Libraries director prioritizes consistency, programming

Feb. 07, 2013 @ 11:47 PM

When one branch of the Sevier County Library System was about to install new curtains, recently hired system director Rhonda Tippitt wanted to make sure they matched the curtains at the main branch, the King Family Library in Sevierville.

That may not seem like a major concern, but Tippitt noted that consistency between branches would enhance the overall image of the library system.

“It’s a small thing, but when people can see those connections they really see that it’s a system,” Tippitt said.

Six months after starting the position as director of the Sevier County Public Library System, branch consistency is just one of Tippitt’s priorities. Another major focus is on program expansion.

“I wanted to do more programming, expand branch programming, move into more family programming ... and create reasons for people to come to the library,” Tippitt said.

Quarterly family programs and monthly to quarterly teen programs have been added, and the yearly program calendar has already been planned.

“We’ve added a lot of new programs and services that people might come to participate in, and then learn about the books and things we have that relate to those topics,” Tippitt said.

Moving forward in 2013, Tippitt wants to make better use of the King Family Library, “a beautiful building that we really want to make the most of,” and she’s working on an emergency management plan for the libraries.

The library system has applied for several grants, including one for the resource center, Tippitt said, to add another layer of educational resources in the community.

Tippitt has also decided to update the integrated library system (ILS), the automated circulation system that includes the catalog and relational database, among other features.

“We’re changing to a more user-friendly system so people will find things easier,” Tippitt said. “It’s more robust and will support the use it gets.”

Between now and June, the ILS will be developed alongside a new website, which was “a huge need coming in,” Tippitt said.

Concerns about the ILS and website originally came from staff and patrons, and Tippitt said employees have begun surveying the community for other ideas.

“A lot of the programs are things we’ve added after talking to the staff, the board and the patrons and asking them what’s been lacking and what’s needed,” she said.

Becoming familiar with the community and the staff was one of Tippitt’s goals when she took the job.

“I wanted to get to know the staff and their skills and what they bring to the table,” Tippitt said, “and to work with the library board to achieve goals they have set for the system.”

Tippitt said she compiled a list after every conversation she had with staff and patrons, which helps her develop ideas for new programs and services. Of course, Tippitt said, she’s not alone in her efforts.

“It’s every bit a team effort,” Tippitt said. “As we are streamlining and making more efficient the things we already offer to get more accomplished, hopefully I’m being a good team leader.”

rhargett@themountainpress.com