HARRY R. COURTRIGHT LEAVES LEGACY AT MCLD
Effective August 5, Harry R. Courtright is retiring from the Maricopa County Library District. Gone, but certainly not forgotten.
Courtright has served as the District’s director and county librarian since January 1999. He has left an indelible imprint on the Library District since his arrival from Michigan.
Under his leadership, Courtright challenged libraries to become more customer-centric. “That’s right,” said Courtright, “we expect our employees from top to bottom to listen to our customers and provide them with the library services they want.”
For example, most customers prefer to browse in MCLD libraries. So, in 2007, he pioneered the Dewey-less concept at the new Perry Branch Library in Gilbert, a change that created a stir among library purists who preferred the traditional Dewey Decimal System rather than consider alternatives for customers to find materials more easily.
Eight of 17 MCLD libraries have either been converted or opened with a hybrid bookstore model, BISAC-based, Dewey-less concept as their guidepost. Eventually, all 17 libraries will become Dewey-less, including three more slated for conversion this year. Several awards have been accorded Courtright and MCLD for this innovative process.
Courtright has welcomed more than 50 library representatives from throughout the world to learn more about Dewey-less. Some have adopted the Dewey-less model for their own libraries.
“Under Harry Courtright’s leadership, the Library District has received many prestigious awards for its innovative programs and technology,” said Maricopa County manager David Smith. “His leadership has thrust Maricopa County in the national spotlight and brought esteem and recognition to county government. Harry’s retirement will be felt by everyone in the Maricopa County family,” Smith said.
Courtright also implemented the one-desk concept, a process that centralized in each library a one-only desk-location (instead of 3 or 4) where customers go to ask questions or seek help. The set-up frees other library personnel to rove the libraries to assist customers in need.
“We are making better use of technology,” said Courtright. Customers can check-out and check-in their books through a self-check system, saving librarians for more meaningful interactions with customers. “We have added more e-books to our collection and more options to our virtual branch so that customers have more flexibility to check-out digital books. They can also now download weekly free music selections,” he enthused.
Since 1999, Courtright has opened or rededicated 15 libraries in the District, the newest being the White Tank Branch Library & Nature Center. This year, White Tank became the first Arizona library to receive a LEED Platinum designation for its sustainable attributes. Courtright’s vision of using green technology and forging a partnership with Maricopa County Parks and Recreation has paved the way for savings and innovation.
“For awhile, we were opening two libraries a year,” Courtright exclaimed. “More importantly, we have continued to give customers additional options for library services in underserved communities.” Since 2008, MCLD has opened five additional libraries.
“We have always tried to be constant, consistent and inventive when meeting customer needs and helping employees and the organization succeed while navigating the potentially treacherous waters of budget reform. Needless to say, it’s an incredible balancing act to satisfy all suitors,” Courtright said.
“Fortunately, I’ve been surrounded and supported by colleagues, co-workers and creative employees who continue to honor our commitment to graciously serve the District’s growing base of customers,” Courtright beamed. “If there is a Courtright legacy,” he opined, “it’s manifested by how well we’ve tuned in to our customers’ needs and what we’ve done to develop a quality, excited staff.”
Ever mindful of self-assessment, Courtright suggested that he was disappointed that MCLD had not developed a better working relationship with some of the area’s independent libraries.
“I plan to make my retirement home in Southern California,” said Courtright. “My hopes are to visit more with family and friends, travel more, do a little consulting, and, of course, read more,” he concluded.
To stay up-to-date with Maricopa County Library District initiatives and programs, visit www.mcldaz.org.