East Hawaii News

State Librarian Richard Burns Retiring

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State Librarian Richard Burns will retire at the end of the year after more than 30 years of service, the Hawaii State Public Library System has announced.

Burns, 58, has served at the system’s top post since January 2008.

His tenure has included impacts from the Great Recession which forced hiring freezes and staff furloughs.

But despite the limited resources, Burns has overseen increased public programs and services and expansion of traditional collections into the digital arena, system spokeswoman Liann Ebesugawa said.

Ebesugawa said the introduction of e-book and other internet services has the system well-positioned to provide patrons with resources needed for academic and employment success


Accomplishments under Burns include:

  • Partnering with the University of Hawaii and state Department of Education to complete two federal grants totaling $36 million to provide wireless internet access in all of the state’s 50 libraries
  • Leveraging an $823,000 grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to install more than 780 new public access computers
  • Partnering with Microsoft to become the only statewide public library system in the world to offer patrons free access to the Microsoft IT Academy and Digital Literacy Program

According to a HSPLS statement, public internet sessions at libraries increased by 11% in 2013 with 669,000 sessions; free wireless internet sessions totaled more than 187,000.

E-book and audiobook collections now include more than 40,000 items; usage increased 43% from 2012’s 153,000 check-outs to 219,449 in 2013, and libraries also provide free access to nearly 150 full-color e-magazine titles through Zinio.

Patrons now also have access to more than 80 online databases.


Increased use of email notifications has risen to 175,000 emails annually, saving some $51,000 in postage in 2013.

The technological implementations in 2012 earned Hawaii’s library system the state’s first Excellence in Technology Award.

New libraries in North Kohala and Manoa on Oahu earned gold certification in the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design or LEED program.

(The state Legislature also has plans for new libraries in Waikoloa and Puna, with the latter designed to take some of the pressure off Hilo’s library, which is the busiest in the state.)


Burns said he has been honored to serve as state librarian during the both the tough times and the technological transformation.

“I am extremely proud of all that our staff has been able to accomplish over the past several years in terms of increased public service hours and days; dramatically improved and increased collections, both electronic and print; an entirely rebuilt technology infrastructure; and providing greater value than ever before for the people of Hawaii,” he said in the statement.

A Board of Education selection committee chaired by board member Amy Asselbaye and including Chairman Don Horner and a representative of the Friends of the Library of Hawaii will conduct a nationwide search for Burns’ replacement.

The committee hopes to announce the appointment before the end of the year.

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