Talent into Leadership
Fayetteville Free Library, NY
MLS, Rockefeller College, SUNY at Albany, 1995
New York Library Association Mary Bobinski Innovative Library Director Award, 2012
Photo by Ron Wurzer/Getty Images for Library Journal
Overseeing the Fayetteville Free Library’s (FFL) move from a small structure to a 46,000-plus square foot former Stickley furniture factory was only the beginning of Sue Considine’s innovations after she was recruited to take the helm there in 2001. Considine’s vision, community engagement, and dedication to creating leadership opportunities within the library has built a culture of creativity that has yielded groundbreaking results.
Her ideal: “Nimble, empowered, and flexible staff who don’t have lines dividing what they should be.”
How does Considine develop leaders? In part, through a forward-thinking arrangement in which grad students from Syracuse University’s iSchool work in the library for credit and operate as full members of the library team, Considine says. All but two of her 16 staffers are Syracuse grads. Her recruiting and training philosophy has launched “countless innovations” by staff, Considine says.
Back in 2006, FFL began offering one-on-one classes to support patrons’ skill sets. Now all staffers are proficient in tech topics so that any of them feels comfortable helping community members. This represented
“a major mind shift in librarianship to further flatten the organization and to deliver extraordinary customer service,” says Considine. As a result, “There is never a time in the 66 hours a week we’re open that we have to turn someone away.”
More recent staff innovations include the Library After Dark events, including a wildly popular “Fifty Shades of Grey” gathering. FFL offers drinks and appetizers for sale; profits benefit its operating budget. FFL broke new library ground with its Fab Lab, a Maker space (see Lauren Britton, p. 40), and was also the first library in New York State to introduce a 3M Cloud Library. Other programs for users include iPad training; meet-the-author via Skype; and “Take It Apart,” where patrons disassemble objects to see how they work.
Considine’s aim is no less than “developing opportunities for the best and brightest to lead us beyond librarianship today,” she says. As Gina Millsap, CEO, Topeka & Shawnee County Public Library, KS, put it in her nomination, “FFL serves as a model for other libraries to aspire to because of Sue’s leadership and her ability to relentlessly innovate.”