David Singleton, who has led Live Oak Public Libraries for two and a half years and retired in January, has been named public library director of the year. Throughout his tenure, Singleton has positioned the library to be more sustainable by developing innovative programs, community partnerships, and strategic projects that serve the 16-branch system’s diverse region.
“David’s contributions to our public libraries, to PINES, and to libraries on a national level are significant and widely recognized,” said Georgia State Librarian and Associate Vice Chancellor for Libraries Julie Walker. “His leadership and personal integrity are held in the highest regard throughout our profession.”
With Singleton’s vision, Live Oak Public Libraries achieved many firsts, showing leadership among library systems in Georgia. Live Oak was the first library system in PINES to pilot and launch the Student PLAY (PINES Library Access for Youth) program to provide automatic fine-free library accounts for public school students, including more than 51,000 youth in its region.
The library began the On-Order Holds program to allow patrons to place holds on items before they hit the shelves. Live Oaks also piloted single sign-on for digital resources, in partnership with GALILEO and OpenAthens, to allow for ease of access to online collections and services; and in early 2020, the library quickly pivoted to modify models of services to be more convenient for customers, offering digital accounts, virtual programs, reducing barriers to access and offering more ability to expand beyond the walls of our buildings and go out into the community.
In a typical year, Live Oak Public Libraries normally hosts about 1.1 million visitors, checks out 1.1 million items, answers 485,000 patron questions, registers more than 555,000 computer sessions, and presents programs to nearly 125,000 patrons in Chatham, Effingham, and Liberty counties. Although the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted these statistics, Live Oak Public Libraries found new ways to support our neighbors in challenging times, and to bring the library to the community.
Through David’s leadership, library staff have developed innovative programs that are responsive to the needs of the community including outdoor storytimes, parking lot movies, take-home STEM project kits, and a Seed Library. The library’s traveling StoryWalks® provide safe, fun experiences that combine literacy and outdoor activity. Creative outreach efforts helped libraries connect with neighbors who cannot otherwise visit in person. Ready Readers partners with public middle schools to support student success. Books on the Go offers homebound services by mail. The Community Bookshelf program repurposes gently used materials by giving them a second life at school libraries, community centers, and assisted living facilities.
Live Oak Public Libraries is also a leader in the number of technology devices available to the public. In addition to computers and high-speed internet, Chromebooks and mobile wireless hotspots can be checked out from any library and all locations have mobile printing available as well.
“I got into public libraries because I believe they have the opportunity to make a real difference in people’s lives,” said David Singleton. “Whether you’re looking for a new job or looking to improve your life in some other way with a skill or trying to figure out which car to buy. Whatever it is, libraries can help you.”
Prior to leading the Live Oak Public Libraries, Singleton served for 10 years as director of libraries for Charlotte Mecklenburg Library in North Carolina, a system with 20 library locations serving 1.1 million citizens. He rebuilt the system after the recession forced an $11 million budget cut, layoffs and the closing of four locations. Singleton also served as deputy state librarian at the Georgia Public Library Service, where he helped to launch the Public Information Network for Electronic Services (PINES). Previously, he also worked as area manager for the Gwinnett County Public Library and director of Transylvania County Library.