Virginia Library Association Update Tuesday, Jun 1 2010 

It has been seven months since I assumed the presidency of the Virginia Library Association.

What has happen during these seven months as far as the Virginia Library Association is concerned? Not a great deal, but then most  president’s really have little or no impact in the long run on the Association or its activities. This is probably for the best! The Association has changed it meeting location for Executive Board and Council Meetings from Charlottesville to Henrico County. We will see how that works. So far after one meeting it has been well received. However, if more members from Western Virginia become active in Association activities this could change. As one who has set up Council meetings over the years the tables at the Twin Hickory Branch of the Henrico County Public Library are substantially lighter than the ones at the Northside Branch Library in Charlottesville. These old bones definitely notice the difference!

The Association now has a new logo, thanks to the work of staff of the Central Rappahannock Regional Library. It is clean and reflects the historic heritage of Virginia.  We are working on revising parts of the Association’s manual. This is a never-ending task as one change leads to another. An important change is removing the responsibility of chairing the Nominating Committee from the duties of the past-president. Now the past-president only appoints the chair and its membership. Not that I did not want these duties next year, but this will enable the Nomination Committee chair, in our schedule of office rotation, to have a better knowledge of those eligible for Association leadership.

One of the fun parts of the job is the ability to recognize individuals in new ways. While I would like to take credit for thinking up the idea, the concept of issuing presidential citations at each meeting of VLA Council came to me when a colleague asked if an individual could have some recognition at our Annual Conference  in October of last year.  My concept for the presidential citation is to recognize individuals who have contributed substantially to librarianship in Virginia over the years but who have not received much, if any,  formal recognition. Library directors such as myself are eliminated immediately! It has been fun to recognize Libby Lewis, Gene Damon and Susan Thorniley for their wide and varied service to the libraries and library users of our Commonwealth. I have several more recognitions to come. Whether this continues is up to my successor Matt Todd. Knowing him, he will probably come up with a new and even better way of honoring those who toil in the vineyards of librarianship.

The Association continues on a sound financial footing. I am hopeful that the recently completed VLA Para-Professional Forum Annual Conference is a financial success. While attendance dropped considerably this year the program schedule was a good one and I was delighted to participate in the opening session.

The first VLA  Library Leadership Academy was held in Charlottesville in April. This several day event brought over 20 selected individuals together with consultant Robert Bergin to learn about leadership and prepare themselves for future leadership opportunities. I was honored to participate in a panel discussion on the last day of the Academy and will be serving as a mentor for three of the participants as they work on their final project.

Another fun aspect of being VLA president is that I get to inflict my thoughts on the membership through four issues of Virginia Libraries. So far one issue has been sent out into the world.  Three of these columns are already completed and I hope will be relevant when they appear months after they have been sent to the editors. The last one will appear when I am no longer Association president. This is a project for the summer.

It has been a fast seven months. I am sure that the remaining five will go just as fast.  I look forward to an exciting Annual Conference in Portsmouth on October 21 and 22 as I close out my year as VLA president and return to normal obscurity.

So long for now!

Advertisements

Further Thoughts on Communication Wednesday, Nov 25 2009 

In my March 25, 2009 blog post I was meandering on a variety of topics as I rejoiced in the coming of spring. In the post I had a paragraph questioning how far should the library go in employing technology in communicating with our public. Now eight months later the question is still there. However, the answer I am prepared to give is somewhat different.

Since, March I have a better understanding of the need to reach today’s library user through formats that they use on a regular basis.  Recently the library established  a Facebook page where basic library information is presented and the user is directed towards  our main web presence for more detailed information on programs and services. In the near future the library will begin a Twitter presence where short messages may be sent on a regular basis alerting users to library programs and services.

