Jessica Cadiente has taken over as the new director of the Santa Barbara Public Library System, which includes the new Children’s Library space at the Central Branch. (Gina Potthoff / Noozhawk photo)

Jessica Cadiente couldn’t hide excitement on a recent morning while giving a tour of the Santa Barbara Central Public Library.

As the new library director of a system that includes branches in Santa Barbara, Montecito, Goleta, Carpinteria, Buellton and Solvang, Cadiente has already told many of the 100 regular and hourly staff that she makes no apologies for how enthusiastic she can get about her role.

It isn’t difficult to imagine a young, exhilarated Cadiente growing up in an Arizona small town where the library served as an oasis — where she learned, where her mother worked and where Cadiente later labored as a teenager.

That passion and reverence is something she’s carried throughout her career in libraries. She’s even passed it on to her two young children.

“They love the library,” she said. “I knew the power of the opportunity that can happen here. For me, it’s a huge responsibility.”

Cadiente jumped wholeheartedly into her job earlier this year with an appointment from Santa Barbara City Council. She had been serving as acting library director since September before longtime director Irene Macias retired.

Cadiente earned the recommendation from City Administrator Paul Casey, who sifted through candidates from across the country to manage a systemwide annual budget of $7.2 million.

“I’m very pleased with Jessica’s leadership and support of the library staff over the last five months as the interim director,” Casey said at her appointment.

“She’s familiar with our regional library issues, implementing library technology projects, and is now planning for the future of the library.”

Cadiente, who came to Santa Barbara in June after serving as library director for the city of Lompoc for three years, sees herself as a dreamer looking to balance library tradition with those thinking outside the box. 

She’s also looking for a couple of other dreamers — two library services manager positions are open (one was her old job) — because she believes the amazing, knowledgeable people who work at libraries are the only difference between them and Amazon or Google.

Libraries are seeing a switch from being the holders of knowledge to the creators of it, she said.

“There’s just an enormous movement in that direction,” Cadiente said.

“There’s so much opportunity. What role do we play? Change is kind of a constant in libraries now.” 

Cadiente is coming on as the Central Library goes through a series of changes, including its first remodel since 1980.

The Children’s Library was recently relocated from the main level to the lower floor and is now four times the size.

Crews are also renovating the main level, moving and enlarging the adult literacy department and installing a new computer teaching lab, eating area and more study space.

Better lighting is planned, and the library just launched a new app that allows people to renew books from their phones.

Once main level work is complete, hopefully by April, Cadiente said the library could embark on finding funding for the $3.9 million Library Plaza project to open up the exterior and add ADA-compliant ramps. 

A paint job is also in the works for the building, which will turn 100 in 2017. 

Cadiente, who stays active in her free time hiking and visiting the beach, is working to update a systemwide master plan that hasn’t been revamped since 1992 and hopes to focus on community outreach as well.

She aims to maintain service levels at all libraries and believes in equal access to education and libraries, regardless of where you live.

Libraries became such an important part of Cadiente’s life that she can’t wait to be part of the movement that gets other children just as excited about learning.

Noozhawk staff writer Gina Potthoff can be reached at gpotthoff@noozhawk.com. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.