City News

Bridget Esqueda named Salem’s city librarian

Bridget Esqueda has been serving as city librarian for the past eight months, leading team projects to improve accessibility and making decisions to scale back in the face of a budget crisis. 

On Monday, she’ll be officially appointed to the role.

It’s a position that Esqueda said she never could have achieved without the resources and the welcoming space of her childhood library in Phoenix, Arizona. She came from a low-income household and up until the second grade was a failing student. 

“(A librarian) showed me that stories can reflect our own paths and can tell stories from other people’s points of views to make it more understanding, more accepting of one another,” Esqueda said. “She really instilled that love of literacy for me.”

Esqueda was hired as deputy city librarian in 2022, and has 17 years of public library experience. She has a master’s degree in Library Science with a focus on administration and public library services from San Jose State University.

She has been leading the Salem Public Library for the past eight months since City Librarian Kim Carroll left for a job in Beaverton.

Esqueda said a project she’s especially proud of was organizing the “library of things,” which lets people check out everything from tools to computers to musical instruments. The project was funded by a $43,000 state grant, and Esqueda used community surveys to figure out what things to purchase.

She said she also advocated for staff, including organizing the internal library safety committee which meets monthly to hear ways to improve staff experience. She also tasked supervisors with updating department handbooks, and created a plan for inclement weather which previously didn’t exist.

Esqueda was selected after a competitive internal recruitment process, according to a statement from the city. Deputy City Manager Scott Archer, who oversees the library as part of the Community Services Department, said in it that her leadership has been exemplary.

“Bridget has implemented new policies, updated procedures and stabilized our library operations during a time of change, while thoughtfully supporting staff and fostering a positive organizational culture,” Archer said. 

In January, the library reduced its service hours due to a lack of staffing and anticipated budget cuts. The library has nine vacant positions, an increase of three since August, which staff say have left them scrambling to cover all their duties.

Esqueda presented to the Salem City Council about the cuts in December.

“Staff is tired, we’re feeling burnt out and this is why we had to make the changes to conserve the most valuable resource we have at the library, which is staff,” Esqueda said during the meeting. “No librarian wants to cut hours, we want to expand libraries if we could.”

On Friday, Esqueda said she hopes to strengthen internal organization and operations at the library, which she believes will help retain current staff. 

Esqueda said her main priority will be improving accessibility for patrons using the library’s resources, like through strengthening its online presence.

She’ll also be focusing on the pop-up library program which brings books to community centers and retirement homes. Starting this week, she said the library plans to provide books for people to read while waiting at the south Salem DMV.

“I’m very excited for this opportunity, and I am so happy to continue serving, more permanent, in this role,” she said. “I’m very, very happy to be here.”

Contact reporter Abbey McDonald: [email protected] or 503-575-1251.

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Abbey McDonald joined the Salem Reporter in 2022. She previously worked as the business reporter at The Astorian, where she covered labor issues, health care and social services. A University of Oregon grad, she has also reported for the Malheur Enterprise, The News-Review and Willamette Week.