November 19, 2017

Caroline Hallsworth | Movers & Shakers 2003

Equipped To Do Anything

2003_Caroline_Hallsworth

There are many unusual jobs in the field of librarianship, but perhaps none so singular or diverse as that held by Caroline Hallsworth. As general manager of Citizen and Leisure Services for the City of Greater Sudbury, Ontario, her responsibilities encompass not only running the library system but also being in charge of parks and recreation, museums, the transit system – including the airport – parking, school crossing guards, and 23 cemeteries. To put it simply, Hallsworth’s position is one of the great visionary library experiments currently underway.

“It’s pretty unique…we don’t know of anyone else who does citizen services centers the way we do,” Hallsworth says. The city of Sudbury was formed January 1, 2001, through the amalgamation of seven communities. There was a desire to provide service to the residents of each of the former towns, so Hallsworth, who was then head of the Sudbury PL, suggested that all the municipal services be incorporated into the library. Although that might sound like a plan destined for failure, Hallsworth says proudly, “It has succeeded beyond my wildest dreams.”

Combining these numerous disparate services under the helm of the library saves the municipality $1.1 million annually. The benefits are mutual: in past times the library was billed for using city services, such as lawyers and accountants, but now those are part of the package, so the library saves also. More importantly, Hallsworth says, is that it has “positioned the library as the key municipal department…. It’s bringing people into the library who didn’t use it before.” Many come into the facility for other services but leave with new library cards in their pocket and a book under their arm.

Transforming from library director one day to a general manager running half the city the next might sound like an Olympic leap, but Hallsworth insists it’s really not all that different: “It’s all about service and information,” she says. One of the key elements to taking on a number of departments that are so diverse, she says, is understanding what the operational issues are. “Being a librarian equips you to do anything, because you have good information-seeking skills. One of the things the CEO says to me is that I’m well briefed and that’s because I ask questions. I started my career on the reference desk. When staff tell me about something, I’m almost conducting a reference interview. The information-seeking and organizational ability to put the information together into something cogent that politicians can understand stems directly from my background as a librarian. Those skills can take you anywhere.”

The Sudbury library is a family affair; her father was the library’s chief administrative officer for 25 years. “Public libraries were my love,” she says, but when she first came to the community, nepotism laws prevented her from working in the public library, so she went into academics. Her family history with the facility, however, later gave her an advantage. “When I came to Sudbury PL, I already knew the system very well. I’d been using the library since I was a little girl, and I knew most of the staff.” She also knew the library’s proficiencies and recognized areas that needed to come up to speed. Hallsworth says it was easier to implement much-needed changes because the day she started was the day Sudbury announced the amalgamation.

“When putting the new city together we were able to make changes for the good of the community without carrying all the baggage of the past,” she says. Two years later, she continues to look for new and improved ways to deliver services. She’s also looking for opportunities in public and private partnerships to enhance the community and respond to the city’s changing needs. Although the vast responsibilities of being general manager might drain others, it’s what energizes Hallsworth: “This is such a great job because it is so diverse and so challenging.”

 


Vitals

 

Current Position: General Manager, Citizen and Leisure Services, City of Greater Sudbury, ON

Degree: MLIS, University of Western Ontario, 1985

Contribution to the Field: Library Journal
Literary Fiction Reviewer, 1986 to the present

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