UNCG MLIS Alumna Dana Eure was recently selected as North Carolina Library Director of the Year for her work with the Cabarrus County Public Library System. She took the time to answer our questions about her experiences so far.
1. In your time as director, what changes and goals have you focused on?
I’ve been director for a little over three and a half years at the Cabarrus County Public Library. About 6 months after I became library director, we experienced budget cuts that resulted in the loss of all part-time staff and 30% of our public service hours. Although it was a devastating blow, we took the opportunity to make sure that all processes and procedures were streamlined so that we could serve our patrons in the best way possible.
I have been working with library managers to develop written policies and procedures for the library system as a whole. Many of those documents had either never been developed or were sadly out of date. My goal has been to operate all libraries consistently so that patrons have the same positive experiences at any of our libraries.
Staff training has also been a focus. We’re trying to build a training program for new employees while also working to make sure that the skills and knowledge of existing employees are developed. We’ve established technology competencies to make sure all staff have the needed skills to do their jobs effectively. Extra training has been provided when needed. We’re working on competencies for other areas including reference and reader’s advisory.
Our automation system was 20 years old and in need of replacement. The Library was awarded a LSTA grant and we worked with the County IT Department to install a new ILS in 2010. We’ve invested heavily in online resources so that we have something to offer patrons even if we were not open as many hours. In 2011, we renovated the main library using all private funds. We’ve worked on improving collections and this year centralized collection development in order to eliminate duplication of effort and maximize our resources.
In fall of 2012, thanks to funding from the Board of County Commissioners, we were extremely lucky to be able to hire some new part-time staff and open the libraries for more hours each week!
2. What experiences before becoming director helped you hone your skills and prepare for this position?
While I was working on my MLIS, I worked full-time as a reference assistant at the Iredell County Public Library. Having experience as a paraprofessional is important and helped me to see issues from both sides.
After I completed my MLIS, I worked at the Union County Public Library as head of reference for a few years before being promoted to assistant director. I had some great experiences at Union County that helped me to learn a lot of new skills and knowledge. While I was there the system underwent four building projects that I was heavily involved in, and we tripled the number of staff in a fairly short period of time. I learned a lot about construction and also the importance of having a good structure (policies, procedures, training, etc.) in place so that staff could concentrate on providing excellent customer service.
I also attended the 2008 NCLA Leadership Institute and had a great experience. What I learned there really helped me to shape my leadership views.
3. How have you helped build the community of Cabarrus County, and how has the community helped support the library?
The Cabarrus County Public Library has four Friends of the Library groups. These groups are all supportive of our libraries and advocate for them. I and my branch managers have worked closely with them in order to maximize their impact. One group had been disbanded eight years earlier, and I was able to work with interested library patrons to get them reestablished. In part, their advocating for the library to the Board of County Commissioners helped to restore library staff and public service hours in 2012.
In 2011, the library partnered with the Cabarrus Literacy Council and began administering the adult basic literacy program for them. This partnership has been great and as a result the literacy program has really grown. The community has been very supportive of this program, and it is funded totally by donations.
In the fall of 2012, we held our fourth community read program. This program featured The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. This community read was different from the previous three because it was a four-county project (Cabarrus, Rowan, Stanly, and Union) that included partners from the public libraries, community colleges, parks department and others. It was a very successful project that connected the library with some non-traditional partners and expanded our reach. The next four-county (Cabarrus, Davidson, Rowan and Stanly) community read will be held in spring 2014 and will feature Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan.
We conducted our first-ever patron survey in October 2012 and were very gratified to find that 98.1% of library patrons were either very satisfied or extremely satisfied with the library.
4. Managing a whole library system sounds overwhelming. How do you stay focused?
Good question! I constantly make lists and try to stick to my lists. I have a master list of projects, and each day I create a new list of things to accomplish for the day. I would like to think that I accomplished everything on my list each day, but things come up, and it rarely ever happens. It is important to have a strategic plan and to check through it frequently to make sure that you are staying on task. It is also helps to have a fantastic staff!
5. What hopes do you have for the future of your library system?
I hope that we’ll be able to continue to train staff and provide them with the resources that they need so that we’ll be able to provide the best customer service possible. I want the community to know that any time they walk into the library (physically or virtually) their needs will be met by a well-trained, customer service-oriented staff who are happy to provide them with the assistance they need.
I also hope to be able to continue to add staff so that we can expand programming and public service hours.
Thank you for taking the time to answer our questions!
Read more about Dana Eure’s award at this link.