Longtime library director to step down

Tim Kambitsch, the Dayton Metro Library director since 2001, will retire in February.. CHRIS STEWART / STAFF
Tim Kambitsch, the Dayton Metro Library director since 2001, will retire in February.. CHRIS STEWART / STAFF

Tim Kambitsch, the Dayton Metro Library director since 2001 who in recent years led a nearly-completed $187 million system-wide rebuilding project, will retire at the end of February.

Elaine Johnson, president of the Dayton Metro Library Board of Trustees, announced Kambitsch’s retirement at a Wednesday night board meeting.

“Tim has created a positive culture, provides thoughtful and strategic leadership, and is a trusted community collaborator,” Johnson said in a library news release.

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Kambitsch worked to launch a major facilities plan, Libraries for a Smarter Future, to build a new Main Library and 16 state-of-the art branches. He brought together a coalition of community partners to secure funding replacement and improvements. The project is in the final stages with the last four buildings anticipated to open between late 2021 and early 2023, according to the library.

Kambitsch had planned to announce his retirement in March, but delayed the announcement due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“It’s really just in the last month that things are showing a stability that gave me enough confidence the time was right,” he said. “There’ll be even greater optimism about the national mood about the virus and the kinds of steps forward in the economy that will allow us to return to a normal — or whatever the new normal will turn out to be.”

Library trustees plan to contract with a national search firm to secure Kambitsch’s replacement, according to Johnson.

“Tim’s shoes will be hard to fill, but I want the community, staff and patrons to know that we will take the time to find the right person with the vision to maximize Dayton Metro Library’s impact in our community,” Johnson said.

Kambitsch expects a successor named before his departure, but if trustees take longer, he said current staff is fully capable of steering the ship.

“This organization has so many strengths and talents to carry the operation forward,” he said. “I have no hesitancy in them taking the right amount of time to fill the position.”

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High expectations and low funding proved to be the most challenging part of the job, Kambitsch said. But in 2012, voters passed a $187 million library bond issue that reshaped the system — not only with new construction but with renewed community engagement, Kambitsch said.

“I’m real proud that we have all these beautiful buildings,” he said. “But I’m also quite proud about how we put together a process that allowed us to incorporate the aspirations of the residents and the partners to create these new buildings that reflect their priorities and their aspiration.”

Kambitsch said he will remain in Dayton where he and his wife Julie Beall are residents of Dayton’s Oregon Historic District and stay active with community organizations including the Dayton Area Chamber of Commerce’s Leadership Dayton program, the Dayton Society of Natural History, Montgomery County Law Library and Learn to Earn Dayton. But retirement will take him on some extended bicycle touring and backpacking trips, he said.

Kambitsch first worked at the main library in 1972 “shelving books” while a junior at Chaminade High School. He attended Sinclair Community College prior to receiving his undergraduate degree from Wright State University. He received a masters in library and information science at Kent State University and completed additional graduate coursework in public administration at the University of Dayton.

In the 1980s, Kambitsch implemented and managed Dayton Metro Library’s first automated system. Following a short stint in the private sector at Data Research Associates supporting libraries through technology change, Kambitsch managed an automation and network project and introduced the Internet to library staff and the university community at Butler University Libraries. He returned to Dayton Metro Library in 1995 serving as information technology director until becoming executive director.

Kambitsch said when he first started as director “the card catalog was still king” and the idea of online searches and full text books were “science fiction.” This year the library is on track to circulate a million e-books.

“A lot of people feared that the internet was going to make libraries obsolete,” he said. “What has proven to be true is the internet has helped strengthen what libraries are and given them tools to do things that librarians never thought about in the past.”

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