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Library Staff

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Charlotte Mecklenburg Library >> Fighting to Stay Relevant, 1999-2009 >>  Library Staff


The Library staff add skills


As library services evolved, the staff had the responsibility to make them work. Between the making of a plan and the benefit it will provide to the public are the employees who must understand, explain, and execute it. Through years of growth and experimentation, the library maintained a focus on “service excellence.” Whatever the visitor did during his or her visit to the library, they should have had a good enough experience to want to come back. Employees received training in service excellence and recognition for showing it. Across a big system with 20+ branches, this focus helped to maintain a consistent culture. The results may be judged from county-wide figures on program attendance, visits per capita, internet terminal uses and circulation that were collected in 2006 and shared with Library Journal. On the strength of the Journal’s rankings, the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library received a “Five Star” (highest) rating for library service, the only library system in the Southeast to do so. Charlotte Mecklenburg Library, February 19, 2009Charlotte Mecklenburg Library. “Mecklenburg library system earns top national honors in service index of more than 7,000 libraries." Press Release, February 19, 2009


Having spent the better part of two decades trying to keep its offerings relevant to a public that was embracing new media, the library under new Director Charles Brown turned its attention to its own organization and staff skills. To make sure that staff had the digital literacy to understand the library’s services and to assist members of the public in using them, Director of Public Services Technology Helene Blowers led a system-wide training program called "Learning 2.0"  It was, said Blowers of her own invention, “a self-paced online learning program . . . to move an entire organization of 500-plus staff onto the Web 2.0 bandwagon.” Beginning in the summer of 2006, library staffers had to master 23 elements of the social web. They each started blogs, monitored those of other staff members, opened photo-sharing accounts, subscribed to podcasts, and checked out web-based word processing tools, all the while commenting on their own discoveries and helping each other over difficulties. The entire experience empowered participants, who learned by exploration and taught by sharing. The “23 Things” approach was implemented by many other libraries following Charlotte Mecklenburg’s experience.Blowers, 2008Blowers, Helene. "Ten Tips About 23 Things." School Library Journal. Vol.54, No.8 (October, 2008)


In 2006, while “Library 2.0” built web savvy from the bottom up, the library’s administration was also planning how to reorganize the institution. Consultants were hired and staff teams were formed to envision how the library might operate more efficiently. (Some library employees employed their newfound tech skills to launch an anonymous blog that voiced discontent with the proposed changes.) The entire project was called “Imagine 2010.” By that year it was hoped that the library would have earned recognition as the best library in the USA. Ironically, that very year a county budget crisis hit, pushing all plans aside. Still, in streamlining the organizational chart and in emphasizing the need for “unified services” – having all staff familiar with the basic functions of departments other than their own – it made a difference.


Works Cited:

Blowers, Helene. "Ten Tips About 23 Things." School Library Journal, 54.10 (Oct 2008).

Charlotte Mecklenburg Library, “Mecklenburg library system earns top national honors in service index of more than 7,000 libraries.” Press Release. February 19, 2009