Librarian of the Year Richard Burns relaxes at his Kailua home with some books.

Librarian enriches

Richard Burns is named
state Librarian of the Year for
his creative, tireless contributions

Richard Burns, who bucked authority to help Waimanalo Public and School Library stay open six days a week, has been chosen as 2003 Public Librarian of the Year.

"I think it sets a really wonderful precedent," said Herlinda Lopez, former president of the Friends of Waimanalo Library, who nominated Burns for the award. "You can take a risk and speak up for what is right, and good things will happen. You'll be recognized positively for it."

In July, Burns was promoted to branch manager of the Kapolei Public Library, where he is overseeing efforts to stock the shelves and hire staff for the state's second-largest library, due to open next summer. The 20-year veteran began his career as a library assistant in Kahuku.

Burns is being honored as Librarian of the Year by the Hawaii Library Foundation for his work as branch manager in Waimanalo, where he forged community partnerships to expand library hours and programs and create award-winning native gardens.

"He made it a living library, both inside and out," said Sandy Akana, Waimanalo's first branch manager, who now heads Kailua Public Library. "He's Hawaiian at heart."

Among the grants Burns helped secure was one from the Verizon Foundation that allowed the library to open on Saturdays for an adult literacy program, children's story hour and other activities.

Last spring, that program nearly ended when then-state Librarian Virginia Lowell ordered all libraries to pare back to five-day schedules. But Burns and a throng of Waimanalo residents appealed the decision to the Board of Education, arguing that Saturday hours were privately funded, and won an exemption allowing it to operate six days a week.

"He works tirelessly," said Rep. Tommy Waters (D, Lanikai-Waimanalo), who also nominated Burns for the award. "You can tell he loves his job and he loves kids. The library is constantly full."

During Burns' four-year tenure, the staff and Friends of Waimanalo Library secured several grants to hire a nursery in Waimanalo to plant gardens featuring native species around the library, which won a 2003 Scenic Hawaii Betty Crocker Landscape Award.

Inside the library are photos of Waimanalo from a National Geographic photo essay, donated by the magazine at Burns' suggestion, and framed in koa by a Waimanalo artist, courtesy of a grant from the Friends of Waimanalo Library.

"We were very fortunate at Waimanalo to have a unique convergence of great people, opportunity and a very supportive community," Burns said.

"We were able to do a lot of things that you normally don't get an opportunity to do."

Gov. Linda Lingle will present Burns with his award during a reception open to the public 6 to 8 p.m. Tuesday at the Hawaii State Library.

Award recipients are chosen for their outstanding customer and community service, dedication, enthusiasm and efforts to promote libraries.

Borders Books, Music and Cafe, the corporate co-sponsor, will give Waimanalo Library $1,000, and Burns will receive $500 from the Hawaii Public Foundation.

Burns earned master's degrees in library science and political science at the University of Hawaii at Manoa and lives in Kailua with his wife and two daughters.


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