It's no secret the business landscape is changing and changing rapidly. From the postal system to the newspaper industry, businesses are having to look at the way they operate and adapt accordingly. It's no different with the Gwinnett Public Library system, which fired director Nancy Stanbery-Kellam this week.
"There are many things that will need a new look," library board of trustees chairman Dick Goodman said. "Libraries are having to redefine their purpose."
Goodman is right about the next director having a fresh perspective, But to be fair, this can't all fall at the feet of Stanbery-Kellam. She answers to a board, the same group that let her go on Wednesday. Moving forward the "new look" at things needs to be systemwide, not just by the person hired for the director's position.
Stanbery-Kellam's tenure, which lasted seven years, was marked by drastic decreases in funding and the controversies that came with trying to work within those constraints. In 2009, a decision to cut services that included closing the Dacula branch (three years old at the time) in favor of a new Hamilton Mill branch located nearby set off an uproar. After that plan was rescinded, hours were cut, nearly in half, at the county's 15 branches, which also was not well received.
Though recently the hours were extended, the library's materials budget was not. In fact, it was cut by a third. Though Stanbery-Kellam is gone (with a severance package of a year's salary -- $121,414), the problems facing the next director certainly are not. Which is why a fresh approach -- by all involved -- is a must.
The next director is well advised to be a consensus builder rather than an autocrat. The problem with previous attempts to deal with budget cuts, in our opinion, was that they didn't include input from the patrons. The system tried to go with a plan that never garnered support, damning it to fail before it ever got started. Seeking input from the people who use your product is just good business, and in these trying economic times that acumen is much needed.
With Stanbery-Kellam's firing comes the chance for the library system to turn a new page. But the catch is, in this day and age there are a lot more ways to do so than there used to be -- a fact the new director must keep in mind.