February 16, 2018

Jay Turner | Movers & Shakers 2015 — Educators

Jay Turner


Senior Consultant, Talent and Organizational Development, American Red Cross, Snellville, GA

MLIS, Florida State University, 2006

@lawlesslbrarian; GLEAN (glean.georgialibraries.org)

Photo by Bob Stefko


In 2003, Jay Turner was a circulation assistant at the Gwinnett County Public Library (GCPL), Lawrenceville, GA. He had an infant son and delivered pizza part-time to make ends meet. When the library planned to restructure, he faced losing his job because he didn’t have a college degree.

“Fortunately, I had an amazing branch manager and coworkers who were not only empathetic to my situation but who ultimately encouraged me to finish school,” Turner says.

Within a year he had finished his BA and within three his library degree, with help from tuition reimbursement from GCPL. Meanwhile, he rose up the library chain. By 2013, he was the director of continuing education and training for Georgia Public Library Service (GPLS), the state library.

There he envisioned creating a cutting-edge continuing education system for librarians across Georgia to receive the same sort of training and support that had transformed his own career.

In June 2013, Turner launched GLEAN, the Georgia Library Education Access Network to bring free, cloud-based, high-quality professional development resources to all staff members in Georgia’s 63 public library systems.

GLEAN’s catalog includes more than 3,000 self-paced e-learning courses; 20,000 online books; thousands of videos on soft skills, computer training, and advanced IT skills; and more than 100 library-specific e-learning assets, which he acquired through partnerships with the Iowa Commission for Libraries, the State Library of Colorado, and Infopeople, among others.

“My staff in tiny, rural, small-town libraries love GLEAN,” says nominator Donna Brumby, assistant director of support services for the Athens Regional Library System, GA. “It offers staff who might be otherwise locked out of specialized training opportunities to learn how to better serve the people who walk in their doors or connect to their online resources.”

Meanwhile, GPLS has saved $360,000 on professional development costs. For its many achievements, GLEAN was nominated for a Skillsoft Innovation Award in 2014.

Alan Harkness, Turner’s supervisor at both GCPL and GPLS, says, “Jay isn’t afraid to move into areas of discomfort and does so with great gusto.”

That attitude has led Turner to a new job outside libraries. In January 2015, he joined the American Red Cross as senior consultant, talent and organizational development. “Driving change and leading from a national level appeal to me,” says Turner, who already does that as a Public Library Association board member. He plans to maintain his library ties.

“My library experiences have uniquely shaped me for the [new] position,” he says. “I know how to ask the right questions, search for information, make solid connections from abstractions, manage knowledge, navigate politically charged environments, and steward change.”

This article was published in Library Journal. Subscribe today and save up to 35% off the regular subscription rate.

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