Delaware state librarian tackling a transformation

Delaware state librarian Dr. Annie Norman of Rising Sun, who was just named to the Delaware Hall of Fame of Women, stands with the book that inspired her lifelong love of reading -  “The Saturdays” by Elizabeth Enright - standing next to the 3-D printer inside the Dover Public Library Tuesday morning. (Delaware State News photos/Dave Chambers)

Delaware state librarian Dr. Annie Norman of Rising Sun, who was just named to the Delaware Hall of Fame of Women, stands with the book that inspired her lifelong love of reading – “The Saturdays” by Elizabeth Enright – standing next to the 3-D printer inside the Dover Public Library Tuesday morning. (Delaware State News photos/Dave Chambers)

DOVER — A life with books may have been written in the stars for Dr. Annie Norman.

As a child, she was a frequent visitor to the Bowie, Maryland, library where her mother was head of circulation. She relished trips to the bookmobile.

“I loved to read,” Delaware’s state librarian said in a recent interview.

ABOUT ANNIE NORMAN Named Delaware state librarian in 2002, Annie Norman lives in Rising Sun. She and husband, Steve, have two adult sons. • She received her doctorate of Education in innovation and organizational leadership from Wilmington University, and is the recipient of the Audrey K. Doberstein Award for Leadership for her dissertation, “Librarians’ Leadership for Lifelong Learning.” • She earned her master’s degree in library science from Drexel University and she is a member of Beta Phi Mu, the international library and information studies honor society. • Under her leadership, the Delaware Division of Libraries received the Delaware Quality Award of Merit and the Delaware Library Association Institutional Award in recognition of performance excellence principles and practices. • She has received the Delaware Library Association Distinguished Service Citation. A recent presentation, “Libraries and the American Dream,” can be viewed at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wDwndQ3qiSQ.

ABOUT ANNIE NORMAN
Named Delaware state librarian in 2002, Annie Norman lives in Rising Sun. She and husband, Steve, have two adult sons.
• She received her doctorate of Education in innovation and organizational leadership from Wilmington University, and is the recipient of the Audrey K. Doberstein Award for Leadership for her dissertation, “Librarians’ Leadership for Lifelong Learning.”
• She earned her master’s degree in library science from Drexel University and she is a member of Beta Phi Mu, the international library and information studies honor society.
• Under her leadership, the Delaware Division of Libraries received the Delaware Quality Award of Merit and the Delaware Library Association Institutional Award in recognition of performance excellence principles and practices.
• She has received the Delaware Library Association Distinguished Service Citation.
A recent presentation, “Libraries and the American Dream,” can be viewed at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wDwndQ3qiSQ.

She still does: “I have piles of books.”

Some are waiting to be read. Others are old friends, like the children’s novel she discovered in the fourth grade.

“The book that caused my obsession with reading was ‘The Saturdays’ by Elizabeth Enright,” she said. “The teacher read it to us. (Later) I had my mother get it from the library.

“Then when my kids were young I found it on a discount table. My sons liked it, too.”

Originally published in 1941, “The Saturdays” is the first book in a series about four children who decide to not fritter away their Saturdays but rather go adventuring in pre-World War II New York City.

Ms. Norman, 59, of Rising Sun, circled back to “The Saturdays” when pursuing her doctorate in education. “Why am I so fascinated with this book?” she asked herself. Pursuing the answer “was the journey of my doctoral dissertation.

“The fascination was because the children in the book were so proactive, took initiative in crafting their own adventures. I’m still fascinated with questions around why some of us are spectators in life, and some more active creators and developers,” she said in a follow-up email.

“I don’t have all the answers yet. In part it has to do with the opportunity to unleash our own unique curiosity.”

A hall of famer

These days, not much fiction likely will be found in Ms. Norman’s piles of books.

“The first part of my life I read only fiction,” she said. “Then in my late 20s and early 30s, when I was in what I call my self-help phase, I completely switched to nonfiction.”

She also started taking notes on what she read.

“One thing I’m reading right now is a book on how to write a book,” Ms. Norman said. “I want to write about what we have done in Delaware, how it is unique.

“I want to share Delaware’s success.”

