Ross Holt, Randolph County Public Library

I’m Ross Holt, and I am the assistant director of the Randolph County Public Library. Our library serves 140,000-plus people in Randolph and surrounding counties through seven sites, including the headquarters in Asheboro. We serve a population of increasing diversity, including significant numbers of Latino immigrants. We also make a special effort to create a welcoming environment for teens.

I worked summers during college at the Asheboro library, doing a little bit of everything. Following a short stint after college as a reporter, I returned to the library as a volunteer, which led to a temporary position, which led to a full time position. By the time I entered the MLIS program at UNCG in 1992, I was a member of the Reference staff. I enjoyed work at the library, but I wasn’t sure I wanted to make it a career (I still moonlighted for a local weekly newspaper as a reporter) until a new director, Richard Wells, took over and showed me what the library could be and what librarians could do.

As assistant director, I’m head of the Reference Department and systems administrator (although the day-to-day duty is mostly delegated to our MIS specialist). I’m responsible for the library system in the absence of the director. I’m also heavily involved in setting policy for the library. One of the de facto roles I have taken on is marketing of and publicity for library services and programs: you have to reach people where they are and we try to use every tool available, from traditional news releases to Twitter. I’m also continually on the prowl for ideas, products and services that enhance public service or make the library easier for people to use – I’m very proud that we were the seventh library in the country, the first library in North Carolina and the first Horizon library to implement LibraryThing for Libraries, the in-catalog reader’s advisory service that harnesses the combined wisdom of LibraryThing.com’s hundred of thousands of members and relates it directly to books in the library’s collection.

I served as president of the North Carolina Library Association from 2001-2003. It was somewhat intense but very rewarding. I hope that we made NCLA engaging and relevant to the library community, and raised the profile of NCLA as the statewide voice for the library community. We worked closely with the North Carolina Public Library Directors Association on state-level advocacy, and increased state funding for public libraries and for NC LIVE.

I will be happy to answer any and all questions, and if I don’t know the answers, I probably know where to look them up!

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4 thoughts on “Ross Holt, Randolph County Public Library

  1. Hi Ross,

    I got so encouraged when I noticed RCPL is on LibraryThing, and that you’re one of our mentors this semester. I am quite curious about projects that bridge the “brick and mortar” libraries with what is going on with LT and tools like it. I’ve noticed quite a few public library systems use LT, but not very many academics. I think there must be projects out there for the two. Agree/Disagree? (Just an FYI: former computer programmer getting her MLIS)
    I think if I could find a way to work with academic libraries and LT, it would be an interesting if not ideal situation for me. Do you have any suggestions about where I could get more information on this or any thoughts at all on the state of these collaborations? I know this comment rambles a bit. Apologies. Thanks so much for being a mentor this semester.

    1. Here’s what the LTFL FAQ says about academic libraries (http://www.librarything.com/forlibraries/about#Why_should_academic_libraries_buy_LTFL.3F)

      “Academic Libraries

      “Why should academic libraries buy LTFL?
      The application of the LTFL enhancements is inherently different for an academic or special library.

      “Recommended reads – the items suggested are generally connected in deeply meaningful ways, and can provide research suggestions otherwise untapped

      “Other editions – know what other versions of the text are in your collection

      “Tags – describes each item in ways

      “LTFL gives you a lot of additional ways of searching your existing collection in an inexpensive way, considering how much data you’re getting.”

      There’s a list of LTFL libraries here: http://www.librarything.com/wiki/index.php/LTFL:Libraries_using_LibraryThing_for_Libraries

      Most on the list are public, but there are a few academics. I think LibrayThing.com is mostly associated with popular reading, and that may extend to perceptions about LTFL. The match rate for public library collections may be higher than for academic libraries, but that doesn’t mean it wouldn’t be valuable for academic libraries.

      Tim Spaulding, LibraryThing founder, would be a good place to start; tim@librarything.com.

  2. Hello Mr. Holt. I was wondering if you could give me some advice on what directors look for in new hires. As a asst. director what specifics do you look for when filling positions?

    Thanks, Damion.

    1. The first thing I look for is a customer service orientation. Even if the position is not directly a public service position, that basic orientation is still vitally important. Obviously you want your public service staff to be very good with patrons, but every staff member has to understand that serving library patrons is the ultimate goal of his or her job. So I would likely choose a customer-focused candidate over a process-focused one.

      For a public service position, I really like someone who thrives on interaction with library patrons, and will engage with them, really understand their information needs, rather than just answering questions or checking out books.

      Finally, here at the Randolph County Public Library we look for people who will identify a need and find a a way to fill it; people who will be catalysts for postive change. One job interview question we ask involves the term BHAG (stands for “big hairy audacious goal”). We explain the term and ask applicants to describe a time when they have had a BHAG, and ask how they went about achieving the goal.

      I guess this is the long way around saying we want people who have the human touch and who aren’t afraid to innovate!

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