Boyce Ditto Public Library has been awarded Texas Municipal League Director’s Association Library of Excellence Achievement Award.
"This essentially means that the library is one of the 10% best quality libraries in the state," said Library Manager Louanne Noel. "This is a measurement that is based on the type and number of services and programs and how we achieve meeting the most important community library roles in the state of Texas."
Word of the award comes at the same time the library announced it saved its guests an estimated $1,027,637 in borrowed materials in 2019.
Noel credited her staff – library assistants Michelle Friend, Casey Slaughter, Brittney Douglas and Assistant Library Manager Lori Bachelor – for helping the library achieve the statewide honor.
"I am pleased to say that this kind of award does not get accomplished by just the library manager," Noel said. "I take so much pride in the incredible attitude and aptitudes of my staff. Their work ethic is second to none anywhere, their attitudes are spectacular, they make my aspirations and job doable and they make me humbled and proud daily."
Noel said she thinks of her staff as "mostly a group of exuberant introverts," but said there are exceptions.
"Michelle brings a big dramatic presence to Children’s Programming and is charged with providing literacy and enhancing educational services for our youngest learners and she makes their learning packed with fun!," said Noel. "Brittney is our chief cataloger who offers tween/teen services and embellishes our inbound and outbound marketing. Casey oversees volunteerism, purchasing and adult programming. These ladies are all gifted initiators, organizers and thinkers in their own right and they are good communicators. Of course, Lori, my only natural extrovert, is also my right hand in all things management. Lori is the supreme yang in my yin and the yin in my occasional yang."
According to the American Library Association’s calculations for resident savings encompassing program attendance, computer use and technology/reference assistance, the result indicates Boyce Ditto Public Library saved Palo Pinto County taxpayers an estimated $1,255,231 in overall programs and services, which they would not have received nor could they likely have afforded elsewhere.
"Overall, this means the return rate on this investment was about three times the initial cost of $420,000 last year," said Noel. "Boyce Ditto Library also has one of the leaner staffing equations in the state and, despite our numbers, we were able to accomplish this goal. Still, we can do better on our overall rate of return for investment. That is why this year we are rolling out many collections that are focused on our community’s identity."
Noel is completing her second year at the helm of the library, located at 2300 S.E. Martin Luther King Jr. Street. She said it has taken time to oversee and implement the changes made at the library with more to come.
"I intend for collections to change in a huge way this next year," she said. "We are evolving here at Boyce Ditto Library to become a symbol of this community’s most urgent needs. We want to be the beating heart of this community and serve where we are needed and can do the most good. I believe my staff is illustrating the commitment of caring about this community on a daily basis and we take pride in finding out who you are and we want to know more."
Noel said the library implemented a fine-free pilot project in May when City Council unanimously approved the decision based in dense research and concern for the community. As a result, library users no longer pay a fine for overdue books and receive forgiveness until those books become lost after three months.
Not long after City Manager Randy Criswell arrived last May, he approved providing fine forgiveness for all lost materials prior to the pilot project's approval.
"My staff tells me that we are seeing a much better rate of return of lost items to our collection this year as a result of that decision," Noel said. "In addition, we also rolled out new hours that have proven to help families better interact with the library on their schedule."
According to Noel, library staff engaged in around 200 hours of continued education this past year and said that training "paid off."
"With an all new staff, to reach this mark of success in a year is a magnificent feat," she said. "Best of all, most of that training cost nothing. We also provided 269 public programs last year to all ages. A total of 2,629 people attended library events as well."
"As library manager, I am always seeking roles that fulfill making success and sustainability happen for Mineral Wells," Noel added. "This means bringing a variety of experiences that are new to our serving base. We have released Play and Learn Kits or book bags for kids and are also releasing a variety of other binge box items for adults. We are looking at new ways to market the collection and make obtaining resources and discovery faster and easier. Time is my most precious asset and I believe it is the most precious asset of most people. We try to honor the realities of our consumer and today’s library user as well while fashioning resources that speak to both new and age-old needs."
She said the community should watch for new types of items to appear at the library.
"We are also bringing in a 'Library of Things' very shortly," Noel said. "These items will make borrowing of recreational, technological and home items available. These are items that may take too much space or are only occasionally owned for many people. We also want to create opportunities for people to experiment with items they may want to consider owning. We are in the business of education, and learning means treating pocketbook potential so experimentation and discovery are key to consumer success."
Noel said going forward the library will be looking at solidifying and creating more partnership ideas and to see how it make more impact with existing resources in the community with its presence.
"We have such a small community with a big heart but the average person isn’t really aware of all the resources available," she said. "The library is at the epicenter of community knowledge and it is our responsibility to increase that awareness. If you are part of an organization that would like to work in partnership with us, please reach out. We would be delighted to hear from you!"
In the coming months, the library plans to re-purpose two spaces. A $2,800 grant from the Brazos Foundation will make a possible a “Future Planning Library” space that will contain all types of information to evolve personal growth potential and success planning.
"This is a goal that is very significant to us since we are deeply convicted that opportunity for one becomes opportunity for all," said Noel.
She said the library's current Community Room will also become available for personal use for families to plan educational recreational outings for their young kids. This space will contain fun and educational toys for kids and the "Friends of the Library" group has provided a new smart television to incorporate a gaming space for teen programming.
"We will call these daytime bookings for kids a 'Rainy Day' booking since we believe the size of the space is perfect for unleashing small people’s energy on gray cold days and spring rain days. too," Noel said. "Look for this space to be finished in the next couple of months."
Plans call for library staff to develop new and creative fun ways to share the library experience.
"We hope you will travel that adventurous road with us," said Noel. "Please come out to support your library. We need your volunteer presence and your financial support more than ever. See you at the library!"