In most people’s books, that success is attributed to Ms. Norman’s leadership in which she has transformed Delaware’s public libraries from being places where people can access free books to being resources that can help them apply the information they gather. She has been the state librarian since 2002.

She describes it as the transition from transaction to transformation.

“We once gave answers,” she said. “Now, we ask what are you trying to do with that information.”

Delaware state librarian and Delaware Hall of Fame of Women inductee Dr. Annie Norman of Rising Sun poses next to the children's computer stations inside the Dover Public Library Tuesday morning.

Delaware state librarian and Delaware Hall of Fame of Women inductee Dr. Annie Norman of Rising Sun poses next to the children’s computer stations inside the Dover Public Library Tuesday morning.

For example, libraries can help job hunters apply for jobs, write résumés and learn interview techniques.

“A big priority is the personal touch,” Ms. Norman said.

Her efforts have not gone unnoticed. In March she was inducted into the Hall of Fame of Delaware Women, the first librarian so honored.

In a Senate tribute, Sen. Margaret Rose Henry, D-Wilmington, recognized Ms. Norman’s “outstanding efforts and expertise in the arena of literacy and library technology.”

“She has brought extraordinary vision to Delaware libraries,” said Gov. Jack Markell.

He said Ms. Norman’s efforts helped make it possible for the state to invest in public libraries, even during the early days of his administration when money was limited.

Ms. Norman attributed the success to the application of business techniques to help the Delaware Division of Libraries achieve business excellence. That’s something other state libraries are not doing, she said.

“That is the secret.”

One of those tools is the Baldrige Criteria, a framework once applied in manufacturing as a way of understanding and managing performance.

ABOUT THE AWARD The Hall of Fame of Delaware Women, now celebrating its 35th anniversary, is the oldest annual celebration of Delaware women. Its purpose is to recognize and acknowledge the achievements of remarkable Delaware women who are nominated in a particular year. A statewide committee makes the selection.  For more information, visit commissionforwomen.delaware.gov/hof.shtml. For more information on the Delaware Division of Libraries, visit libraries.delaware.gov/.

ABOUT THE AWARD
The Hall of Fame of Delaware Women, now celebrating its 35th anniversary, is the oldest annual celebration of Delaware women. Its purpose is to recognize and acknowledge the achievements of remarkable Delaware women who are nominated in a particular year. A statewide committee makes the selection.
For more information, visit commissionforwomen.delaware.gov/hof.shtml.
For more information on the Delaware Division of Libraries, visit libraries.delaware.gov/.

“Resources are the result of delivering value to customers,” Ms. Norman said.

It is important, she said, “to use the money we have effectively, and, as a result, we get money.

“That is a major principle and unique (among libraries),” she said.

Under Ms. Norman’s watch, the state’s public library buildings not only are larger but also designed to deliver state-of-the art services ranging from Wi-Fi to accessing electronic collections to a state library catalog that allows for the sharing of 2.6 million items statewide to the development of Inspiration Spaces.

The latter supports job seekers, entrepreneurs and innovators by allowing them to learn, use and experiment with technology and do-it-yourself activities.

Ms. Norman, who knew she wanted to be a librarian by the 10th grade, has witnessed a transformation less tangible than technology and library services.

“The greatest change is how libraries are valued, even in my own view,” she said, because instead of just having books, they help people explore, solve problems and gather information.

Future goals

Ms. Norman continues to refine her vision for the Division of Public Libraries.

“There are 475,000 library card holders,” she said. “Our goal is 100 percent of Delawareans.”

New library cards are coming, along with a campaign to get to that magical 100 percent number.

Meanwhile, the piles of books await attention.

When reading for pleasure, Ms. Norman prefers print books, but also reads electronic books and e-journals.

“I have an iPhone 6 Plus. My husband deliberately gave me one,” she said. Husband Steve pointed out she needed its big screen because she used it so much for reading.

When it comes to her grandchildren, though, Ms. Norman encourages them to rotate books from her private stacks — “I must have hundreds of books.”

She also encourages her granddaughter to keep track of the books she reads.

“I’m big on the journaling,” she said, “and the power of tracking and reading and learning.”

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