Last week at the Williamsburg Library location the library’s first digital display monitor was installed.  We are currently learning about the digital display system and experimenting with presentation options.  As a user waits at the circulation desk or comes through the library plaza entry doors (one of three into the building, but that is another future blog entry) they may view local weather, national news and power point presentations of current library programs.  Our system will allow each monitor to present specific information relating to its placement within either library facility. Thus, a monitor in the youth area would have information on youth programs and services and a monitor in the adult area would contain information relating to offerings for adults. I anticipate adding additional monitors as funding permits.

A current incident is a painful reminder that good regular communication is essential. The Virginia Library Association completed its 2009 Annual Conference the end of October. This past week was the Annual Conference of the Virginia Educational Media Association. At that conference vendors discovered that next year both Associations will be holding their conferences on the same dates in communities less than 50 miles apart. As many vendors attend both conferences this would force vendors to choose between conferences or have a lesser presence at one of the conferences. There are also individuals who participate in both conferences and would have to make the same choices.  This is not good for either Association.

As president of the Virginia Library Association, I have spent time communicating during the past few days with our executive director to see what could  be done to rectify this situation. Due to her negotiations and the hotel’s willingness to accommodate Association needs the date of next fall’s Association conference was changed to a week earlier in October 2010.   I am delighted that the Virginia Library Association was able to adjust the dates of our 2010 Annual Conference to enable vendor and individual participation at both conferences in 2010.

This situation could have been avoided if there were better communication between these two organizations within the Commonwealth of Virginia. I can assure you that such communication will be better in the future!

So long for now!

Civil Public Discourse Friday, Aug 21 2009 

Recently I was looking at an on-line publication from the American Library Association. In it there was a link to Michael Shermer’s Baloney Detection Kit. I clicked on it and observed his presentation of the Kit on YouTube.

His ten steps, in the form of questions, to detect baloney addresses the need to thoroughly examine what we see, hear, and read to filter out that which has no sound basis.  In this age of instantaneous bombardment through all forms of media, there is a lot of baloney out there and also many individuals who make a good living promoting some of the most odious kinds of it. Look up Baloney Detection Kit in the search engine of your choice to find a direct link to Mr. Shermer’s presentation of his kit.

His tenth step is the question “Are personal beliefs driving the cause”? This ties in to my topic for this blog entry, that of the rapid decline in civil public discourse in this country.

Since early summer, and particularly since Congress adjourned for the August recess, you can not avoid hearing, seeing, or reading in any media of your choice strident voices promoting one side or the other of the health  care situation. Notice I did not say discussion or debate. The hysteria, demagoguery, and downright falsehoods found in all aspects of this situation are downright appalling and do not reflect positively on our ability to listen to each other and discern what the real issues are.

As I or you reach our conclusions on this or any other issue that concerns us, we come to this process with a predetermined belief system. This belief system is the result of many factors, including  family upbringing, place(s) where we have lived, education, economic status, race, sex, religious belief or unbelief, employment history, and social and work connections. None of us comes to anything with a clean slate. It is important for us to realize this as we enter the information gathering process necessary to form our own opinions. This information gathering process is where concepts found in the Baloney Detection Kit can be of assistance in reaching a personal conclusion on any subject under consideration.

Why am I so concerned about the tone of our current interactions on health care? This situation is  another indication that our ability as a people to have civil discourse on issues that concern us is rapidly diminishing and may be disappearing altogether. For a nation to function effectively as a democracy there must be civil public discourse on the important issues that face us.  We must respect those with whom we disagree and express our disagreements  in a manner that does not inflame passions to the breaking point or beyond. We must also be open to the realization that we do not know it all and might even be incorrect in our assumptions and beliefs. Without this civil discourse process, as a nation we lay ourselves open to individuals and forms of government that bear no resemblance to democracy.

Let each of us pledge to work towards restoring civil public discourse to the life of our Nation.

So long for now!

