New Jersey State Librarian Norma Blake announced that she plans to retire this July, closing the book on a distinguished career that has served New Jersey libraries for more than 36 years, including 10 years as the New Jersey State Librarian.
“Norma has played a critical role in helping New Jersey libraries meet service and technology expectations of the future,” said Dr. George A. Pruitt, president of Thomas Edison State College. “She has been a tremendous state librarian and leaves big shoes for us to fill.”
The college is conducting a national search to find the next New Jersey State Librarian and has formed a search committee comprised of members of the New Jersey library community who will work with a nationally-recognized search firm to conduct interviews and recommend a list of finalists.
The search committee includes Brian Auger, director of the Somerset County Library; Christine King, director of Willingboro Public Library; Cheryl O’Connor, executive director of LibraryLinkNJ, the New Jersey Library Cooperative; Susan O’Neal, director of the Middletown Public Library and president of the New Jersey Library Association; Taras Pavlovsky, dean of The College of New Jersey Library and president of the Virtual Academic Library Environment of New Jersey; Sheri Shafer, chief fiscal officer of the New Jersey State Library; Margaret Shapiro, New Jersey Library Trustee Association; and Hilda Weisburg, New Jersey Association of School Librarians. The committee is being chaired by Mindi Shalita, director of Human Resources at Thomas Edison State College.
The committee will be working with the executive firm Bradbury Associates/Gossage Sager Associates, based in Kansas City, Mo., to conduct the search.
Prior to becoming state librarian in Feb. 2001, Blake served as library director of the Burlington County and Gloucester County library systems.
During her tenure as state librarian, Blake was a trailblazer who launched many innovative projects that have helped New Jersey libraries serve as national models for delivering services to all populations of library patrons. She spearheaded the New Jersey Knowledge Initiative (NJKI), which provided specialized databases for small businesses, researchers, students and teachers. The project received over 15 million downloads in two years, and won the Innovation Award from the National Council of State Governments for helping New Jersey’s economy – saving New Jersey tax payers $68.5 million over retail prices.
Blake also led creation of New Jersey’s first statewide marketing campaign for libraries; implemented a highly successful interlibrary loan system; developed New Jersey’s first library web portal; provided statewide Internet access for libraries; expanded popular statewide programs for children, teens and adults; and encouraged the implementation of innovative programs and services for the blind, deaf, and physically impaired at the New Jersey State Library’s Talking Book and Braille Center.
In 2010, she played a critical role in securing $7.5 million in grants from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act Broadband Technology Opportunity Program (BTOP) and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation for computer security, hardware and broadband to help New Jersey libraries assist job seekers, small business owners and entrepreneurs state-wide.
“I am honored to have served in this position. It has been a pleasure working for Dr. Pruitt at Thomas Edison State College and with the wonderful New Jersey State Library staff for the past decade,” said Blake. “This has been a rewarding journey, and I am proud to have had the opportunity to assist New Jersey government, residents and businesses through our programs and services. I believe we have created the momentum that will keep New Jersey libraries and the New Jersey State Library moving forward as innovative leaders in our field.”
Blake has served her profession as president of the Association of Specialized and Cooperative Library Agencies (ASCLA), and president of the New Jersey Library Association. She has also held office and membership in various New Jersey library networks, councils, advisory boards and associations.
Blake’s professional accolades have been many, including a New Jersey Library Association's Librarian of the Year Award in 1999, a Distinguished Service Award in 2005, being named 2008 Woman of Distinction by the Girl Scouts of Central and Southern NJ, and being selected by Library Journal as the 2008 Librarian of the Year. Blake is a resident of Moorestown, N.J.