February 17, 2018

Charles Pace | Movers & Shakers 2006

Turning It Around


When Charles Pace became director of Fargo Public Library (FPL) in 2001, his first imperative was to rebuild staff morale and ‘give employees a sense of ownership and pride in the library.’ Beth Postema, deputy director, says Pace recognized their previously underused talents and expressed complete confidence in their ability to achieve major goals.

Major, indeed. In just five years, Pace and his staff were able to open the first branch library in North Dakota, conduct a library card campaign that netted 3000 new borrowers, increase circulation by 60 percent, and successfully campaign for a temporary sales tax to raise $12 million for a new library and two branches (it passed with 62 percent of the vote).

During that time he also managed to serve on the executive committee that brought Emporia’s MLS Distance Education program to North Dakota, establish a partnership with Job Service ND to offer Internet training classes to the public, install wireless, and establish North Dakota’s first-ever teen services program.

Staffers Cynthia Wray and Lori West are awed that Pace was able to open a small storefront branch facility in a local mall in 2002, after a mere six months of planning – especially since they discovered that most such projects take a year-and-a-half on average to complete.

Children’s librarian Erin Smith says Pace ‘took a library that was underfunded and undervalued and in a few short years turned it into an enviable institution in the field.’ How? She thinks it’s because Pace is a visionary. Others on the staff attribute Pace’s success to his unremitting, dedicated work speaking to local organizations and building relationships with community leaders and city commissioners so that they trust him to spend the community’s money wisely.

Some of his success comes from his experience in other libraries. In Fargo, he applied key lessons from a Houston PL campaign to give every child in Houston a library card. He built a strong partnership with the schools and designed ‘a new futuristic library card to give us a more progressive image and something that would appeal to young people,’ he says.

The Houston experience also taught Pace the power of visual marketing. He made sure that the theme for the library campaign – ‘Fargo has grown…our library has not’ – was amplified by a simple, powerful image: a boy in clothing three sizes too small.

Pace refuses to take all the credit for the turnaround at Fargo Public Library, because he sees his job as ‘being the creator of conditions that allow my staff to bring their natural talents and abilities to the forefront and to succeed.’ As an administrator, he says, he does not control, he merely influences others. Judging by the record, pretty effectively.



Current Position Director, Fargo Public Library, ND
Degree MLS, University of North Texas, 1990
Fun fact He’s an amateur star-watcher whose childhood ambition was to be an astronomer