February 27, 2015

Robin Nesbitt | Movers & Shakers 2014 — Change Agents



Hilliard Branch Manager
Columbus Metropolitan, OH


MLS, Kent State University, 1991


@CML_RobinReads; www.columbuslibrary.org/reads/robin-reads-blog


Photo by Dane Khy


Readers’ Advisor Extraordinaire

A self-professed book nerd, Robin Nesbitt knew even as a child that her life’s calling would be instilling a love of books in others. But she probably couldn’t have guessed what the scope of her efforts would be. Nesbitt hooks users on new books through bite-sized blog posts on the Columbus Metropolitan Library (CML) website, hosts CML’s book-related Facebook chat each month, and, of course, immerses herself in book-related conversations every day with her patrons.

She also works to ensure her readers have better access to books, in ways unseen to most patrons but equally crucial. She implemented and supported a radical 2:1 holds policy at CML back in 2004, so that if there are two holds on a print book, the library will obtain another copy. The policy, rare in the library world, is “extraordinary in keeping CML relevant to its readers in their everyday lives,” says Alene Moroni, manager, selection and order, at King County Library System, Issaquah, WA, and a 2013 Mover & Shaker.

The concept shows a fundamental understanding of patron needs—and of library services. Nesbitt conducted an in-depth analysis of the circulation of best-selling books at the library before proceeding, examining how much CML paid for a book vs. how often it was checked out; she concluded that CML would get a better return on investment by purchasing more copies of a book patrons were demanding. Her innovative strategy worked: her library boasts healthy holds lists of 400 to 500 people.

“What [that] tells me is that people are not afraid to put their name on a list, because they know they’re going to get [the item] quickly,” says Nesbitt. “By meeting demand at this level, we provide an enhanced level of customer service for our avid readers.”

Nesbitt’s not content to share her fervor for books with her patrons: she’s spreading the message far and wide. Along with a number of other librarians and publishers, including 2014 Mover & Shaker Melissa DeWild, in 2013 she launched LibraryReads (libraryreads.org), a nationwide top ten list of public librarian–chosen titles being released by publishers each month. The list goes out to libraries, publishers, and media. Equally important, Nesbitt says, the project “shows that public libraries are critical members of the book ecosystem.”

Acting as the go-to person for media and press inquiries, she has helped to get the project up and running: 3,438 staff members from 1,881 libraries nationwide contributed nominations as of January 2014, and the site averages 15–20 nominations a day.

Nesbitt’s zeal sets her apart, even in a profession full of passionate bibliophiles. “[She] is electric,” says Moroni, who has served on BookExpo America’s Shout ’n’ Share panel with Nesbitt. “Her enthusiasm for titles, across genres and by debut through veteran writers, is utterly infectious.”



  1. Mary Biscuso says:

    I’ve been lucky to work at Columbus Metro Library and see what a dynamic impact Robin has made on our system. Her sense of the big picture and killer reader’s advisory skills have been a big inspiration to me.

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