CARSON CITY — Libraries weren’t always a natural place for Randy Riley.
As a child, Riley had a bit of attention deficit disorder, so reading was a lot of work.
“Thank God for Mad magazine and Sgt. Fury and Spiderman comics,” he recalled with a laugh.
Little did he know he would grow up to become Michigan’s state librarian.
Riley grew up just outside of Hubbardston, attending Palo Community School through the eighth grade and then Ionia High School. He has fond memories of playing Little League baseball, attending church functions in St. John the Baptist parish, running with the Carson City-Crystal track club, helping organize the original 10K run for Memorial Day weekend in Hubbardston and hanging out at O’Grady’s store for “the best pickled baloney.”
Riley also met his future wife, Lori Cunningham, in his small, Irish hometown.
While a student at Ionia High School, Riley began to develop a passion for reading and researching.
“I always liked books and remember fondly getting to order books through Scholastic at school,” he recalled. “There was a spell where I read every Encyclopedia Brown book I could get my hands on. In high school, I would visit the library in Ionia to do research for various papers. Being in a building stuffed full of books and information was a rush.”
Riley graduated from Ionia High School in 1980. He double majored in history and political science — as well as earning a teaching certificate — at Central Michigan University, graduating in 1984. He went on to substitute teach at Carson City-Crystal High School and other local elementary schools.
When Riley was hired to teach at The Valley School, a small college prep school in Grand Blanc, he became interested in using primary resources in the classroom for teaching history. That interest led him to the archives and records management program at the University of Michigan.
Riley worked a brief stint as the activities coordinator at Montcalm Community College before deciding to attend library school in Ann Arbor.
He has now worked at the Library of Michigan for almost 25 years. He had the honor of being named state librarian this past April, which has given him the opportunity “to help shine the spotlight on libraries and library service across the state.”
As state librarian, Riley oversees the Michigan E-Library of more than 40 databases available statewide at no direct cost to users. He also oversees training and certification of library staff, distributes state aid to libraries, coordinates statewide programs such as Michigan Reads and the Michigan Notable Books program and protects the wealth of historical information on the shelves of the Library of Michigan.
“Serving the public is a noble calling,” Riley said. “I have always been proud to help researchers and users with their information needs. Easy access to reliable information is key to generating an educated society.”
As state librarian, Riley’s goal is to visit Michigan’s many libraries. He will pay a visit to Carson City Public Library at 2 p.m. Tuesday to meet with library staff, tour the facility and engage in discussions to gain a better understanding of local and statewide library programs and services. Community members are welcome to visit the library on Tuesday to meet Riley.
This won’t be Riley’s first visit to Carson City, according to Library Director Beth O’Grady. She recalled when Riley previously visited town two years ago during a Michigan Notable Books program made possible by a grant through the Library of Michigan.
“I am pleased and honored that our new state librarian, Randy Riley, has chosen to visit the Carson City Public Library,” O’Grady said. “I hope that library patrons and other members of our community will stop by to meet and greet him.”
Riley said anytime he can help foster collaboration or build partnerships among libraries and patrons, he is pleased.
“Having the opportunity to talk to staff and hear their concerns is vitally important,” he said. “One of the main reasons for having a state library is to ensure that there are healthy libraries of all types across the state.
“Carson City and the Ionia area are home, so what better place to start?” he added.
Call Carson City Public Library at (989) 584-3680 for more information about Tuesday’s event.