PLCMC 3 – Study Tour 2007

Second day at the Public Library of Charlotte and Mecklenberg County. Today Helen introduced me to Charles Brown, PLCMC’s Director. That was an honour and a privilege to enjoy our short chat together about our respective parts of the world.

Helen then took me to their CheckIt Outlet, a small shopfront library at the other end of the Charlotte city centre. (Check out the flickr photos) It is a small popular materials library with 3 staff, open only during business hours Monday to Friday and they do roaring business, particularly at lunchtime. Very cool!

It was then back to the Main Library where Helen gave me a quick rundown on what they want to do with the Virtual Village. This includes changing an unused part of the service desk to a collaborative space between library patrons and staff, plasma screens to inform and engage library patrons and to be used for on the spot teaching as required and a digital display area. They are planning to pipe music into the Virtual Village to help contain the issue of noise. They will also add more equipment to a studio to enhance music creation and make it a more collaborative space and reorganise a 2nd studio into another smaller PC lab. They will hope to reorganise some unused office space for gaming.

Back upstairs, we chatted about some other things that PLCMC is doing or has done. They have an IT department of 12 staff, who do everything in house. They host 75 servers and service over 1500 PCs throughout their admin areas and 24 branches, including help desk assistance.

Their website has recently included podcasts on their Readers Place website. Book reviews are easily uploaded through a simple form interface. They have filtering on all PCs, a condition of federal funding and have found it works well, with no real issues arising from its use. They have a MySpace page (Library Loft), which includes a library catalogue search box and has over 1100 friends.

Patrice Ebert, Head of Public Services took me on a tour of one of PLCMC’s regional libraries – Freedom and one of their branches – Sugar Creek. It was very interesting seeing what their libraries are like away from the Main Library. I’ll let the photos on flickr tell the story.

When I got back, I grabbed a few quick minutes from Matt Gullett, the Emerging Technologies Director. He spoke about libraries needing to be more interactive, collaborative and having a life-long learning facet. I have copies of some plans that they have and they look awesome. They want to use emerging technologies to help develop experience and learning opportunities.

Matt would like to develop programs that attract a lunchtime crowd, appealing to the corporate culture that is their neighbour, the banking town. Ideas include a digital art exhibition, guest speakers and more.

They still have those experiencing the digital divide. They want to give them training to enable them to get basic certification, which will open job opportunities for them. Want to offer enrichment, learning and Web 2.0 tools type training to the public.

They are having a big open night at the Main Library, partnering with local restaurants who will provide food for the evening. There will be wine tasting, gaming to enjoy and speakers. Should be a ball and I’ll be there. Will blog it later.

In the meantime, thanks to Helen and the team at PLCMC (particularly Kelly), I have had a ball here in Charlotte and have a lot to take back with me about virtual services. I really appreciate the time, effort and attention you have spared for this visitor from down under.