Kelly LaRocca found her calling as a librarian while she was an undergraduate at LSU, and it’s the only job she’s ever had.
Now, after two decades in the field, she finds herself leading one of the largest library systems in Louisiana.
LaRocca, 41, was appointed the director of St. Tammany Parish Libraries on Feb. 26 by the system's board of control. She was a unanimous choice to succeed Donald Westmoreland, who retired a year ago as the chief administrator of parish libraries.
“My junior year of college, I started working at the Middleton Library at LSU, and I really loved it," LaRocca said. "I worked in the basement with LSU’s government document repository. It was fascinating.”
Realizing that library work was her calling, LaRocca enrolled as a graduate student in library and information science at LSU after receiving her bachelor’s degree in history there in 2000. She received her master’s degree just 18 months later.
After working as the librarian for Herzing College in New Orleans, LaRocca and her husband decided to move to the north shore. They have been married for 17 years and have a son, 10, and a daughter, 8.
LaRocca applied for a job with the St. Tammany system, and Westmoreland hired her to be a reference librarian at the Covington branch.
Over the next 14 years, LaRocca served as branch manager in Covington and Slidell, then as Westmoreland’s assistant director for finance and support, a position she held for eight years before being promoted to director.
She credits Westmoreland for guiding her through the system and giving her a chance to prove her abilities. LaRocca said he patiently explained the intricacies of the system, listened to her ideas and gave her the opportunity to try them.
Westmoreland’s tutelage paid off when the library board, after a yearlong search, picked LaRocca from a field of 13 applicants to be the system’s new director.
Board President Rebecca Taylor said LaRocca’s knowledge of the system, and the fact that she had proved herself capable in management positions, were the main reasons she was selected as director.
LaRocca said her top priorities are to carefully manage the budget, invest capital improvement funds in upgraded facilities, to increase community outreach, and to craft a long-range strategic plan for the library system. All of those things will be essential, she said, when asking voters to approve the library system’s property tax renewal when it's on the ballot in 2024.
LaRocca said she looks forward to working with the library board and the system’s nearly 150 employees (30 of whom hold advanced library degrees) to make the system the best it can be.
“I’m here and I’m successful because of the staff that I work with," she said. "I couldn’t do it without them.”
LaRocca also encouraged the public to support its local libraries.
“We have quite a lot to offer," she said. "Come visit us!”