The Patrick Heath Public Library will soon turn the page on a new chapter with longtime director Kelly Skovbjerg set to retire after 22 years.
She began her career with the City of Boerne in 2002 as a reference librarian before becoming library director in 2003. Since then, the library has continued to be a gathering and connection place for the community.
"It is hard to put into words the level of service enhancements and dedication Kelly has brought as library director," City Manager Ben Thatcher said. "She has helped revolutionize the role of the library within our community and leaves an indelible mark on the community she served. Her commitment to service, professionalism, and continuous improvement has been the guiding force behind a library that truly reflects the heart of its librarian."
A Focus on Serving All Patrons
As the city has grown, the needs of library patrons have remained the inspiration for library programming and services.
“The way that we interact with the community and really listen to what it is they are asking for is how we make a difference,” Skovbjerg said. “I think people know if they come here, they will be treated well and with respect. That has helped us a lot to move forward initiatives that you wouldn't necessarily see in all public libraries.”
Some of the library’s initiatives have changed or shifted over the years. For example, when she started, the library used to dedicate an entire room to house a physical reference collection. This was when the library was located at the historic Dienger building. Now, those reference materials are available online. Thousands of documents found in the Dietert Community Archives related to the history of Boerne and Kendall County are being digitized. A process that began in 2020 and continues to grow as more materials are added.
Desktop computer access is another example of the shifting needs of patrons. While the library still has computers for public use, it’s much less of a core service with more library visitors bringing their own devices into the library. As such, the library has changed its strategy to provide tech help for patrons navigating their personal devices.
Skovbjerg credits the library’s continued success to the flexibility of staff and the support of City leadership to try new things.
“I’m most proud of how we’ve evolved as an organization, how we've really tried to reach out and understand the demographics and the needs. That's dramatically changed really just over the last couple of years,” she said. “I'm proud that we're never complacent, and that we're always trying to make the community better.”
Part of the ongoing work of library staff is connecting people with resources beyond its walls while partnering with local agencies and non-profits to identify gaps in social services. One program currently in planning will embed counseling and social work practicum students at the library to offer those services to patrons at no cost. Another program launching soon will offer grief counseling services to young people navigating difficult times in their lives.
“That was another way that we said, ‘OK, this is this is something that's really important for us to play a part in. Let's figure out how we do that in the best way to the most benefit for everyone involved,’” Skovbjerg said.
(Kelly cuts the ribbon at the library's grand opening in 2011.)
A Growing Library
The challenges of developing programs and services for patrons are many. But one challenge stands above the rest for Skovbjerg and her two decades at the library – the construction of the new library building that opened in 2011.
The new 30,250-square-foot building tripled the library’s space and opened a new realm of possibilities for serving the fast-growing community. Getting to that point was the culmination of years of diligent fundraising, planning, design, and community involvement.
“This was the biggest, most challenging thing I've ever done in my life. Most public library directors don't get a chance to do this, so I was very fortunate that I got to do it,” Skovbjerg said.
Through that process and many others, she was able to work with and learn from amazing staff, volunteers, and community members. She has never taken for granted that these people made the library what it is today and continue to shape what the library will be in the future.
The library campus continues to improve with new phases being completed in 2016 with the addition of the 250-seat outdoor amphitheater and in 2018 when the library was connected to the Old No. 9 Trail.
The library’s growth and success over the last two plus decades is evidenced by the numerous awards it has received. For Skovbjerg, the LEED Gold Certification in 2011, the Air Quality Stewardship Award from AACOG in 2017, and multiple TML Library Directors Association Excellence Awards are among those for which she is most proud.
(Kelly at the library when it was at the Dienger building.)
Background and Career
Skovbjerg always knew she wanted to work in writing or with books, which initially led her to a career in publishing. While working for science and higher education publishers, she earned her master’s degree in library science from the University of North Texas and began searching for a librarian position.
Her first librarian role took her to Germany where she worked for the US Army at European Command in Stuttgart for three and a half years. She met her husband while living in Europe and the two later moved to the US, eventually settling in the Hill Country where she regularly visited her grandparents while growing up in Texas.
“I remember driving through Boerne at one point and looking at the library [the Dienger building] and thinking, ‘Oh, how awesome. I bet nobody ever leaves that place,’” Skovbjerg said.
Well, someone did leave, and she took the chance to apply for the job. Many professional and personal accomplishments followed, none more special than the two sons she and her husband welcomed during her time with the City.
“I will miss the camaraderie, the feeling that you’re a team of staff and volunteers working to make your little part of the world better,” Skovbjerg said. “I think I will miss that for sure.”
The City of Boerne will begin a search for a new library director. More details about the search will be released in the coming weeks.