Westerville Public Library in Westerville, OH

Yey! We are in Ohio today!

We are supposed to visit Westerville Public Library today and more research libraries and OCLC tomorrow, so everyone was so excited. It took a five hour bus drive so we had to get up very very early, though 😉
Westerville Public Library

Our first visiting place was Westerville Public Library. Luckily, we could meet and listen to Don, the respected library director of WPL, who has been serving the community for 28 years. (I said we were lucky because he’s going to retire on 1 June 2017!)

Westerville Public Library is a small but very innovative one. Under Don’s visionary leadership, it has been tried and achieved many accomplishments for the first time in the library field. For example, their drive-up window was opened 23 years ago and Don keeps  thinking new plans, such as, the gate recognizes the chips in books and customers’ ID cards so if a customer just walk through the gate with books then his checking out is automatically done at the gate thanks to the RFID technology!

There are many things I liked among he said during the presentation and Q&A session, but if I have to choose some, one is that they don’t criticize any decision you make but for not making one; another is that we need to be selfish in doing what we want to do for our customers. As an employee of a large organization we might have been frustrated by the hierarchical decision process or so-called red tapes, haven’t we? In WPL, however, if s/he doesn’t request a thousand dollar – of course they have a limitation on their budget like any other organizations – the library encourages them to embody their ideas and plans without any managerial hinderance. I thought that work environment and the culture made possible their various events and programs for their community.
[PHOTO of leaflets]
There were things caught my eyes during the tour – and one is definitely their 3D printer! It was my first time to see the 3D printer working… not on TV screens or photos.

Another one is their little trollies. It seems very convenient especailly as they don’t limit the number of books their customers check out. (They even borrow artworks!) Even though my library put limits on the number of loanable items, it would be still useful because academic books are usually quite big and heavy.

Unlike my misconception, they were quite tech savvy because their customers want to get what they want regardless of time and place. In terms of that, there were two things very emphasized in WPL: mobility and accuracy. Librarians in WPL do not stay behind the reference desk anymore, but they roam around the library, go wherever their customer call, and deliver items to whichever they are needed. They also review and rate websites because they don’t want their customers rely on inaccurate information from internet in their important decision making just because it’s fast and easy to get. Therefore, they are trying to reach the two goals at the same time – mobility and accuracy all together.

I am an academic librarian but I got some takeaways from this visit. It was our second visit to public library and the two libraries felt quite diffrent. The first Arthur Public Library serves one district of the Amish people and WPL does 75% of Ohio residents including their ILL service coverage. In common, both are understanding their people very well and doing their job spectcularly; however what they provide and how they do look pretty different because they serve different customers. It reminded me how important it is to understand my customer, figure out what they want, provide what they need in the way they want and so on. Also, I had a chance to look back how I served my customers so far; did I prioritize their needs? are our policies for librarians or customers?

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