A "quintessential librarian" with more than 18 years' experience at the Denver Public Library was selected Tuesday as the new director of the Salt Lake City Library System.

Beth Elder, a former bookseller whose involvement in children's books sparked a career in library science, was chosen by the Salt Lake City Public Library Board of Directors to replace Nancy Tessman, who retired in June after 30 years at the library.

Elder will begin work in Salt Lake City on April 28.

"I'm so excited about the living in Salt Lake City and joining the community there," Elder said during a phone interview Tuesday.

"The Salt Lake City Public Library has a reputation as one of the most creative, dynamic libraries in the entire country," she said. "It's a legacy created by former director Nancy Tessman, and I have the unique pleasure to help to maintain that and continue it into the future."

Helen Rollins, president of the library board, described Elder as "the quintessential librarian whose vision and inspired leadership will vault us into the future.

"She is such a librarian in the purest, most positive sense of the word," Rollins said. "She's a teacher, she's an inspirer, she's a defender of intellectual freedom and she believes in libraries."

Much of Elder's work at the Denver Public Library focused on serving diverse communities, encouraging early childhood literacy and in strategic planning "to demonstrate the value libraries have to the health of communities," she said.

Elder started at the Denver library in 1989 as children's collection specialist, later became senior librarian and then senior collection specialist. About four years ago, she moved to the administrative side of the library, first as director of public services and most recently as director of planning.

Prior to her library science career, Elder owned The Book Co., a wholesale book-selling business specializing in children's books. She also worked as a preschool teacher.