Virginia Opportunity Online Broadband Summit Friday, May 29 2009 

For the past several months I have been privileged to be on the Advisory Committee for the Virginia Opportunity Online Broadband Summit. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has selected Virginia as one of seven states for a pilot program to establish Internet connectivity in all public libraries with speeds of 1.5 Mbps or faster. The goal of this program is to build state and local support to ensure public libraries can achieve and sustain broadband Internet connections over the long-term. The Virginia Opportunity Online Broadband Summit is the first step in the Gates Foundation program process for Virginia public  libraries.

In a time of increasing use of public library public access computers to communicate with family members in the military in Iraq and Afghanistan, to prepare and send resumes as a part of the job application process, file for unemployment compensation and participate in distance learning, it is essential that libraries have bandwidth sufficient to handle this demand. Many public libraries in Virginia do not have the necessary bandwidth to meet user demand.

The following is taken, with permission of the Library of Virginia,from a report on the summit:

“Ninety-six library directors, local partners, state leaders and technology advocates participated in the Virginia Opportunity Online Broadband Summit held May 13-14, 2009 in Hot Springs, Virginia at The Homestead Resort…

The summit included a comprehensive look at the state of connectivity across the Commonwealth and in Virginia’s public libraries.  Presentations included:

  • Emily Parker, program officer for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s U.S. Libraries program (USL);
  • Jorman Granger, former Deputy Chief of Staff for Governor L. Douglas Wilder and current executive with Northrop Grumman Information Systems;
  • Graham Richard, former mayor of Fort Wayne, Indiana and business entrepreneur; and
  • Glen C. Sink, executive director of Virginia Rural Center.

However, it was the comprehensive and exciting panel discussions that properly outlined the need for improved connectivity in Virginia’s public libraries.  The two panels were moderated by Karen Jackson, Deputy Secretary of Technology, and Delegate Christopher K. Peace of the Virginia House of Delegates’ 97th District.

The first panel highlighted the efforts taking place in the Commonwealth to improve connectivity and explored how public libraries fit into the broadband equation. Key points from the discussion included technology resources for rural citizens, the extremes of connectivity, the evolution of technology, the value of a broadband champion, and the importance of advocating the need for connectivity.

The second panel with Delegate Peace examined the need for improved connectivity to Virginia libraries and the opportunities that come with improved broadband connections. Fran Freimarck (director of the Pamunkey Regional Library), Harriet Henderson Coalter (director of the Richmond Public Library), Paula Alston (director of the Montgomery-Floyd Regional Library) and Nancy Bolt (consultant with the ALA’s Office for Information Technology Policy). The panel provided the following examples as a response to why higher broadband speeds are needed:

  • searching online catalogs,
  • participating in traffic school classes,
  • filing income tax forms,
  • applying for unemployment benefits,
  • downloading audio books, and
  • helping job seekers.

One interesting example is that the Richmond Public Library witnessed 50% utilization of bandwidth on Sunday.  Ironically, the library is closed on Sundays.

Following all the presentations and panels, participants had the opportunity to join others from their geographic region to share their ideas regarding connectivity in Virginia’s public libraries. This table talk proved to be the highlight of the event and allowed candid conversation among librarians, local partners and state leaders.  Topics discussed by the groups included:

  • Services
  • Connectivity
  • Funding
  • Political Considerations
  • Institutional
  • Support

All in all, the summit gathered people and organizations for one common cause: improved connectivity to Virginia’s public libraries.  Every participant left knowing that improved connectivity is imperative for our public libraries and that they can make it happen.”

Another exciting result of the summit was the ability of library participants to explain to non-librarians in attendance the roles that public libraries play in all aspects of community life.

While I was unable to attend the summit due to family illness, I am excited about what this meeting brought in the way of new understandings and partnerships as Virginia public libraries begin the process of improving broadband access in their facilities.

So long for now!

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!

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!

Its been 40 Years! Friday, Dec 26 2008 

Recently my wife and I received a letter from our Alma mater indicating that our 40th class reunion would be next spring. Besides a confirmation of our advancing age, it brought back thoughts of how things have changed in the past 40 years.

