February 16, 2018

Doreen Woods | Movers & Shakers 2003

The Importance of Empowerment


“It’s wonderful when you do a preschool story hour and you go to the supermarket and a little kid says, ‘Mommy, look, it’s the librarian.’ You know the library has made his life a little better.” Whether reading stories, getting a telecaption decoder to a family with a disabled member, or providing books to inmates, Doreen Woods says the rewards are the same: “It sounds corny, but it’s very empowering to help someone go from Point A to Point B.”

It may be that sense of empowerment that has kept Woods, a Buffalo native, at her local library throughout her entire working life, starting as a page during high school and college. At one point in college, she thought she might become a lawyer. Some senior library colleagues convinced her to attend library school, however, and now, “I’m where I should be,” Woods says. “I think librarianship is a pretty noble profession.”

Woods first worked in the department of extension services, with rotating assignments. She accumulated diverse experiences running two branches, then the library at the Erie County Correctional Facility. After directing a larger branch, she took her current job coordinating the Process Improvement Study.

Following a model from the New York Public Library, Woods and her colleagues are examining the facilities, job titles, and job duties at every public service facility. “We’ll have a clearer picture of our core activities, and this will help us make better decisions,” she says. Data gathering should be finished by July, and the analysis ready by the end of the year.

With 52 branches and a shrinking population, the system is considering closing or consolidating branches. Though her project is unrelated, it should lead to some streamlining of efforts. “Any time you ask about what people do, there can be a level of suspicion,” she says. “But once we talk with people, fears are eased. We’re trying to maintain viability and ensure people’s jobs, providing access to what the public wants and needs.”

It can’t hurt that Woods has a particularly diplomatic style. She brings that as well to her project for the Urban Libraries Council’s Executive Leadership Institute. There she is looking at her system’s mobile library services, which she calls “a mini Process Improvement Study.”




Current Position: Process Improvement Study Coordinator, Buffalo and Erie County Public Library, NY

Degree: MLS, State University of New York at Buffalo, 1989

Leadership Training: Urban Libraries Council Executive Leadership Institute, 2002