Valerie Horton has announced her retirement as director of Minitex, a program that provides support and services for libraries in Minnesota, North Dakota, and South Dakota — including public, K-12, academic, state government, and special libraries. Minitex is funded by the State of Minnesota and is a division of the University of Minnesota Libraries.
Horton’s six years at Minitex were highlighted by successful new ventures including Ebooks Minnesota and the Minnesota Libraries Publishing Project. She also managed the restructuring and expansion of the Minnesota Digital Library (MDL) — one of the first service hubs chosen for the Digital Public Library of America when it launched in 2013. MDL is a growing partnership of 189 libraries, historical societies, and related cultural organizations from across Minnesota. MDL’s free online database, Minnesota Reflections, contains more than 52,000 photographs, postcards, maps, documents, letters, and oral histories digitized by MDL.
“Valerie has been an extraordinary leader and her visionary work has greatly improved library services for people across the state of Minnesota,” said Wendy Pradt Lougee, University Librarian and Dean of Libraries at the University of Minnesota. “She spearheaded the collaboration to develop a free online library for Minnesotans that became Ebooks Minnesota, a national model that now has more than 8,000 free ebooks for readers of all ages in the state.”
Horton’s leadership also led Minitex into a prominent role developing SimplyE, a mobile app that makes it easy for readers to browse and read from multiple ebook collections all in one app. The Institute of Museum and Library Services awarded Minitex $695,000 to lead work on the app, which was developed by the New York Public Library.
The Minnesota Libraries Publishing Project — another innovation, led by Horton — provides online publishing tools for independent authors and small publishers and has resulted in more than 500 new book projects.
Horton also worked to improve Minitex’s foundational programs that ensure library users from Alexandria to Zumbrota can access the information they need. For example, last year Minnesotans searched the Electronic Library for Minnesota (ELM), a Minitex service, more than 60 million times, and Minitex staff processed more than 350,000 user requests for materials and delivered more than 1 million items to libraries in all corners of Minnesota and beyond.
“This work not only improves services for users, but it also saves money for public libraries, schools, and academic libraries,” Lougee said, noting that last year alone, 210 Minnesota libraries saved money through the Minitex Cooperative Purchasing program. “Minitex under Valerie’s leadership was an important component in the University of Minnesota Libraries nomination for the 2017 National Medal for Museum and Library Services.”
Horton’s early strategic planning efforts saw her reach out to the statewide library community that comprises the core of the Minitex mission.
“Valerie excels at building strong bonds with the people she meets, and that has enhanced her leadership of Minitex and the library field both locally and nationally,” says Becky Ringwelski, Minitex’s Associate Director for Resource Sharing and Delivery. “She has a deep appreciation for the relationships she has forged in her time with Minitex.”
Not surprisingly, the decision to retire is bittersweet for Horton. “The Minitex director position was my dream job,” she admits. “I still remember the thrill I got when I was offered the position. I knew that this job would give me a chance to work at a world-class institution with the best our profession has to offer. As it turns out, I underestimated how great it would be. I leave with a sad heart, but ready for the next stage of my life.”
Horton’s career in libraries began with graduate work at the University of Hawaii, and she landed her first job at Brown University. Since then, she has held leadership positions at New Mexico State University, Colorado Mesa University (then Mesa State College), and the Colorado Library Consortium (CLiC). She spent a professional year abroad working to automate libraries in Trinidad and Tobago as an ALA International Fellow.
At the ALA Annual Conference in New Orleans In 2018, Horton was awarded the ASCLA Leadership and Professional Achievement Award for “continually bringing creative ideas to the table that use the strength of cooperation to improve services to libraries and the people they serve.”
Horton’s last day at Minitex will be June 4. The University Libraries will conduct a national search for her successor.