When we were college students, class meant going to a room with an teacher and receiving a lecture (or if we were lucky, participating in a learning discussion). While this classroom experience remains the norm in undergraduate education, class may also mean hooking up the laptop and connecting via the Internet to receive information in a variety of formats. Class discussions are held electronically and in some cases there is no visual or vocal interaction with the teacher during the whole semester.

In the late 1960’s class notes were handwritten and papers were expected to be typewritten (although a few teachers did permit handwritten papers). Now small digital recorders can quietly record every word the teacher speaks. This can be accomplished while the student is text messaging via a cell phone to someone in the next seat or in a foreign country. The personal computer with its word processing and spread sheet software is now a required part of every student’s educational experience.

The following is but a short list of technological advances of the last 40 years ; (source – inventors.about.com)

  • floppy disk – 1970
  • liquid-crystal display – 1971
  • microprocessor – 1971
  • videocassette recorder – 1971
  • word processor – 1972
  • ethernet – 1973
  • laser printer 1975
  • ink-jet printer 1976
  • cell phones – 1979
  • IBM-PC – 1981
  • Apple Macintosh – 1984
  • Microsoft Windows – 1985
  • Disposable Camera – 1986
  • Digital Cellular Phone – 1988
  • HTTP and HTML Created – 1990
  • Pentium Processor – 1993
  • Virtual keyboard – 2002
  • Intel Express Chipsets – 2004
  • YouTube – 2005

What has not changed over time is the nature of the educational process.  It is still dependent upon what the teacher puts into his/her instruction. Good quality information and a desire to share and be a part of the learning process can be done just as effectively through the use of appropriate technology as it can be through personal classroom interaction.  In other words, good instruction is good instruction no matter what technology is used in its dissemination.  Likewise technology can not help poor instruction.

So long for now!

Vacation Observations Friday, Nov 7 2008 

My wife and I just returned from a recent vacation. During our time away we spent six days on the American Queen on a river journey on the Mississippi and Ohio rivers. Such a journey provides you with ample opportunity to relax and observe the world as it flows by. Some observations from our trip:

During a tour of the boat’s pilot house we learned how the vessel navigates and the rules of the river. Boats coming downstream have the right of way over boats coming upstream. Part of this right is determining on which side of an upriver vessel the downstream boat will pass. Our guide indicated there is no river rage. For one who is going downstream now will shortly be returning upstream.

Ship captains continually communicate with each other and beyond sharing job related information learn about lives and families.  Over a period of thirty years they may never meet in person but they will acquire a  deep respect for, and knowledge of, each other through their repeated passings on the river.

During the week we observed many 15 barge tow units going up and down the river. I had never thought how much traffic is on the river and what quantity of goods are conveyed by this method of transportation. One of these tow units can carry as much material as two 100 car trains or 879 large semi trucks. I now better understand the need for new and updated locks and the continual maintenance of river channels and facilities. Hurricane Ike had more of an effect inland than I had realized. The dock at Mount Vernon, Indiana had been swept away by Ike.

We took several side trips when the boat was moored at various communities along the way. We visited a wonderful public library in Mount Vernon, Indiana, saw an excellent exhibit of modern American Indian painting and sculputure in Cape Girardeau, Missouri and visited the Earthquake Museum in New Madrid, Missouri.  It was interesting to see how various communities defended themselves against periodic river floods. Floodwalls in Cape Girardeau, Missouri and Paducah, Kentucky displayed interesting murals depicting aspects of their community’s history.

We came back from this vacation refreshed and ready to re-enter our normal world.

Communication Thursday, Oct 9 2008 

How we communicate within the library is always a challenging part of any director’s job.  While there are many aspects to internal library communication, recently I have been focused on how I as library director can increase my communication with those who work in the Library. The following influenced my thought process:

1. Knowledge from years of experience that communication is difficult under the best of circumstances. In an organization with over 100 employees working in two facilities and on outreach vehicles effective communication takes considerable time and effort.

