Creating the Future: Digital Strategy at Charlotte Mecklenburg Library

Charlotte Mecklenburg Library is embracing every part of the digital landscape, proving that libraries and communities can thrive as society becomes more reliant on digital and technological advances.  The Library’s comprehensive Digital Strategy is one of many ways that we are innovating to support 21st century access.

In October 2013, the Library Board of Trustees adopted a Strategic Plan with 3 primary goals, one of which was to “innovate to support 21st century access.”  Customers were increasingly turning to digital options and the library recognized the need to meet them in the digital landscape.  The Digital Strategy Project extended an open opportunity for staff to participate in a “think tank” for future digital planning and innovation.  Seventy-six staff members from all departments/classifications contributed to the project from November 2013 to June 2014, developing eight guiding principles to guide the organization’s digital progress.

Staff workgroups (with community input) recommended eight guiding principles to guide future library digital efforts.  The project positioned the Library to receive a new county-funded Digital Strategy Manager position and at least 5 grant awards to support the development of our digital platform, including an Implementation Strategy recommended by IBM.  Investment from Mecklenburg County for digital initiatives is now over $700,000, which has created greater capacity to serve customers both within and outside Library facilities.  The Digital Strategy has positioned the Library to make quantum leaps in providing digital access for its community and customers. 

Accomplishments to date include a new mobile-responsive website built on a content contributor model led by staff; a mobile-responsive catalog, powered by Bibliocommons, embracing social media and personalized accounts; a custom iOS app that utilizes iBeacons to help customers access digital collections while also providing a digital library card; a suite of seven digital devices to support programming at all library locations; and a hotspot rental program to provide additional internet access, with a second phase of free checkouts for Title 1 school students beginning September 2016.  Digital collection circulation has increased by approximately 150% over the past two years.