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!