2. In its final report the Williamsburg Regional Library Strategic Plan Review Committee included the following: ” While they (library staff) generally agree that WRL offers a “positive work environment,” many expressed a need for greater inclusion in decision making processes. The committee encourages the library administration to address this need.”

3. Discussions with the Library Board of Trustees.

4. A personal acknowledgment that as a life-long introvert, effective communication takes extra effort.

How am I planning to address this aspect of internal library communication?

In my goals for the coming year approved by the Board of Trustees, I am committed to the following:

A. Hold monthly meetings of the Director’s Cabinet. This group consists of all library administrators that report directly to me.

B. Hold meetings of all Library Division Directors on a bi-monthly basis. This is also a wonderful opportunity for us to learn together. At our first meeting later this month we will hear from the Director of the Library of Virginia.

C. Attend individual Divisional staff meetings as appropriate to their meeting schedule.

In recent months I received helpful suggestions from individuals on how to facilitate better communication. As a result of these suggestions, and further discussion with library staff, I recently instituted the following:

  1. “Meandering with Moorman,” an opportunity for staff members to discuss library topics with me in the informal, one-on-one setting of a walk over to Colonial Williamsburg. Thirty-minute walks will take place one day each month.  In the event of inclement weather or if a staff member prefers, discussions will take place in my office.
  2. Preparation of a monthly “Report from John” which will be distributed through all-users e-mail. This report will include a summary of decisions made during the month, current and long range issues and other pertinent information, including major initiatives within the library.
  3. The establishment of an e-mail “suggestion box” where ideas for improving library operations may be e-mailed to me. This will not be a channel for complaints or personnel issues, but will deal with suggestions for improving our operations. I will respond to each individual suggestion in a timely fashion. In preparing my response I will be consulting with other staff as appropriate.

Will the above steps increase director/staff communication, including addressing the concern for greater staff inclusion in the decision making process? While I do not know, I am optimistic that they will.

What I do know is that I have a firm commitment to this process and will do my best to make it succeed. As an individual with over thirty years experience as a library director in six libraries in four states, I know how difficult effective communication is and how it must be continually worked on by all involved parties.

So long for now!

Strategic Plan Review Wednesday, Jul 16 2008 

In several recent blogs I have discussed the Strategic Plan for the Williamsburg Regional Library. As I have indicated, the Library takes planning seriously and develops its services and programs based upon our planning document. Recently the Library Board of Trustees appointed a Strategic Plan Review Committee to examine how the library was doing with its current plan. While the report of this committee may be found on our web site, I am including it in its entirety in this blog to emphasize the importance that I as library director view the plan and its implementation. What follows is the report of this committee in its entirety.

Strategic Plan Review

2008

The Strategic Plan 2006-2010 has guided the Williamsburg Regional Library’s operations since the plan’s adoption in 2005. At this midpoint in the plan, the review committee was charged with examining four primary areas and evaluating the Library’s progress in developing each of them. The committee was asked to prepare a written report presenting findings and recommendations for action during the remainder of the current plan and for consideration in the development of the next strategic plan.

The review committee believes the library has adhered to the plan well. Planning assumptions have generally been correct, and demographic trends have not changed appreciably. While the library can improve on some items related to values and strategic directions, it is making solid progress toward achieving the plan’s goals. Future plans will benefit from the refinement of some values statements, clarification about the role of demographic information, and an expanded consideration of technology.

Planning Assumptions

The committee examined the assumptions, assessing how accurate each one has proved to date. Commercial, residential, educational, and not-for-profit development has clearly had “an impact on the use of the Williamsburg Regional Library facilities.” Use of the James City County Library is up significantly; we attribute this increase to development in upper James City and York counties. The library has demonstrated its commitment to providing “a wide variety of materials, formats, and delivery options” both in its building-based offerings and in the execution of its outreach plans. The City of Williamsburg and James City County have provided steadfast support for “the services of the Williamsburg Regional Library for their residents.” The Friends, Foundation, and other donors have also supported “the provision of non-budgeted resources, services, and special programs.” The library’s partnership program has continued to evolve. Ineffective partnerships have been terminated and the library has narrowed its focus to a core of central, stable relationships. To date, businesses have preferred informal partnerships.

