April 16, 2021

Building a Better Programming Widget and Job Center Stats: Great Library Roadshow Travelog #1, Charlotte Mecklenburg Library

Whew! One whirlwind Great Library Roadshow day is done!

After meeting at the Charlotte Airport in the morning, we headed straight to the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library (CML) for our first stop in to chat with librarians and a number of users.

Director David Singleton — and other staffers we spoke with throughout the afternoon — were all very frank with us: the deep budget cuts handed down from the county in 2010 have shaken the library, cutting hours by 50% and forcing some 180 positions to be cut, all of which fundamentally altered its ability to provide services to the community.

Over the course of the next few hours, Singleton and others described to us how the library and its staff have worked diligently to preserve a few essential services during this retrenchment.

One of the main elements Singleton spoke about was the heavily redeveloped programming plan the library has implemented, and how the library has attempted to use a repository approach to keeping track of the various programs being developed. Instead of duplicating work across any number of branches offering similar sessions, this approach stores the basic elements of a program for scalable implementation in a variety of settings. Meanwhile, along with the basic elements are stored a variety of estimated and reported metrics, including staff time, costs, attendees, focus area, and outcomes.

Singleton said the library uses a customized web portal built on the Zoho project management tool. Given the significant dedicated attention CML has put toward this conception of non-duplicative programming, I wonder whether a similar or even a simplified version of the same tool might be useful to libraries on a broader scale, libraries within a consortium, etc.

The Job Help Center at the main library was also a marvel — busy with users on a late Sunday afternoon, and full of inspiring stories (don’t miss the videos from library users Michael and Rosalee) embedded below). It’s telling that visitors to the Center are greeted with a large display monitor that showcases user success stories in finding jobs and learning job skills, because a concerted effort has been put toward making the Job Help Center outcomes as visible as possible in a county with 10% unemployment.

With a renewed focus on analytics, and with help from County staff on Workforce Development, Singleton shared with us the following calculation, which indicates that the 900 unique monthly Job Help Center users represent some 5-7% of the unemployed in the area:

  • 920,000 citizens in Mecklenburg County
  • 600,000 are adult residents
  • 10% of 600,000 (60,000) are unemployed
  • 5-7% of those unemployed used the ML Job Help Center

We’ve got many more videos to post in the coming days, including those on the similarly impressive work being done by student interns at the Imaginon center, but take a look at the Roadshow Facebook page for a few of the highlights so far or see the YouTube channel for the videos as we’re able get them online.


Some user stories from CML:

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About Josh Hadro

Josh Hadro (jhadro@mediasourceinc.com; @hadro on Twitter) is Executive Editor of Library Journal.