Library Rock Stars: Marcellus Turner Print Email
Library Rock Stars Turner

There are many kinds of rockstars and it’s fascinating to read about what makes them so.  The stars you will read about here in the coming months won’t be seen in movie galas...

MT Turnerdon’t make it to the charts in music videos, and are not running for political office in 2012. They are real true genuine and to the bone library rock stars!

First on this year’s  list is Marcellus Turner, hired in August 2011 as the Director of the Seattle Public Library.

As Seen in Seattle Met, August 2011Seattle Met interviewed Turner in August 2011, and Turner began by stating that “Seattle really, really loves its library.  It’s always good to go to a job where people love what you do.”

An August 1, 2011 article by Katherine Luck in Journal Newspapers reports:

Following a nationwide search, Turner was chosen to oversee a $50 million budget, 640 employees and 26 new or renovated branches.
Like stars, Turner has traveled; working in a variety of locations from Louisiana to Tacoma and most recently Jefferson County Public Library in Lakewood, Colo.

Marcellus TurnerTurner speaks of embracing best practices while being both financially sound and technologically advanced. It also means working with staff to implement a participatory management system. He referred to this model as “collegially governed,” with everyone having an opportunity to be heard. “We do that because it puts frontline staff in touch with what needs to be going on and [allows them to] communicate it to the administration,” he said.

During periods of budget crisis at Jefferson County’s library, Turner prioritized investing in staff and training. “We were able to continue to give the public a very good collection budget,” he said.  This ability to balance staff and financial interests is one of the reasons he was hired.

“My goals are pretty simple for my first year. There’s a lot that needs to be done. My first step will be to meet the staff at each library,” he said. Turner’s second goal is to learn the culture of the libraries and of Seattle. He plans to spend time meeting with many neighborhood and community groups. Third, and perhaps most daunting, will be to learn about the items on the strategic plan and work to move them forward.

“Our strategic plan — our blueprint for serving the next generation of users — encourages and inspires the library to pursue new and innovative services, strategic partnerships, and to promote reading in new ways,” McCaffrey explained.

“Stop by and say, ‘Hey,’ and tell me what you like about the library and what you don’t like — I’m open to that as well,” said Turner.

And for some real insight into his personality and perspective from the 11th floor of the library in downtown Seattle enjoy this interview with "M.T." by Rosette Royale, Assistant Editor of Real Change.

If you’ve sensed some common ground with WCLS and in fact with all libraries, you are right.  The vision, values, and community needs are similar; developing strategic plans is the road map; and hiring rock stars at all levels helps!

Watch for the next installment of “Library Rock Stars”—who will it be?

Joan Airoldi, WCLS Director