Library Director Interview
Mrs. Carol Wilson has been a library director for 26 years. She has worked her entire career at the Cleveland County Memorial Library (CCML) in Shelby, North Carolina.
Mrs. Wilson was gracious enough to answer a few questions about how the library operated as well as some of the challenges that she, as the director, faces. According to Mrs. Wilson, the library employs three professional librarians; meaning, these three have a Master’s in Library Science. There are 6 other employees, as well as library volunteers, that work the front desk. All employees are trained to work the reference/circulation desk. Mrs. Wilson stated, “Everyone here is more than capable to answer most any reference question that can be asked. Even if someone comes across something they aren’t sure about, they aren’t far from a professional librarian to help” (C. Wilson, personal communication, 2012). CCML’s currently opens Monday through Thursday from 10:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. and Friday and Saturday from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. She said that currently, each professional librarian works one evening a week and one Saturday a month. This helps to ensure more accessibility for reference related issues.
According to Mrs. Wilson, the library has two particularly busy times during the weekdays. The first is lunch-time; from around 11:30 to 1:00. She says because the library is so close to downtown, many people come in during their lunch hour and use the facilities. However, she says is the busiest time is from 3:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. Many students come to the library after school for homework and to use the computer. The library offers an after-school program (starting in October) that will increase the number of students visiting in the afternoons. She has noticed a decrease in the number of middle school students walking to the library directly after school; attributing it to the moving of the Shelby Middle School which was two blocks down the street. Mrs. Wilson said, “We still have a large number of kids, but instead of walking to us, their parents bring them. The school moving hasn’t changed the amount of usage the library sees” (C. Wilson, personal communication, 2012). She hopes that the beginning of the after-school program will continue to bring new users into the library.
When ask about reference requests, Mrs. Wilson was very clear on how the requests are prioritized. She was asked if multiple requests came in, by phone, email, or in-person, what order they were handled. “The person at the counter will always be helped first. It’s not our intention to keep a phone reference on hold for long but the walk-in requests are our first priority” (C. Wilson, personal communication, 2012). She went on to explain that a person at the counter was more likely to need the references right then, instead of a phone request, in which the caller doesn’t usually need the materials as quickly. With more than one person working at anytime, it’s very seldom that a phone request has to wait long. She puts email request third on the priority list. “Most people that email are not in a tremendous hurry for their answer. If they need the answer right away, they will usually call or come by.” (C. Wilson, personal communication, 2012). Email requests are checked and answered by return email or phone call at regular, scheduled times during the day.
Mrs. Wilson is faced with many challenges but when asked what the greatest challenge is, she was quick to say library funding. “With the economy in the state it’s in, funding has become a growing concern” (C. Wilson, personal communication, 2012). Many people do not realize that the library is funded from a state and local level and when funds are limited, the library cannot fully offer all the services and programs necessary. Mrs. Wilson stated with the decrease in funds, she must budget more “creatively” to ensure that patrons are still able to benefit from the services available. When asked what areas are affected by the limited funds, she said that materials and collections are the first area she goes to when cuts have to be made. She stated that employees and hours have not been changed (as of right now) but that they also rely on community volunteers. She said that if anyone is interested in volunteering, she will plug them into whatever area they feel comfortable in and will use them as much as they are available to help! She wants employees and hours to be the very last area affected by budget issues.
The one thing she said that she found ironic was, even though the funds were limited, the library is being used more than ever. For this reason, it is important that the library is adequately staffed to ensure any patron needs can be handled. With the job market in the state it’s in and patrons looking for new jobs and careers, the library has become a haven for computer users. She stated, “Many people are currently looking for new job opportunities and they need a place to type resumes and send emails” (C. Wilson, personal communication, 2012). There are patrons that have limited computer skills and many are taking advantage of the library’s computer training. They also have links to different job opportunity sites and patrons are taking advantage of those, too.
She did stress that one thing she would like to see from the community is more advocacy for libraries. Again, many patrons don’t think about where the library money comes from; they just assume the library is going to be there and functioning. However, without sufficient funding, many of the services may be limited and/or eliminated. She is an advocate for the library but feels that others need to be involved as well.
Wilson, C. (2012, September 4). Interview by K. Hess [Personal Interview]., Cleveland county memorial library.