My favorite part about working at Willard Library for the past 12 years has been that our target is always moving!
Speaking of moving, in case you haven't heard I'm heading to Ithaca, N.Y., where I will join the Cornell University Library in January. I have thoroughly enjoyed my time in Battle Creek and will miss all friendly people I regularly see at the library.
Getting back to the library, a community needs change, and so do Willard's programs and services. Here are a couple of the big changes that I've seen as a media librarian, assistant director, and library director.
When I started at Willard, I couldn't work a shift at the information desk without being asked for a copy of do-it-yourself divorce forms. We had stacks of the basic forms available in the lobby. The problem? The forms regularly changed, and the local court reported that only a small percentage of forms were correctly completed and accepted for filing. Enter Michigan Legal Help, where forms are customized by county, updated regularly, and offer easy-to-understand directions for filing your own paperwork for divorce and custody cases, tenant issues, small claims, wills, and more.
Finding Willard Library was another problem waiting to be solved. Both out-of-town guests and local residents who were out of the library habit had trouble finding the libraries. I once had a guest who worked at the world headquarters of a certain company only a few blocks away, and wanted to open a library account to stock up on books before going on a medical leave. She had no idea where Willard was, and finally found us by flagging down someone carrying a Willard bag full of books! Downtown Willard now has signage visible from all directions, and the sign for the Helen Warner Branch has been enlarged, too.
Once we responded to the need for DIY legal services and installed a few signs, "Do you have public meeting space?" became the next most frequently asked question. At first, we answered by compiling contact information for all of the other local organizations that did … and then we built our own.
Library cardholders can reserve the Farley, Payne, and Pierce Rooms at downtown Willard Library or chance it with a walk-in appointment. The public study rooms have been used for book clubs, student groups, business start-ups, depositions, and even a few podcast recordings.
As reading habits changed, so did demands on our collection of materials. About five years ago, a survey revealed that a quarter of our residents did not rank "borrowing physical items" in their top three library services. We grew our ebook collection and bumped up our programming game, and we're as busy as ever once again. (And don't worry—we still circulate more than 1 million items a year, but that includes ebooks in additional to the printed books.)
Our creative services are always growing, with a new professional grade vinyl printer on order, a 3D printer ready for your next print job, maker kits to check out and take home, and coming soon, virtual reality games for students and families.
The future looks bright as I'm leaving you in very capable hands with Assistant Director Cathy Lucas taking the helm and our outstanding staff continuing to do great things.
Thank you, Battle Creek residents.It has been an honor serving you through your library.
Leah Dodd is the outgoing director of Willard Library.She promises to stay in touch with her Battle Creek peeps. She is currently listening to "Conversations with Friends" by Sally Rooney with the Libby app.