“When starting my professional career, my mentor told me ‘wherever you go and whatever position you have, make it your own.”
As the Assistant Director for Technology and Training for the Clayton County Library System, Marquita Gooch-Voyd does just that. Because of her commitment to helping patrons and library staff discover their potential, she is the 2020 Georgia Public Librarian of the Year.
Gooch-Voyd manages the marketing, website, e-newsletter and social media for the entire library system. She also designs and teaches classes on a variety of topics including tech and web resources, MS Office, 3D printing, and tools for small business and entrepreneurs.
Other initiatives she has introduced or improved include virtual and augmented reality programs, makerspace activities, and music production classes.
Her work has shined during the COVID-19 pandemic, which caused libraries to close public spaces and rethink how to continue providing services to their patrons. Gooch-Voyd has been instrumental in improving existing library services and coming up with creative ways to meet community needs.
“My library is a staple in the community. We’re looked at as a place of exploration, innovation and trying new things. We’re taking precautions amid the pandemic, but we’re doing our best to give 110 percent to our patrons,” says Gooch-Voyd. “I am privileged to play a role in helping our community thrive during these difficult times.”
“Since [my team members] are on the frontlines, I always want to know their ideas for how to best implement programs. I think they appreciate being included.”
“One of the services that has greatly impacted our citizens is the introduction of mobile hotspots. This is a way to offer internet access to those who truly cannot afford it. We’ve also seen an increase of the use of our online chat feature. We’re still able to answer questions and provide information while ensuring the safety of our staff and patrons.”
Gooch-Voyd has even transitioned some of her classes to online format.
Like many other dedicated librarians, libraries were a part of her life long before she worked in one.
“I literally grew up in the library. My aunt works for a large library system in the Metro-Atlanta area, so I’ve always been exposed to libraries. When I got older, she helped me get a part-time job in one, and I later became a full time employee. After about six months of working full time, my mentor suggested I attend library school. I eventually earned my Master’s of Library Science from Florida State University and that was the beginning of my professional career.”
It was also her mentor who helped shape her leadership style.
“The first things I do when starting any job are listening and observing. I like to learn about the people and culture first, and then I try to find the best ways to use people and resources to meet service needs – what solutions can we use to solve ‘problems’ I’ve noticed?”
And it’s her willingness to learn and connect with her staff that has endeared her to them.
“She has expanded our library technology by leaps and bounds,” said staff member Erica Ware. “She has promoted our system on all social media accounts across the board. This is awesome because when Covid-19 hit we were able to move our programming online. She is always going the extra mile for patrons and staff alike. She has a personality that you could never forget.”
Another staff member, Helen Souris, adds: “Marquita was responsible for getting other librarians and I involved in community outreach and engagement. I think she exemplifies what it means to serve the community and she knows how to get people interested in the library.”
Gooch-Voyd works hard to build a culture of respect and trust.
“I believe in being honest with my team. If they ask me a question, I will give them a direct answer. I also like to include them in projects I’m considering. Whether it’s a branch manager, circulation staff member, or a custodian, I’m interested in knowing how any new idea will impact their work. Since they are on the frontlines, I always want to know their ideas for how to best implement programs. I think they appreciate being included.”
Gooch-Voyd is not content to rest on her laurels. She is steadily adding resources and programs to make her community ready for careers.
“We are close to making Interplay available to our community. Interplay is a collection of two-dimensional, three-dimensional, and virtual reality trade skills training modules. This resource is a game-changer because it gives people who otherwise wouldn’t have access an opportunity to gain relevant career skills and professional continuing education credits. We are the first public library in the country to offer this to our patrons.”
On why this program is important for the community and library, she adds:
“We hope to become a high-school-to-trade-school pipeline. By taking the Interplay courses offered at the library, students will have knowledge – and academic credits – necessary to start and finish school.”
Ultimately, Gooch-Voyd wants patrons to feel like the library is their library.
“When people walk in [the library], it is my goal and hope that they see a reflection of themselves and will want to become better advocates for their library and become better patrons as well.”