February 17, 2018

Larry White | Movers & Shakers 2007



Larry White could have kept on being a successful public library director, gaining plaudits for steadily adding services, raising circulation and attendance, increasing the number of partnerships with community organizations, and building the library foundation he’d established.

But he wasn’t satisfied with the managerial and interpersonal communications skills of the new library school graduates he was seeing. White decided to do something about it. He became assistant professor and coordinator of the library science program at East Carolina University (ECU).

A former retail store manager, White knew how to explain the value of libraries to the business community in its own language: return on investment (ROI). In front of a business organization, he would ask an audience member for a dollar bill. He’d then explain what the library does, how well it does it, and the value it creates. He’d point to studies showing that the average ROI for a library is $4 – $6, but that his own library’s was $10. He’d then whip out a $10 bill from his own pocket and give it to that audience member.

Since you never know when a two-minute conversation with a community leader might pay off, White ensured his students could reel off useful facts about the library: about its services or achievements, its growth, its accountability and effectiveness, its needs, and how people could get involved.

White also wanted to increase the number of media specialists in the rural schools of North Carolina and the number of professional librarians of color in libraries in the state. He won an Institute of Museum and Library Services grant to establish the COLRS Scholarship program, which seeks out local people in rural school districts and enables them to complete their MLS at home through ECU’s online program.

White is teaching his students to take their libraries ‘out from behind the walls [to] where people are.’ He wants them to create libraries that will have people saying, ‘You gave me what I wanted without me asking.’

That’s why you have to agree with ECU librarian Emily Blankenship when she calls White ‘the Tom Peters of the library world.’ Like the management guru, White’s changing the way librarians do business.




CURRENT POSITION Assistant Professor of Library Science and Coordinator, Library Science Program, East Carolina University, Greenville, NC

DEGREES Ph.D., Information Studies, Florida State University, 2002; MLS, Florida State University, 1993

PUBLICATION Library Performance and Service Competition (Chandos, Aug. 2007)

DEGREE ENHANCER Met his wife in his ‘value-added’ MLS program