By Catrina Francis, Fort Knox News EditorMay 11, 2017
Fort Knox, Ky. (May 11, 2017) - Two years ago Barr Memorial Library was named the 2014 Federal Library/Information Center of the Year because the staff embraced technology and used out-of-the-box thinking. On Tuesday Michael Steinmacher, the director of Barr Library, added Federal Librarian of the Year to his list of accolades.
Steinmacher said receiving the award in Washington, D.C., Tuesday is related to the library being named the best by the Library of Congress in 2014 because of the library's innovative abilities.
Although Steinmacher has made changes to the installation's library, he said he doesn't do this job to be noticed.
"If I'm being recognized it's about what we are doing collectively at this installation," he said. "I started April 16, 2009, I think about what we accomplished (over) the years and we (have) made a lot strides forward. It's been because the community supported (us, and) the community has also changed dramatically. A lot of it has been about continuing to stay in tune to the way our community is changing."
Although Steinmacher was named Librarian of the Year, he said he believes he's had better years in terms of accomplishments and has completed better work. He also admits that the last two years have been challenging because of the reality of up tempo, funding and the downsizing of the Army.
"It's been more difficult but it's no less important than when I got here," he said. "In some ways, it's made me even more tenacious about getting the job done."
Steinmacher said he's focused on the library being relevant because in the past libraries were much more well-defined in what they did and how they served the community. Steinmacher said he and his staff had to break out of the stereotypical library operations and attempt different approaches. He said he thinks the biggest challenge in the next year is how does the staff change and reflect its service in light of MakersSpace, a new addition to the library that will open June 2 and shift how the staff operates and functions. He also said he believes in not letting their status as an Army library limit him or his staff.
"I'm actually talking with five other installations about a program a 1.5 years from now that we want to do," explained Steinmacher. "It's one of those things that nobody in the Army has ever done. It's a program that will be done simultaneous at six different installations on the same day using technology at (another installation) to interact with us and vice versa."
Another change at the library was the first ever Authors at Your Library Program that was done by Skype instead of having the author visit the library. He said patrons told him having the program conducted by Skype was a more intimate experience than when the author is physically at the library.
"It was a good different experience," he said about the Skype interaction. "Of all the people we brought here you can't have a patron ask an author who's sitting in his office on the West Coast, 'what are those books on the shelf behind you?' The author went through the things on his shelf and what he was doing with them.
"I've been thinking about how technology could expand and give us better access. Not limit but allow us to do things differently."
Steinmacher said he also asks his staff and patrons what they want from a library. The answers have amounted to having additional resources available to the community such as new release movies, video games and CDs.
Even though the library offers up-to-date technology, Steinmacher has been cognizant on how the library spends its money. For every dollar they spend for the community there has to be a calculated risk of investment. He tries to make the choice that's the best one for the community to ensure the library continues to be one of the best in the Army for its patrons.
Although being honored is a privilege, Steinmacher said he's able to make sure the library is one of the best because of his staff and the support of past and current commanding generals and garrison commanders.
"I've been blessed with great librarians and staff," he said. "They are out there doing what they do with the customers."