Written by Jimmie Epling   

New Year, New Library

By Jimmie Epling

It is a “New Year, New Library” at the Darlington County Library System.  The Library is changing.  We are looking for new ways to make the Library better and it all starts with what we want the Library to be for you.

Each of our four locations, Darlington, Hartsville, Lamar, and Society Hill, should be a welcoming and comfortable place to visit with a friendly ambience.  As an example, those of you who may have visited the Darlington Branch recently may have noticed some changes under its new leadership.  An office was converted into a study room.  Just this past week, the service desks were moved to make them more customer friendly.  There are more changes to come.  Not only at the Darlington Branch, the staff at the other branches are working to create public spaces, collections, services, programs, and outreach that will appeal to their community to encourage greater use.  To do this, we want your ideas and suggestions to help us make it better for you.  

When you enter one of our Library buildings we want you to say, “We have an awesome library here in Darlington County.”  A “New Year, New Library” is literally coming true with the reopening of the newly remodeled and expanded Lamar branch for full service in March.  Our wish is you will have a “WOW!” moment when you visit it for the first time.  When you have out of town family and friends visiting, the Library should be a place in your community you can point to with pride.  Wouldn’t it be great to hear them say, “I wish we had a library like this at home,” especially after they have a look inside?  Creating a “WOW!” experience means the Library has to be dynamic, engaging, and maybe even a bit surprising at times.  This requires us to be creative, adaptable, and to embrace the future and change. 

The new year at the Library began with a renewal of our commitment to deliver exceptional customer service to you.  Everyone deserves the best in customer service.  We can all recount a story of bad customer service.  My personal favorite is a recent experience with AT&T. After going through an automated answering system and three live people (each time my interaction was monitored for quality assurance I was told), all asking for my account number and name, I finally reached someone who could help me.  Once my issue was resolved, she asked if I had any questions, “Yes,” I promptly responded, “would you tell me where you are located?”  Her polite response was, “the Philippines.”  As I suspect, a call center outside the United States and thus ended my 25 plus minute experience with AT&T’s UNexceptional customer service.  When you call or visit the Library, the staff wants you to feel welcomed with a smile and pleasant greeting.  Exceptional customer service means the staff made every effort to meet their individual need and/or want, regardless of your social or economic situation in a professional and respectful manner.  To paraphrase Walt Disney, we want to do what we do so well you will want to come again and bring your friends! 

Your access to a broader world, whether it is through free wi-fi access, up-to-date technology, online entertainment, and quality information resources is guaranteed by the Library.  Yes, you may have a computer, tablet, or smartphone and great internet access at home, but to access much of the best that is available comes at a price.  The Library gives you virtual access to a world of e-books, e-audiobooks, video, research databases, and knowledge at home through a “Virtual Branch” and on your portable devices in each branch at no cost.  This past year, we brought you children’s e-books, the opportunity to learn more than 60 languages through Mango Languages, and the chance to discover your family’s history through Ancestry.com.  There is more to come, with the possibility of streaming video and magazines.  The Library will continue its commitment to being the only access point many have to current technology and assistance with it.  Each year more government agencies, businesses, assistance organizations, and others proudly announce that to “better serve our _______ (you fill in the blank), you can now access what you need online and at the Library.”  The Library has become the de facto branch office for these groups and the access point for residents in need of these services because we have the latest technology.  The Library will continue to be a source the best of the web and the online access point for all those in need.              

Making your Library a relevant and integral part of the community requires a dedicated and dynamic leadership.  There are many opportunities for you to help take the Library in new directions, such as becoming a Board member or by joining the Friends group at your local branch.  The expertise and knowledge you can bring to the Library helps the Branch Managers and staff to make each branch a valuable part of its community.  The community connections of Board members and Friends also help the Library strengthen and expand its relationships with government, businesses, and community agencies for support and partnerships.  For the Library to continue to be the best, it needs the help of those with a vision to see what can be and the drive to make it a reality.    

The Darlington County Public Library must change to meet the community’s aspirations and desires in the new year and the decade to come.  This requires the Library to effectively and efficiently manage the resources entrusted to it by the community, to build meaningful partnerships with other organizations, and to respond to opportunities and challenges with a vision and confidence that will make the difference between the success and failure of our mission to serve the community.  The economy, demographics, and technological changes will have an impact on the community and the Library’s future.  There are many possible directions the Library can go to meet the coming needs of the residents of Darlington County.  A “New Year, New Library” is only possible with you.  We want to hear in what directions you believe the Library should go!

January 19, 2015