LARGO — The Prince George’s County Memorial Library System (PGCMLS) announced Roberta Phillips as its new CEO on Nov. 19.
Phillips, who currently serves as director of planning and projects for the Richland Library in Columbia, South Carolina, will begin her term as PGCMLS CEO in mid-January 2019.
Looking to further her career in the library field, she applied to work for Prince George’s County’s library system due to the community and the potential she saw in it to become a great library system.
“I thought the system had all of the right components to be a visionary system and they are doing wonderful work already so I thought it was an opportunity for me to take my skill set and help advance the community,” Phillips said.
With the library expanding its innovation, working with refugees, implementing new technology in its buildings and the very passionate staff, Phillips felt like all of those things “spoke to a vision” and she wanted to be part of it.
Phillips received a Masters of Library and Information Science from Wayne State University in Detroit and a Bachelor of Arts in Education from Michigan State University. Coming from a diverse career background, she started out as a teacher. When she started working in libraries, she worked as a collection developer and was able to hone her skills in reader advisory and curating collections.
In her current position as director of planning and projects, where she help to serve the 11 branch locations containing approximately 415,000 people, one of her big focuses has been innovation and community involvement.
In their search for a new CEO, the Board of Trustees was interested in someone who was dedicated to staff and community satisfaction.
In recent years with the renovation of the Laurel and New Carrollton branch libraries, as well as upcoming renovation projects, innovation has been a primary focus for the library system, and they feel that Phillips embodies all of those characteristics.
“The board believes Roberta has all of the tools to be the next CEO for Prince George’s County library system because she has a vision for the future in terms of innovation and has shown in her current position in Richland she is a leader, a community leader, and can bring a number stakeholders together to move our library system forward, so we think she is a great fit,” said Library Board of Trustees President Samuel Epps IV.
Phillips is coming into a library system that is in the middle of a series of library renovation projects, the first of which being the opening of the Laurel branch in 2016.
The New Carrollton branch opened on Sept. 26. The two libraries feature many upgrades in technology and accessibility, and the Laurel branch was recently awarded for its design by the American Institute of Architects.
The Hyattsville branch held its groundbreaking ceremony to begin construction on Nov. 19, and the Bladensburg branch and Surratts Clinton branch will start shortly.
“I think just her background in Richland where she led their capital improvement division, she has had dual roles, she’s been a director and working to help build libraries, so I think her background in both being a director and also in her current position will be a smooth transition,” Epps said.
While the community was greatly impressed with the recent opening of the New Carrollton branch, the renovation projects have been met with frustrations about construction delays.
The New Carrollton branch originally closed in December 2015. Meanwhile, the Hyattsville branch closed in April 2017, and although it was moved to a nearby location, residents and staff alike were frustrated with the small size and lack of communication on when renovations to the original building would begin.
Going forward, Phillips wants that to change. She plans to ensure that there are no delays by making set building schedule and sticking to their budget.
She also wants to get the community is involved in the process by allowing them to give input of what they want and need in the new libraries as well as ensuring they stay informed of what is going on at all stages of the process.
At Richland Library, she created a webpage called “Building Your Library” where the building process is documented through blog posts that the community can easily access and Phillips hopes to do something similar here.
“I think the goal is to really be systematic about it and to work with my colleagues and my staff as far as contractors and architects which is something I’ve done really extensively over the past five years to make sure we have the most quality product on budget and on time,” she said.
Phillips will be succeeding Interim Co-CEO’s Michael Gannon and Michelle Hamiel who served in the position for a year. Although she will be taking over as permanent CEO, Gannon and Hamiel will remain on the PGCMLS team in other administrative capacities.