March 17, 2018

Janet Crowther | Movers & Shakers 2004

It’s Not About Me

Janet Crowther was surprised to be considered a Mover & Shaker. As community partnership director for Williamsburg Regional Library (WRL), she has made a point of staying in the background so that the other stars–the librarians, the library, the community partners–can shine. ‘It’s not about me,’ she says; it’s about embedding the library into the community.

Crowther has developed a model for partnerships that starts with the library’s long-range plan, and collaborations are evaluated on how well they help achieve those plans. The model includes four levels of commitment: the glance
(any overture between library and prospective partner), the date
(any agreement to accomplish a short-term goal jointly), the engagement
(an exploration of a long-term relationship), and the marriage
(a formal agreement to share work, risks, and results).

Her prime example is the Phillip West Memorial Cancer Research Center at the WRL, the result of ‘marrying’ the Sentara Williamsburg Regional Hospital. The hospital contributed medical expertise and funding for computers and print materials. The library contributed a web page and librarians to assist patrons.

Barry Trott, adult services director at WRL, says the success of the Cancer Research Center ‘brought to light the worth of WRL to other organizations.’ Since then, the library has formed varying levels of partnerships with 25 organizations, including the AARP, Heritage Humane Society, College of William and Mary’s Swem Library (for joint promotion, resource sharing, and staff development), and Williamsburg Community Health Foundation (for a Funding Research Center).

Crowther’s ability to convince people that change is necessary, but not threatening, is especially valuable in a partnering process that requires librarians to reimagine the services they offer. Crowther has been an adept cheerleader, pointing out the strengths of the library staff and how they could be put to broader use. She’s also a reassuring leader, who guarantees staff that they will lose nothing but will gain resources and respect. Indeed, one of the great benefits she sees from these partnerships is an increasing public awareness of librarians’ expertise.

Because it’s not about her. It’s about building a world worth living in.


Current Position: Community Partnership Development Director, Williamsburg Regional Library, VA
Degree: MSLS, Catholic University of America, 1981
Award: Virginia Library Association’s George Mason Award for the Phillip West Memorial Cancer Center