Early Learning Champion Neel Parikh Retires from Pierce County

(From left) Budd Wagner and Mary Getchell honor Neel Parikh at her retirement party on Nov. 6. Photo by Susan Yang

(From left) Budd Wagner and Mary Getchell honor Neel Parikh at her retirement party Nov. 6. (Photo by Susan Yang)

 
Neel Parikh’s accolades and awards are many. But when she is asked to name her No. 1 accomplishment in her 20 years of service to the Pierce County Library System, she names early learning.
 
As a former children’s librarian, Neel always recognized how important early learning is for families. She wanted to make libraries a place that families could connect and get the resources they need to give their children a great start.
 
Neel retired earlier this month as executive director of the state’s fourth largest library system, which serves over 500,000 people.
 

 
Jo Cruz, child care professional, and Neel Parikh (center) receive the 2013 National Medal for Museum and Library Science from First Lady Michelle Obama. (Photo by Institute of Museum and Library Sciences)

Jo Cruz, child care professional, and Neel Parikh (center) receive the 2013 National Medal for Museum and Library Science from First Lady Michelle Obama. (Photo by Institute of Museum and Library Sciences)

“What attracted me most to PCLS was the positive energy of staff and the potential for new services,” Neel wrote in her retirement announcement. “I am lucky to have had a chance to be a part of this special organization and am confident that the Library will continue to innovate and play an integral part in the success of the South Sound.”
 
She was a founding member and chair of the Early Learning Public Library Partnership, which was established to help make public libraries full and essential partners in the early learning movement in Washington state. The Institute for Museum and Library Services highlights the partnership as a national model in its “Growing Young Minds” report.
 
With Neel’s leadership, we have been able to build and expand the Early Learning Public Library Partnership to 33 member libraries across the state and give libraries a prominent voice at the early learning table.
 
Neel does have a long list of honors and awards, including the prestigious National Medal for Museum and Library Service. She went to the other Washington in May 2013 with Pierce County child care professional Jo Cruz to accept the award from First Lady Michelle Obama.
 
“Ms. Parikh’s leadership as a strong community collaborator is a testament to her success for advancing early learning forward throughout Pierce County,” Washington Rep. Adam Smith said in 2010 when she was awarded the Sullivan Award from the American Library Association. “She has collaborated with social service organizations, schools, and community leaders to build services for young learners.”
 
During Neel’s tenure, the system added three branches, expanded open hours from four days to seven, and nearly doubled circulation to 8 million. In addition to early learning, it added Job and Business Centers.
 
“I am proud of all we have accomplished during the past 20 years,” Neel wrote. “We have solidified our position as a go-to community resource and key leader in all corners of the county.”
 

 
Georgia Lomax, who had served as the library’s deputy director since 2006, has taken over as executive director.
 
 

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