an outstanding librarian … an outstanding person

Today’s it’s all about the work of a man named Keith Kuhn, Library Services Director, The Public Library of Cincinnati & Hamilton County. He died this week, and I am still short of breath from hearing the news. Rather than memorialize him here (he was a terrific librarian and person, and many will do that job), I’d like to share some of the work he directed, encouraged and/or participated in.

Keith and I met each other for the first time at, oh, I don’t know, some function where not-for-profit folk gather (I was working for public tv in Cinci then). We came to the conclusion simultaneously: “Hey, why aren’t our organizations doing more work together?” Then a momentary *blink* when we realized, “Hey, we can do something about that!” And so the two of us were proud to be able to say that we worked to help build what has become a very strong partnership between two treasured Cincinnati institutions. May I just add: He was a really, really great guy. Except that he stole one of my staff out from under me. But I told him I wouldn’t be bitter.

Here’s a web tour that’s really just the tip of Keith’s managerial iceberg:

  • Keith directed work toward Cincinnati’s first book festival: Books by the Banks. The Library set the work in motion and brought together a steering team from not-for-profits from around the city. I’m pleased to have served on that team before moving to Lexington, and I was delighted by the resulting event and the opportunity Keith extended to me to evaluate its process and product.
  • He directed staff that developed the Library’s Veterans History Project, and he promoted potential connections within the Library and with other organizations that would make that project as valuable as possible to the Cincinnati community and beyond.
  • CET and the Library, partnering with Success By 6, brought Cincinnati Joel’s Library Jam, a video series featuring books and activities for grades K-3 featuring a singing, magic-performing real-life children’s librarian. We learned all about how publishers and illustrators feel about having their work shown on air … we were able to get permission for most of the books we went for. Keith supported the planning process and implementation as his staff and mine worked together on this project.
  • Keith and the Library were among the very first partners (see our collaborations here) on board when CET decided to jump into major online streaming. In this video he speaks at a partner meeting about how that worked. Oh, and he brings up yet again how he stole a staff member. Did I mention that I’m not bitter?
  • He also brought to the table the idea of streaming tours of the library. Cool.

There are many other things I could mention, of course, but that gives you a taste. Keith’s absence will be felt in many places, but I certainly will miss him for his willingness to both listen to and propose crazy ideas (“Patsy, I have this idea … could we even do this?”), his calm presence when those around him wanted to tear their own or someone else’s hair out (grant cycles do interesting things to collaborative partners, and those who keep their heads are invaluable), and his friendly, confident approach to building professional partnerships (’nuff said).

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2 Responses

  1. Patsy-
    Thank you for this… I had the privilege of working for Keith for 15 years. I also had the privilege of working under the one he stole out from under you! :o) Keith touch my life and so many others in so many different ways. He will be terribly missed and never forgotten. We will continue his legacy for as long as we possibly can!

  2. Patsy,

    When I heard about Keith’s death, I was just devistated. He was my first boss when I started at PLCH in 1990. He was an amazing boss who ran a well-tuned ship with joy and humor. He was so funny and so devoted to his work. It was because of Keith that I decided that I wanted to have a career in libraries. He was at my wedding, celebrated the birth of my first son, wished me bon voyage when I left Ohio (although he did occasionally let me know how Indiana basketball was doing) and mourned when I lost my husband. I remember how he allowed my boys to sit in his “big boss’ chair” when we came back to Cincinnati after my husband’s death. As I sit in my little elementary library here in Bangkok, I can’t help but think of Keith as one of the main reasons I am here. I will continue to do my best in my job to honor Keith’s memory. He will be greatly missed.

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