More Than You Expect

July 2010

A few days ago, Phyllis Theroux, author and journalist, came to the Mathews Memorial Library. Accompanied by her husband, Ragan, Phyllis was prepared for a small rural library setting where she was scheduled to talk about her latest book, The Journal Keeper. After all, Phyllis has talked in many such libraries, and furthermore, she lives in the small town of Ashland, Virginia. What Phyllis and Ragan found was not what they expected. In fact, as they described it, it's the best library they've ever visited. For a small library, they believe we're in a class of our own.

As staff and Board of Trustees and Friends, we could sit back and enjoy the compliments that frequently come our way. We could rest on our laurels, which includes receiving the 2005 award as the best rural library in theU.S. But, the community deserves our best – not just in 2005 or even in 2010 but, rather, our continuing efforts to strive to be a world class library and to maintain a reputation for excellence, seeking always to be at the forefront in our use of technology and providing services that fit the needs of the community.

What does it mean to be a world class library? Although volumes have been written on the topic, how-to workshops too numerous to count held on the matter, and untold conferences featuring experts on the subject, the vision that emerges is relatively simple. It starts with a warm, welcoming, well-informed staff and includes an inviting environment featuring organized shelves and a well-stocked store of books in multiple formats, spacious children and teen sections with friendly spaces and last, but not least, access to world-wide information through public computers available to young and old.

The recent acquisition of the adjacent “Radio Shack” facility adds an exciting element to the challenge of becoming a world class library. If we are to achieve our vision of excellence for the 21st Century, then this new addition becomes a key factor for reaching out in new ways to provide better service to larger audiences. The staff is frequently asked how they think the space should be used. While it is assumed that we have a ready answer, such is not the case. Rather, we must think, not only of immediate needs, but work diligently to develop a vision of future opportunities for service. Delivering the vision must be done in concert with the community, recognizing changes that have and will take place and responding to those changes. Further we must work in partnership with users as we plan to ensure that our services and resources remain relevant to their needs. We look forward to this exciting opportunity and express gratitude to all those who have made it possible.