The assumption that “economic uncertainties will continue to affect the Williamsburg Regional Library” has been a prescient one. The economic downturn that began in late 2007 is having a significant effect at the state and local levels. Virginia’s revenue shortfall has triggered decreases in state aid to public libraries. Although the library’s Board of Trustees adopted a PSA Dewberry building study in April 2007, financial circumstances have forced James City County to remove a third library from its current capital improvement plan. York County plans to open its own upper county library by April 2009, and it will withdraw all WRL funding in fiscal year 2010. Consequently, the library will continue to examine all options for service to users.

The assumption that an “expanding population will increase demand on library facilities” was a challenging one for the committee to assess. While the area’s population grew by 24 percent between 2000 and 2007, the number of library cardholders only increased by 12 percent. The committee attributes this pattern to the availability of information on the Internet, changes in cardholder privileges, and more frequent purges of inactive cards. However, we also believe it demonstrates the need for the library to continually work on its external relations and publicize its collections, programs, and services.

Core Values

The committee consulted with staff members throughout the organization to assess how well the library embraces its core values. Several areas emerged as great strengths. “Free and confidential access,” for example, continues to be a priority as evidenced by Internet filtering options and staff training. Staff members also believe that “courteous service” and acting on user input are priorities for the library. Literacy is an ongoing theme in all aspects of library operations; staff members take their roles as stewards of public trust very seriously; and cooperative work with groups in our community is an area where WRL excels.

Staff members note a potential conflict between the statement “we value all residents in our community” and cardholder privileges. Future strategic plans should address the role that jurisdictions’ financial contributions play in defining residents and the library services they receive. Expanded Outreach Services will also make more sense if future plans specify the value the library places on serving vulnerable populations who are the least able to visit buildings and vans.

The diversity statement is a broad and somewhat puzzling one. The next strategic plan should restate this value to reflect a commitment not only to diverse collections, but also to diverse programming, staffing, and user groups. Staff members are clearly “talented, well-trained, and knowledgeable.” While they generally agree that WRL offers a “positive work environment,” many expressed a need for greater inclusion in decision-making processes. The committee encourages the library administration to address this need.

Demographics

Statistical estimates from the Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service and the U.S. Census Bureau indicate that the trends outlined in the plan have not changed. Rapid population growth has continued; the proportion of the population age 65 and over is expanding; and the proportion age 0-19 is holding steady. The school-age population, in fact, has fallen below projections. This trend has allowed for a one-year delay in the construction of a ninth elementary and a fourth middle school.

The community’s Hispanic population is estimated at 2.6 percent, a 30 percent increase from 2000. The proportion of the African-American population has continued to decrease, dropping from 15 to 13 percent of residents. The committee believes future plans will benefit from an examination of additional racial and ethnic groups in our community. Median household incomes in James City County continue to be higher than average; incomes in the City of Williamsburg continue to be below average. While housing prices are moderating, home ownership is still out of reach for many individuals who live and work in our community. Despite the improvements offered by Williamsburg Area Transport, limited public transportation is still an issue.

In the midst of overall affluence, poverty persists in our community. It is less than the statewide average of 10 percent in James City County (where 6.1 percent of residents live in poverty) and higher in the City of Williamsburg (where 22.7 percent of residents live in poverty). Children are particularly likely to be poor in Williamsburg where 32.3 percent of residents age 5-17 live in families in poverty. We recommend that future strategic plans be clear about the role demographic information will play in the library’s plans and priorities.

