Meet College Of Information alum Roosevelt Weeks, Director of Libraries for the Austin Public Library. He’s a 2014 graduate of the Master of Library Science program. As Director of the Austin Public Library he leads a team and library system which includes 20 branch locations, the History Center and a new Central Library.
Prior to joining the Austin Public Library in 2017, Weeks served as the Deputy Director and Chief of Staff at the Houston Public Library. In both roles, he oversaw policies and procedures, oversight of all audits, leadership development, training, facilities, employee relations, compensation, outreach initiatives, budgets, and financial reports. Weeks sat down to answer a few questions about leading an emergency transition in operations with COVID-19.
COI: What has the COVID 19 transition period been like for a large public library system like Austin? What’s already working? What’s changing?
RW: It has been very difficult and emotional. There are so many people in the community that depend on libraries during emergencies and critical time. Unfortunately, we are not there for them. Our virtual library services are in place and we will continue to provide and enhance these services. We are closed to the public and we are not circulating our physical material.
COI: What is it like being in a leadership role during all these changes?
RW: This is an opportunity to show city leaders and funders the importance of libraries and the role we play in the community. Also, this has been an opportunity to be at the table to help shape the response to the virus and to provide meaningful information to help those in the community.
COI: How will large libraries continue to serve the public during this time?
RW: We are providing services to the most vulnerable in the community by opening some of our libraries so we can feed and provide sanitary services. In addition, we are lending out some of our employees to critical services (311 operators, Emergency Center workers, Interpreters, public information specialist, social media specialist, etc.) in the City.
COI: How can people remain encouraged about the use of the library during ‘social distancing’?
RW: Since we are closed to the public, we are asking our customers to utilize our virtual services by downloading ebooks, movies, music, and use our homework help services. We leave our Wi-Fi on so people can access the internet.
COI: Our spring graduates may be feeling uncertain of what the job market will look like in May. Do you have any words of encouragement for students beginning their career hunt?
RW: It is important to know that communities are relying more and more on libraries to provide essential services to the community. Libraries are important and we need workers that understand how to find reliable information, how to assist in finding the right job for customers, how to navigate the latest technology, how to provide great programs, how to develop innovative services, and how to provide excellent customer services to all customers. The future is bright for librarians that are innovative and love people!
Connect with Roosevelt Weeks on LinkedIn follow him on Twitter and Facebook.