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Originally published September 29, 2010 at 10:01 PM | Page modified September 30, 2010 at 2:13 PM

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Obama taps Seattle's top librarian for national job

After just a year and a half as the city librarian, Susan Hildreth may be leaving Seattle — at President Obama's request. Hildreth has been nominated to be the Director of the Institute of Museum and Library Services, she confirmed on Wednesday. The Senate must confirm her nomination.

Seattle Times staff reporter

After just a year and a half as the city librarian, Susan Hildreth may be leaving Seattle — at President Obama's request.

Hildreth has been nominated to be the director of the Institute of Museum and Library Services, she confirmed on Wednesday.

"It's a great honor," Hildreth said, adding that the opportunity to serve in Obama's administration is "very compelling."

The Senate must confirm her nomination, so it would likely be months before Hildreth took the position. The institute is responsible for distributing all federal funds allocated to the country's libraries and museums, she said.

Hildreth estimated that her annual salary is about $165,000. She would not comment on whether she pursued the position or if the White House contacted her.

Hildreth was named Seattle's librarian in November 2008. Since assuming the post in early-2009, she has led the library system through a challenging period of deep budget cuts.

David McShea, the president of the board of trustees for the Seattle Public Library Foundation, said that amid managing budget problems, Hildreth helped staff focus on a vision to "help Seattle be the best-informed and most-intellectualized city in the nation."

McShea said libraries have become more than book repositories — they are dynamic institutions, and Hildreth embraced that. Libraries, he said, are also resources for people who need help with homework, job searches or tax preparation, for example.

"Libraries help stitch a community together, and fill a number of gaps," McShea said. He described Hildreth as a candid, bright and thoughtful leader.

"I'm extremely proud. I'd be very sorry for the Seattle Public Library system if we lost her," he said.

Marie McCaffrey, acting president of the Seattle Public Library board of trustees, said Hildreth has navigated through tough budget times while keeping her eye on innovation.

"She's the best. That's why Obama wants her."

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Obama has repeatedly looked to Washington state to fill federal posts. Along with choosing former Gov. Gary Locke as his secretary of Commerce, the president appointed then-Seattle police Chief Gil Kerlikowske to head the Office of National Drug Control Policy and named then-King County Executive Ron Sims as deputy secretary of Housing and Urban Development.

Seattle Times reporter Tyrone Beason contributed to this report.

Carly Flandro: 206-464-2108 or cflandro@seattletimes.com

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