New city librarian aims to deliver 'great customer experiences'
Marcellus Turner, Seattle's new city librarian, reads Philippa Gregory and David Baldacci, believes in the power of books and that libraries will always be around.
Seattle Times staff reporter
Meet the librarianThe public can meet new City Librarian Marcellus Turner from 2 to 3:30 p.m. Sept. 10 in the Microsoft Auditorium at the Central Library, 1000 Ave. The event will include a brief program and remarks from Mayor Mike McGinn and library officials.
Libraries closed for a weekClosures: All of Seattle's public libraries will be closed next week, starting Monday. They will reopen Sept. 6. To deal with budget cuts, the library system closes facilities all at the same time. Book drops won't be open and there won't be overdue fines.
Online services: Some online services will continue through the closure, such as: Britannica Online and ChiltonLibrary.com; downloadable e-books, audiobooks, music and movies; digital collections such as the Seattle Historical Photograph.
He reads Philippa Gregory and David Baldacci, believes in the power of books — especially the hard copy — and that libraries will always be around.
Now, nine days on the job, Marcellus Turner, 48, occupies the 11th-floor office of the Seattle Central Library and has the new title to go with it: city librarian.
Turner, who replaces Susan Hildreth, comes to the job after heading the Jefferson County, Colo., library system, which is about half the size of Seattle's, with its 26 branches, 640 employees and a $50 million annual budget.
"We did a lot of background checking and one thing that came through loud and clear, the staff at all levels had a tremendous respect for him," said Seattle Library Board President Marie McCaffrey. "We felt he'd be really, really good for our library going forward."
Forward means into the new world of technology.
Where libraries used to be primarily about lending books, library science increasingly revolves around the computer.
More and more patrons demand time on the libraries' free computers. Photos and newspapers are being digitized — including World's Fair images and more than 100 years of The Seattle Times — so they can be accessed from home computers.
Forget the old card catalog. The Dewey Decimal System is online, and e-books are the latest development the library must embrace.
Will there come a day when patrons log on to an online-only library to download offerings? Not likely, Turner said.
Digitizing all the books would be difficult, he said. E-books also have a limited number of times they can be downloaded before the library has to repurchase the download rights from the publisher.
But the primary reason libraries are still important is their role as a central reference point, Turner said, and not just for term-paper writers who want to know the color of Helen of Troy's hair or who fought in the War of the Roses.
One recently widowed man came in for help with his checkbook because his wife had always handled their finances, said Andra Addison, library communications director.
Others come in wanting referrals to social-service agencies, or they need help filing taxes, or need to know about Social Security.
Some want the most basic of computer classes, such as learning to use a mouse.
The library is especially important during a recession, Addison said.
Many use the computers to look for work, and to read newspapers and magazines they can no longer afford.
Within an hour of the downtown library opening Wednesday, about 140 computers on one floor alone were in use.
For Turner, who makes $150,000 a year, identifying the culture of Seattle's library and its branches will require visiting each and talking to staff and patrons.
"My style of leadership is probably more of an attitude and dedication for the best library experience we can offer our patrons with regard to programs, services, and collections," he wrote to the board as part of his application.
"My style and approach have a basis in southern upbringing and humor. I focus highly on great customer experiences."
Turner grew up in Mississippi and fell in love with libraries as a fourth-grader assigned to help out in his elementary-school library. He found the library was an amazing place where he could access all kind of information.
Turner carried the love into high school and in college decided to change his major from speech pathology to library science.
At the Seattle library, "we are now moving forward to put our strategic plan into action and looking at what libraries are going to be in the future," said McCaffrey. "He's the guy to take us there."
Nancy Bartley: 206-464-8522 or firstname.lastname@example.org
The Morning Memo
The Morning Memo jump starts your day with weather, traffic and news
The Seattle Times Store
Shop The Seattle Times Store for books, videos, keepsake pages and other unique gifts
Career Center Blog
Your Opinion Matters
Take our survey and enter to win $100. Enter Now!