Hennepin County's chief librarian, Amy Ryan, is a finalist for the top job at Boston's public library, the Star Tribune has learned.

Ryan confirmed Tuesday that she's a candidate for the position. She said her understanding is that she is one of six finalists.

The 57-year-old Minnetonka resident was named library director for Hennepin County three years ago after a career in Minneapolis libraries and oversaw the recent merger of the county and city library systems.

The Boston library's trustees don't plan to release candidates' names until the interviews late next week. The only other name disclosed in news reports is Thomas Birmingham, a former Massachusetts state Senate president and candidate for governor. The Boston Globe has reported that he is close to Boston Mayor Thomas Menino, who pushed for the ouster of the former library director.

Ryan said she was invited to apply for the job and did so, although she said she loves her Hennepin County job. She has family ties to Boston and said she's impressed both by the system's status as the first big-city public-supported library and the historical richness of its collection. That includes Shakespeare folios, Mozart scores and the library of President John Adams.

"It was too compelling an opportunity not to explore," she said in an interview. Although the Boston system is known for its magnificent main library on Copley Square, Ryan's strong point as a finalist could be her experience in running the 14 branch libraries in Minneapolis as chief of community libraries. She also brings experience in building projects, gained after Minneapolis voters approved a construction referendum for libraries.

Menino is looking for a director who will pay more attention to the city's 27 branch libraries, the Globe has reported.

The previous director was paid $167,000 annually, which would represent a considerable step up from Ryan's $134,304 salary from Hennepin County. She described the county position three years ago as her dream job.

County commissioners were harshly critical of county staff recently when it was disclosed that merger costs were running higher than expected. But Ryan said that wasn't a factor in her application. "Oh, gosh no," she said.

The county library system is trying to boost its collection budget even as it works to trim $2 million from spending. Ryan also has been a key player in discussing whether the county should continue plans to house an expanded planetarium atop the downtown library. She has been cool to the proposal.

Steve Brandt • 612-673-4438