Letter from the Executive Director

Nate Coulter, CALS Executive Director (Photo courtesy AY Media Group)
photo courtesy of AY Magazine

After the unprecedented challenges of 2020, the opportunity to begin restoring the full array of activities at the library in 2021 has made us more attentive to our re-engagement with patrons. As we move into the second half of the year, it’s nice to feel as if we are on the path back to normal. We have spent the first half of the year putting into action the plans we laid out last fall and are working on even more.

Our branches have now been open for some time and we are beginning to layer back in some events and services that we had to suspend. The Galleries & Bookstore at Library Square has begun hosting food trucks for “What’chu Eatin’ Wednesdays” as well as the return of Second Friday Art Night. And Six Bridges Book Festival is schedule for October 21-31, with books that range from cooking and culture to history and the paranormal.

Our programmers completed a successful Earth Month campaign, Go Green with CALS, that included more than 1,700 environmentally friendly grab-and-go bags as well as a variety of events that took place virtually, in-person, and recorded. They’re currently working through the Summer Reading Club, under this year’s theme “Tails and Tales.” Another program that we are excited about is the Rock It! Lab. This entrepreneur training initiative is in the Cox Building, where it can grow. We added a skilled, energetic coordinator to lead it. Leah Patterson has experience with her own start up business and knows the community of aspiring small business operators. She, along with Benito Lubazibwa, Executive Director of Advancing Black Entrepreneurship (ABE), just hosted a ribbon cutting ceremony at the Rock It! Lab this month.

On top of new and innovative programming we have added new faces to the library staff. Our new Development Director, Eliza Borné, has already laid out an impressive plan for events and creative ways to work with our donors. Her efforts on Library Giving Day just a few days after starting at CALS were remarkable. Because of dedicated library supporters, we raised $9,258.50, which is more than double our Library Giving Day total last year.

We also have a few new faces on the Board including Audrey Evans and Susana O’Daniel from Little Rock, Mandy Gill from Perry County, and Jennifer Jamison from Jacksonville. We welcome them and are looking forward to the insight and direction they can bring to CALS.

We are also working toward making the lives of our patrons easier. In our ever-growing digital world, access to reliable internet continues to be a struggle for many residents in Arkansas. We are proud to have added one hundred mobile hotspots to our collection that patrons can check out and take home to continue their work, homework, and play away from the library. Our marketing department has created a video that encapsulates the spirit of the library system and we’re excited to share that with everyone now. The 2020 State of the Library Report covers a multitude of information, including a wealth of qualitative data as well as several heartwarming stories of impact across our communities.

The popular and trusted Encyclopedia of Arkansas digital resource recently turned 15, proving that while new programing is important, the foundation we have laid with our existing programs is still strong. We also commissioned a 10-year CALS economic impact analysis last year. Boyette Strategic Advisors conducted the study which found that CALS created an economic impact of over one billion dollars during that period as well as a state and local tax impact of almost $31 million. CALS generated over $5.28 of economic impact for every tax dollar invested. If you haven’t read the Boyette report, I strongly encourage you to take a look at it the economic impact that your local library has on the community in addition to the social impact.

These are just a few of the things that we have accomplished in the first half of this year. Growth and innovation at CALS come from the hard work of all 290 of our employees who are dedicated to helping patrons reach their full potential. Our patrons are an important part of the success, too, as the pandemic made clearer to us. Thank you for joining me on this journey as we continue to be the Library, Rewritten.


Nate Coulter
CALS Executive Director