Julie Elmore
Oakland City – Columbia Township Public Library
Library Director

Tell us about your experience leading a change in your library and/or in your community.
Indiana has several unserved townships. Most unserved townships are not interested in joining library districts because they are majority farm ground with very few residents. Thus farmers are not interested in paying tax rates for few residents. Directors prior to me had worked unsuccessfully on trying to bring them into the tax district. I learned that I could take a different approach when I found out that our two closest unserved districts had excess reserves. I approached one township trustee and asked to meet over coffee about an idea for getting library service to their members. I was able to create a contract that allowed the trustee to purchase out of their budget 50 library cards. We agreed to bill quarterly as cards were issued, so if they didn't use all of them they were not out the money. We also agreed to limit one card per household in order to maximize distribution. Since our library had already allowed students to receive free cards regardless of where they lived, this number has worked well. While the other trustee was not interested in pursuing a contract or even have the discussion, we did not give up hope. It took a couple of years of offering the same contract to them and finally deciding to get their residents involved. When people were disappointed to learn their cards were subscription only because they lived in an untaxed district, we began to suggest they contact their trustee to express desire to join the library via contract. It took a bit, but the right person was told to reach out and they actually did. Little did we know, but that person was lifelong friends with the trustee. Within a week, the trustee called me and we discussed how the contracts work and they signed it quickly. We now have our entire side of the county eligible for library service and the reaction has been wonderful. This process taught me that sometimes the traditional way isn't the best way and that sometimes change isn't fast. It can be a slow process that you constantly work at in order to achieve. And it also taught me that sometimes you are not the one who makes the change happen, sometimes you have to bring in support and let others take the lead with your support from behind. My other moments of successful change are probably not as “noteworthy.” I believe strongly in constant forward progression. So what I wind up with is several small moments of change that lead to a culture of constant improvement. I believe our greatest strength for change in our library is that we are not afraid to fail and revert back to something if it doesn't work out, but we are also not afraid to try to do something different if we believe it will improve our library.

What is your mentoring philosophy & style?
My mentoring philosophy is that each party needs to be open, honest, and available. I firmly believe the best mentorships are open to learning from each other and best ideas are often fleshed out through open and honest communication. Sometimes, that open and honest communication can be considered direct, but sometimes you have to cut to the chase to get to an issue. I'm usually not afraid to do that when necessary. Finally, availabilty. While no one should be expected to always be available on a moment's notice, it is important that each party be committed and have time in their schedule before committing to a mentoring partnership.

What else would you like a leadership mentee to know about you?
I am pretty laid back in my conversations. When appropriate, I can turn on professionalism, but I also appreciate real talk. I am also known as the person a lot of people like to vent to because I am not afraid to let someone express frustration with a process and then help get them beyond frustration to a livable and workable solution.

Areas of expertise
, , Building library culture, , Writing (grants, proofing, and when things need to be worded just so). Getting things done/ability to finish projects. And not afraid to be the one to question things.