Strategic Directions

The committee examined each division and department’s monthly reports to assess progress in these areas. It also consulted with appropriate directors and managers. The library has clearly embraced the directions statements. A 2007 citizen survey ranks the library as the top “community aspect” in James City County. This placement reflects the way staff members treat “all users with courtesy and respect” at public desks and van stops. The ranking is also a result of staff members’ hard work behind the scenes in Finance and General Services as well as Automated, Circulation, and Technical Services. A commitment to “putting users’ needs and expectations first” is evident in the library’s ability to fill over 90 percent of user requests.

WRL provides excellent collections, programs, meeting space, and outreach services. A “focus on books and reading” is evident throughout Youth Services, and Adult Services has a national reputation for its Readers’ Advisory work. Statistically, each item in the collection circulates 3.6 times per year, and the library offers materials in a variety of formats. The library uses “technology appropriately,” treating it as a means of achieving institutional goals rather than a goal unto itself. Given technology’s importance and the pace of technological change, however, future strategic plans should address this topic more completely. Programming is another area of strength. Youth and Mobile Library Services have outstanding traditions of literacy-based programs. Program Services has offered the Dewey Decibel Concert Series for more than twenty-five years and has a long history of hosting exhibits, film series, and book discussion programs. The library has demonstrated a commitment to meeting space by renovating rooms, installing hearing assist loops, and expanding meeting room assistance at the James City County Library. Outreach Services has been a top priority. The library made major changes in its organizational structure to expand that division and purchased new vehicles to further “extend services beyond the walls of library buildings.”

Organizational changes in the Facilities Department have significantly improved building cleanliness and maintenance, and the department has completed many projects throughout library facilities. The library now devotes a specific Staff Excellence Award to “day-to-day operations,” and its “culture of excellence and innovation” is reflected in staff members’ involvement in professional activities and their receipt of awards at the state and national levels.

Between now and 2010, the committee believes there are two areas where the library should refine its focus. First, it should specify the scope of its Adult programming. The Adult Services Division’s involvement in programming has expanded in recent years. That programming has proven the most effective for topics (like classic films and some author visits) specifically related to the library’s collections. Focusing programming on these areas will free Adult Services staff members to participate in expanded outreach services.

Second, the library should develop a more comprehensive, systematic approach to its external relations. The library’s public website, for example, needs attention from both technological standpoints (such as the incorporation of RSS feeds) and organizational ones. The current model, one in which many divisions are responsible for the site, contributes to the website’s uneven look, feel, and content. Future models will require continued adaptation of the library’s organizational structures. As both adult programming and outreach services have expanded, a need for additional publicity capacity and uniformity of the library’s “brand” has also emerged. While the launch of a graphics standards manual and archive has addressed this issue to some degree, divisions continue to need more publicity than current structures offer. Again, this area is one where the redistribution of existing resources will be required.

Conclusion

This review has occurred during a particularly uncertain time for the Williamsburg Regional Library. The committee’s discussions often focused on change, transition, priorities, and difficult choices. We believe the library has entered this period of uncertainty with a strong foundation of success and support from staff members, the Board of Trustees, the Friends, the Foundation, the City of Williamsburg, James City County, and the users we serve. With a renewed commitment to inclusive decision-making and a willingness to tackle remaining challenges, we believe the library is well positioned to manage its future.

Genevieve S. Owens, Assistant Director and Chair

Reba Friedrich, Youth Services Librarian

Sarah Houghland, Board of Trustees

Mary H. Norment, Board of Trustees

Melissa Simpson, Mobile Library Services Manager

Approved by the Williamsburg Regional Library Board of Trustees June 25, 2008.

As you can see this is a thorough and thoughtful review of the Library’s progress in developing the four primary areas of the 2006-2010 plan. As I indicated to the Board of Trustees at their June 26, 2008 meeting, my goals for the coming fiscal year will include acting upon the recommendations found in this report.

So long for now!

Next Page »