He chose to remain in a community where he can get to any of his branches in just a few minutes.

        Despite the obvious attractions of Salt Lake City, and they are many, Clyde Scoles elected to define himself and his career in public library administration by what Toledo means to him and his family.

        Just last month the library system he leads celebrated its 175 anniversary.

        Mr. Scoles is not the first person to rank Toledo at the top of his own personal Places Rated survey, nor will he be the last. As I can attest, there are even folks who lived here, moved away, and voluntarily came back (in my case, after 14 years in another beautiful place, California’s Monterey Peninsula).

        So I can sympathize with Mr. Scoles and I can imagine the questions he had to field from folks wondering how he could refuse Salt Lake City and stay in Toledo, Ohio. But he never heard those questions from me. I understood completely.

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