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The Way Forward, 2010-2015
The Future of the Library Task Force
In the summer of 2010, the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library began the 2011 fiscal year under a severely reduced budget. It launched on a process of self-examination and reinvention. A grant from the Foundation for the Carolinas allowed for the creation of the “Future of the Library Task Force” – led by Dr. Jim Woodward, a former Chancellor of UNC Charlotte. This 17-member volunteer panel was composed of men and women with experience in philanthropy, education, and government and with wide knowledge of the community. The Task Force’s final report recommended funding levels for the county to meet and set priorities for the library to follow in future expansion or contraction of its budget. It also recommended a concentration on “basic library services.” Charlotte Mecklenburg Library. "Future of the Library Task Force releases final report at special joint meeting.” Press Release, March 21, 2011.
The Board of County Commissioners and the Board of Library Trustees accepted the recommendations. The County was also able to offer the library a $2 million increase for FY 2012. This amount offset the loss of one-time funding from the city and town governments and allowed for a slight expansion of hours at the regional branches. Charlotte Mecklenburg Library. “County Manager recommends $2 million in additional funding.” Press Release, May 21, 2011.
Library leadership devoted the fiscal year beginning July 1, 2011 to implementing the 39 recommendations from the Future of the Library Task Force. It undertook this transformation under the leadership of Vick Phillips, former Chief of Staff to Bank of America CEO Hugh McColl. Phillips had agreed to serve as an interim CEO following the announcement that Charles Brown would step down on June 30, 2011. “CEO” was a new title to the library system, made necessary because Brown stayed on as Director during a months-long transitional period. In July, the Board solidified the leadership team by asking Vick Phillips to remain in his role through the end of FY 2012 and by appointing David Singleton Director of Libraries.
There are two skill sets here. David provides leadership in delivering professional library services, and is essentially a chief operating officer. My role is to oversee the strategic organizational functions. And we work very well together. – Vick Phillips Charlotte Mecklenburg Library. "Charlotte Mecklenburg Library Board to begin search for new leader." Press Release, November 17, 2011
Following the Task Force’s recommendations, the new leadership team oversaw a consolidation of functions with Mecklenburg County and a refocusing of library programming on the key community needs of literacy, educational success, and workforce preparedness. Charlotte Mecklenburg Library. Annual Report. 2011 To demonstrate that library programs were contributing towards the goals set for the system, the library developed a comprehensive internal database of program resources as well as costs and outcomes. Known as the “Portal,” it won the Library a “Top Innovators Award” from the Urban Libraries Council. Charlotte Mecklenburg Library. Annual Report. 2011
Strategic Planning from the Inside Out
In April, 2012, the new CEO search concluded with the appointment of Lee Keesler, a Charlottean with experience in the worlds of banking and philanthropy. Looking back on the tumultuous past two years, Director of Libraries Singleton said, ““Thanks to strong support from Mecklenburg County, the community, and our dedicated staff, Charlotte Mecklenburg Library has weathered the storm streamlined and stronger.”
Long-term planning became an opportunity for the library to build on its organizational strengths and the good will it had earned and kept in the community. Beginning in early 2013, a team of library employees received training in facilitating discussions, recording what was said in such settings, and tabulating the notes into categories. In small teams they conducted forums of staff members and library users, and their findings were combined with those from telephone and online surveys. The resulting portrait of needs and hopes for the library informed the strategic plan for library programs and services.
Under the 2013 strategic plan the library
- Redid its website, its online catalog, and its mobile site.
- Established a program to make the ID cards of public school students function like library cards. Charlotte Mecklenburg Library. “Library and CMS join forces for student success.” Press Release, August 19, 2014.
- Unveiled a new brand with the theme “Because of my library, I can ___”
- Created a Library Foundation
- Increased its hours to 84% of what had been, in 2009, the total number of service hours per week, and made them uniform across the system.
- The process gave staff and patrons a say in the framing of goals and therefore a stake in their success. It allowed the library to check with patrons and learn if their needs had changed and with staff to learn if the organization gave them the time, tools, and opportunity to reach their potential. It also gave the library a model for building consensus as a precondition for any future strategic reevaluation. Chow, Anthony, UNCG; Ervin, Seth; Cole, Tom; Wozniak, Michael; Guevara, Beatriz & Scott, Bethany; Charlotte-Mecklenburg Library. “A Collective Voice and Vision: Charlotte Mecklenburg Library Staff Needs Assessment.” North Carolina Library Association Biennial Conference, October 13, 2013.
Chow, Anthony, UNCG; Ervin, Seth; Cole, Tom; Wozniak, Michael; Guevara, Beatriz & Scott, Bethany; Charlotte-Mecklenburg Library. “A Collective Voice and Vision: Charlotte Mecklenburg Library Staff Needs Assessment.” North Carolina Library Association Biennial Conference, October 13, 2013.
Charlotte Mecklenburg Library
- Annual Reports
- Press Releases
- “Future of the Library Task Force releases final report at special joint meeting.” March 21, 2011.
- “County Manager recommends $2 million in additional funding.” May 21, 2011.
“Charlotte Mecklenburg Library Board to begin search for new leader.” November 17, 2011.
“Library and CMS join forces for student success.” August 19, 2014.