Photo by Lexi Coon
Gloria Repolesk, Marylyn Wright Eubank, Sue DeBrecht and Katie Moellering stand with Emmet O’Neal’s most recent award, a three-star rating by the national Library Journal.
Just like many aspects of Mountain Brook, the Emmet O’Neal Library is always striving to do more for its community and be the best it can be. And this year, it paid off, as the Library Journal ranked Emmet O’Neal as a 2016 America’s Star Library for the first time in the library’s history.
As the professional publication for libraries, the Library Journal compiles a list every year ranking libraries across the nation in each of their respective budget categories by looking at per capita circulation, said Sue DeBrecht, director of Emmet O’Neal Library.
Emmet O’Neal’s budget places them in the category with libraries whose budget is between $1.5 million and $5 million, which included more than 1,400 libraries. Emmet O’Neal ranked 24th and earned a three-star rating, the highest ranking for libraries in their budget size in Alabama.
“We’re just thrilled,” DeBrecht said. “I think it shows to the City Council that we’re good stewards of their money, and without their financial support and also without the community’s financial support, we wouldn’t have been able to achieve this.”
DeBrecht said although the library had not been ranked as a Star Library in past years, she still used the list to compare Emmet O’Neal’s recent activity with other libraries and plan what they could be doing to encourage even more community use.
“If you’re just looking at what you do and how you compare what you do, it’s not different than a school system looking at test scores,” she said. “Everybody I know looks at this every year. This is how we compare ourselves.”
One library in particular that DeBrecht compares Emmet O’Neal to is the Darien Library in Connecticut, which was ranked as a five-star library by Library Journal this year.
“Their demographics are very similar as far as population and the number of advanced degrees,” she said. “It’s a really good comparative.”
She added that last summer, she asked the assistant director of the Darien Library to come to Mountain Brook to help with the library’s staff development, something that is important to Emmet O’Neal.
“I’ve been saying this for so many years; it depends on your team,” she said. “If you come in and you don’t have a good experience, you’re going to leave.”
The good experiences and friendly staff helped add to the high numbers of circulation Emmet O’Neal saw during 2016 which named them as a three-star library. DeBrecht said their book collection helps propel their success, too.
“The number of books we circulate is based on the number of books in our collection,” she said. “We wouldn’t have as many books in our collection if it wasn’t for the city.”
The Star Library ranking also comes at an opportune time as DeBrecht will be retiring this spring after working as the library’s director since 1989. After many years of her hard work, Emmet O’Neal was recognized on a national level.
“It’s something that I’ve been striving to achieve for some time, and we finally have received it,” she said. “[I hope] we push ourselves and see what else we can do.”