On Becoming a 5 Star Library Friday, Feb 20 2009 

The February 15, 2009 issue of Library Journal published the inaugural Index of Public Library Service. This index rates 7,115 public libraries throughout the United States and ranks 256 “star” libraries as five star, four star and three star libraries.

The Williamsburg Regional Library was honored to receive one of only 90 five star ratings in the study.  All ranking systems depend upon what statistics are used in developing them and a case can be made as to their validity. However, the methodology and statistics used by Library Journal in developing their rankings are as sound as any developed so far. The ratings are based upon four per-capita service indicators: library visits, circulation, program attendance and public Internet computer uses. The Williamsburg Regional Library did well in all categories and finished first in its budget group in program attendance.

How does one become a 5 star library? I am including below the comments that I sent to Library Journal upon receiving notification of the recognition:

The Williamsburg Regional Library has been providing excellent service through a contract for library services to the citizens of the City of Williamsburg and James City County since 1977. The following items are essential to this service provision:

  • Having a contract with its governing entities that outlines the responsibilities of each party. While this contract is not perfect and has been revised over the years, it provides a basis for quality library service.

  • Having local governments that are willing to fund library services at a high level. This enables the library to have sufficient funds to provide quality collections, skilled staff and necessary on-going facility maintenance.

  • Having a well-developed strategic plan that is a part of daily library operations. If it is not in the plan it is not done. WRL prioritizes programs and services based upon the strategic plan. This plan is evaluated and revised on a regular schedule.

  • Having quality staff that is service driven. It is important that this staff receives adequate training and opportunities for personal and professional growth.

  • Having an operational climate that encourages innovation and taking responsibility. Within this operational climate there is freedom to try new programs and services( so long as they fit into our strategic plan) and an expectation that there will be failures along the way.

  • Having fun along the way. Our staff development committee regularly schedules events such as the February 12 Chili Lunch celebrating Lincoln’s Birthday and Valentine’s Day.

To become a five-star library takes concerted effort over many years. The community must desire quality library service, provide the necessary funding to accomplish it, and continually communicate with library staff their needs and their appreciation for what is being provided. Library staff must have a service driven orientation and feel that they are a part of an organization that appreciates and rewards their efforts. While not always on the cutting edge of library service, the library must be continually looking at its operations and services and be willing to move in new and challenging ways to meet the service expectations of its community.

Thanks to all who have made this possible!

So long for now!

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Reach the Director Friday, Feb 6 2009 

When I started this blog on April 1, 2008 I set as my goal to have two or three posts per month. As you can see I am falling short of that goal. My intent now is one post a month and I am now a little behind that at this time.

This post is expanding on comments made in my post of May 23, 2008.

I have been a library director of five public libraries and one multi-type library system since 1975.  In my previous positions, my office was  accessible by the public but my phone contact was filtered by office staff unless I gave someone my direct phone line. Here, my office is not accessible by the public as I am hidden behind the circulation workroom in a non-public area, but my direct phone line is listed in the phone directory.

From my large office windows, I can view the public entering the library from a main entrance  and they can observe what I am doing, but they can not meet with me unless they ask staff to see if I am available. I would like an office with more public accessibility but our building design will not allow it.

Having your direct office line listed in the phone directory leads to some interesting conversations. Sometimes, upon hearing that they actually have contact with the “Library Director” individuals will sputter and hang up. I get a lot of apologies for bothering me. To these individuals, I ask how I may be of assistance and then we continue our discussion.  I have learned much from these callers and hopefully have left them with a better feeling about their public library and its accessibility.

I will admit that at times of the year, such as  AARP Tax Preparation Season (which in now underway), when I have answered the 10th phone call of the day for the schedule for our tax preparers a direct phone line becomes less than desirable. But again, each caller needs information, that is part of my responsibilities as library director, and I do have a tax preparer schedule on my desk.

One of my first actions when I became library director at WRL was to end the punch a number phone system confronting library callers. As mentioned in my May 23, 2008 post, library callers  during daytime hours reach a live voice that assists them in getting to the individual staff member who can answer their question. Having my direct phone line listed in the phone directory is but an extension of my belief that in this technological age, the accessibility of a live human being is a vital part of good library service.

So long for now!