Robert MacLean poses with Bluey at a children's library event / Credit: Courtesy Robert MacLean

After an eight-month search and a pool of 20 candidates, Needham has hired a new library director. Robert MacLean, who was director of the Weymouth Public Library system for 14 years, will take the position on April 22. 

“A couple of things really stood out [about MacLean],” said Katie King, deputy town manager. “He has more than a decade of experience in Massachusetts and he’s also managed really large library building projects. He’s a very warm person who’s passionate about libraries and making sure it’s a place where everyone feels like they belong, and that just comes across so genuinely when you talk to him.”

MacLean oversaw the renovation of Weymouth’s historic library building and the building of a second, 50,000-square-foot, $30 million library that opened in October 2020 — under budget. 

MacLean said he is particularly proud of the work the library staff did after he became director. He credits them with turning the community’s lack of enthusiasm for investing in a new library into overwhelming support from residents and the then-new mayor.  

“The staff had done such a great job over the previous years, hitting it out of the park for meeting needs, making it a welcoming space for everybody,” he said. “They changed the culture here and revitalized the library in such a way that the community stepped up and supported us when we needed them the most.”

Now, MacLean said he’s excited to come to Needham and to a library that is recognized as a statewide leader in responding to the needs of its community — one that already has great support from residents. “The first year is really going to focus on the next step in our space study,” said King. If funding for the study is approved at May Town Meeting, King said MacLean will work closely on building design and construction. The second priority will be working with library trustees to determine the top priorities for fiscal year 2025 to achieve the goals of the strategic plan. 

Jay Fialkov, chair of the Library Board of Trustees, said the board was impressed with MacLean’s long list of accomplishments in Weymouth, something he knows will be key with the upcoming capital projects. 

“He has strong personal qualities,” said Fialkov. “That sort of calm and strength will go a long way, we think, toward leading this library.” 

“I’m coming with a big notebook and my ears will be wide open,” said MacLean. “I like to bring questions. I [want to make sure] everyone is heard, and when we move forward we’re all on the same page.” 

“We view the library as one of our most important and treasured assets for the town,” said Fialkov. “So we’re happy to think it will be in good hands.”  

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