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Kelly Richards, the Free Library of Philadelphia's new Director and President. Photo credit: Free Library of Philadelphia
Kelly Richards, the Free Library of Philadelphia's new Director and President. Photo credit: Free Library of Philadelphia.

Kelly Richards joins the Free Library of Philadelphia as its New Director and President

This announcement marks the end of a year-long search following Siobhan Reardon’s resignation.

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Over a year after its last president and director resigned due to allegations of workplace discrimination towards Black staff, the Free Library of Philadelphia has found her replacement. Filling that role is Kelly Richards, the Director of the Muskegon Area District Library and President of the Michigan Library Association. Richards will begin his role at the Free Library on January 14, 2022. 

Richards originally earned an Associate's and Bachelor's degree in Criminal Justice at Ferris State University. From there, he served as a police officer in the Bishop Airport and in Flint, Michigan. He went back to school at the University of Pittsburgh, this time getting his Master's in Library and Information Science. 

He spent the next three decades in various roles in libraries in Nevada and Michigan. 

Richards was also the Chairperson of the Lakeshore Ethnic Diversity Alliance. This organization “works to dismantle barriers to ensure people of all ethnic backgrounds have equal access and opportunity to participate fully in the life of the community.” His experience with this organization could prove invaluable when addressing concerns staff had with previous leadership. 

The Search Committee tasked with finding a new library head was composed of the Board of Trustees, Library Executives, members of staff, union members, the Board of Directors for the Free Library of Philadelphia Foundation, and representatives from the Friends of the Library and the city. They also received input from another 50 members of staff on what qualities they wanted in the new director.  

“I am honored by the opportunity to work with the passionate and dedicated Free Library team,” said Richards in the announcement. “Being part of such an integral institution is an awesome responsibility, and I will take on this leadership role with the help of our staff as we work to uphold the values and mission of the Free Library of Philadelphia.”

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