For the first time since 1988, the Westerville Public Library has a new director.

Longtime director Don Barlow ended his 28-year run with the library in May, paving the way for newly appointed Erin Francoeur to take over.

Francoeur was hired after an extensive interview process that included a public forum with candidates and multiple meetings with the library's board of trustees.

She comes to Westerville from Shasta Public Libraries in Redding, California, and brings more than nine years of professional library experience to the job.

Francoeur holds a master's degree in library science from Emporia State, a master's degree in religious studies from Arizona State and a bachelor's degree in sociology from Indiana.

While Francoeur praised Westerville for having a "lively" library with a "progressive" attitude, the main draw for her was returning home to the Midwest.

With family in Ohio, Indiana and Illinois, Francoeur said bringing her family to central Ohio through the library position was the perfect opportunity.

"I think it's a really nice community to raise a family, with lots of opportunity and nice places to live. That combined with being closer to our family, and it's really great for us."

Waiting on the other side of a 35-hour car ride with her husband, Todd, their three children and two dogs is a library that has been named a five-star library by Library Journal -- meaning Francoeur knows she's coming into a good situation.

"The staff is excellent; there's a lot of interesting and exciting programs and the fact that it's a five-star library is really impressive," she said.

"They're embracing the technology and ways libraries are changing, and it's kind of one of the forerunners in library service," she said.

Jack Shinnock, secretary of the library's board of trustees, led the hiring process and said throughout that replacing Barlow was impossible, and the board would be looking for someone to make their own legacy instead.

With Francoeur, he said they found their new leader.

"She has met with Don (Barlow), and Don has a great impression of her and is very comfortable that she'll be able to continue with the work that he's done," Shinnock said.

"He leaves us with a great foundation, and we think she's going to be the one that can build on that foundation."

Francoeur said her priority will be getting to know her staff and the community, but she's excited to hit the ground running.

"I'm looking forward to being part of the community and raising a family there and making the library the best it can be," she said.

Francoeur's first official day is June 12. Barlow's retirement became official at the end of May.

An informal reception is set for 6 to 8 p.m. June 15 so the public can learn about Francoeur's vision for the future of the library. After a short presentation, attendees will have a chance to ask questions and welcome her. Light refreshments will be provided.