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Academy Champions Q&A: Suffolk Public Library

We’re naming Suffolk Public Library a Niche Academy Champion, because we believe in the direction they’re taking. Come read our Q&A.

Academy Champions Q&A: Suffolk Public Library

If you haven’t seen the Suffolk Public Library website, you should take a look:

The first time I saw their site, I was immediately impressed. The design is visually appealing and doesn’t overwhelm the visitor with information.  It was clearly organized around how patrons would identify themselves and questions patrons would come to the website to ask. Suffolk_PL_Entrance

As I’ve had a chance to work with some of the people at Suffolk, it become clear that the appealing website isn’t just a facade or a makeover.

The Suffolk website reflects a thorough commitment to a patron-focused reinvention of the library. Led by Director Clint Rudy, Suffolk is in the midst of that hard transformative work.

We’re naming Suffolk Public LibraryNiche Academy Champion, because we believe in the direction they’re taking.

  • They are actively trying to understand their patrons better.
  • They are looking for the real community needs their library is in a position to meet.
  • They are asking tough questions, changing, and evolving so they can meet those needs.
The short interview below may be interesting to other libraries engaged in a similar transformative effort.

Q1: What are some of the most significant challenges you're tackling at Suffolk PL?

One of our most significant challenges is adapting our library to one that is responsive to, and meets the needs of our rapidly changing community. Suffolk is large and diverse and its needs are changing at a rapid pace. Being a library that is nimble enough to change with it is definitely a challenge.

Q2: What are you doing right now that seems to be working?

As part of being accepted as one of ten libraries to participate in the American Library Association’s Libraries Transforming Communities initiative, we are receiving intensive training and experience on community engagement.  

This eighteen month process provides tools and techniques for actually going into different areas of the community and talking with people about their aspirations.  It is such a simple concept, but truly invaluable and has allowed us to orient our thinking and actions to be more community focused.  

By “turning outward,” we are more responsive to community needs and are able to know what people actually want and need.

(Team members: Marketing & Community Relations Coordinator Ben Scott, Adult Program Services Supervisor Melinda Brown, Assistant Director of Libraries Sarah Townsend and Director of Libraries Clint S. Rudy)

Q3: How have you tuned your approach to those challenges over the last year?

Even before the Libraries Transforming Communities Initiative, we have been reaching out into the community with our “Pop-Up Library.”  By taking the library to where people gather, we are able to reach more of the community and market what we offer.  

We have also initiated an intensive marketing campaign with a new logo, library cards, and web site.  All of these have started the creation of a library “brand” and provide a very professional and recognizable image.  

Q4: What do you see that makes you feel optimistic about the future of Suffolk Library?

The Suffolk community is very motivated and positive with a “can do” attitude that is contagious.  We see the library as playing a major role in this type of environment and are building relationships and partnerships that allow everyone to more effectively and efficiently meet goals and be successful.  

By being innovative and collaborative, we can continue to serve the community by bringing people together and providing a place for the sharing of ideas and experiences.  With the design process for a new downtown library beginning and the addition of a new “techmobile,” we will be able to reach higher and provide even more.

Q5: Why did you feel it was important to have a mobile-responsive website?

It is imperative to have a mobile-responsive website because more people access the internet through mobile devices than desktop.

Our goal is to connect with the community where they are at, and when we go into the community it is quickly apparent that everyone is using a mobile device for any number of reasons. If your website doesn’t transition well on a mobile device, you will lose people’s interest very quickly and they will find somewhere else to go.

Q6: How did you go about getting that website implemented?

Our in house graphic designer and marketing coordinator designed the static template which we then submitted to our web development company who digitized the content. After some months of creation and troubleshooting we were able to launch our current site which was very rewarding.

Wrapping up

We would like to thank Clint Rudy, from Suffolk Public Library for taking the time for this Q&A. We are excited by the direction we see you taking your library, and we are thrilled to name you one of our Academy Champions.

Take a moment and visit Suffolk Public Library on Twitter and Facebook.

How Suffolk Public Library uses Niche Academy

One component of the Suffolk website that we at Niche Academy are particularly pleased with is the direct integration of Niche Academy tutorials to highlight their electronic magazines.

To see it in action, go to their "Download It" page here:

Midway down the page, you'll see a banner image that says "Free magazines with your library card". Click on that image and you'll see the tutorial open. We call the drawer widget our "Side Slider".

Want to educate your patrons about all the amazing resources in your library? Learn how!

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