Sacramento Public Library Director and CEO Rivkah Sass will retire at the beginning of the new year closing the chapter on a dozen years of service to our community. Through her efforts, she transformed California’s fourth largest library system into an award-winning institution that has earned considerable community trust and support. Not one to shy away from a challenge, Sass moved to California in 2009 and assumed leadership of the 28-library system when it was in the midst of a crisis.
Leading Sacramento Public Library
Groundbreaking services such as Library of Things
and I Street Press
were introduced under her leadership and continue to gain national and international attention. During Sass’ career in Sacramento, the Library has led the way in providing services beyond books and expanded its focus and staff to support youth, early learners, and adult learners with free educational opportunities. For example, the Career Online High School program has helped 200 adult students earn their accredited high school diploma since the program was introduced in 2014 with nearly 60 students completing their studies during the pandemic. Passionate about civic engagement, Sass has also led the Library in playing an active role in Census outreach and in supporting every election since 2014 with safe and convenient options for voters.
Sass turned to the community in 2011 and again in 2015 to help inform the Library's strategic plans. In 2019, the Library again engaged the community in 83 Community Conversations across all 28 locations to uncover the most pressing local issues and identify ways to meet those needs. The Library continues to use these insights to drive its strategy and vision for the system. That same year, the Library won the inaugural Jerry Kline Community Impact prize
, for exemplifying the singular power of the public library to be a fully integrated and critically valuable community asset. In 2020, Sacramento Public Library was recognized by recognized by OverDrive at the 2020 Public Library Association conference for achieving 2 million digital checkouts.
Serving the Community
Sass spent 40 years working in public and state agencies in Washington, Oregon, Maryland and Nebraska, as well as the private sector. She was named Librarian of the Year
by the Library Journal in 2006. Locally she was recognized as a “Woman Who Means Business
” by Sacramento Business Journal
and an “Unsung Hero" by Senator Dr. Richard Pan in 2018. She was named a “Sacramento 300” by Sacramento Magazine
in 2019. In 2020, Sass received the 2020 Charlie Robinson Award
from the American Library Association (ALA). The prestigious annual award, named for her mentor and friend, honors a public library director who has been an innovator, risk-taker and change agent in a public library and known for developing programs that are responsive to community residents’ needs.
As library director, Sass faced countless challenges. It is her indomitable spirit that is a guiding force for the system. Over the last few years, the library's response to the global pandemic demonstrated its ability to be nimble meet the community’s needs in person and online. As with many businesses, libraries were shut down in spring 2020. Within months, Sacramento Public Library began offering curbside service, launched 21 new virtual programs and services, and worked quickly to reopen as many locations as possible. This year, Sacramento Public Library is on track to reach 3 million digital checkouts.
Leaving a Legacy
In honor of her leadership, the Friends of Sacramento Public Library
have established the Young Readers Fund. As a former children’s librarian, Rivkah has always been an advocate for youth and early literacy efforts. As a former children’s librarian, serving youth is near and dear to her heart. She is a firm believer in the power of the library to make a difference for families from the very beginning and has ensured that the library embraces early learning as a system-wide priority. But it’s not just an ivory tower exercise for Rivkah. She often takes off her director’s cap, leaves her office to talk, sing, read, write and play with kids for storytime. She’s a masterful storyteller, and her “Little Ren Hen” storytime is a community favorite. The endowed fund will help fulfill Sass’ wish to advance the future of children's reading in Sacramento County.