Robins library earns 5-Star award for superior service

Carles Blackmon, library aide, shelves a book at the Base Library. U.S. Air Force photo by Sue Sapp

Carles Blackmon, library aide, shelves a book at the Base Library. U.S. Air Force photo by Sue Sapp

Robins Air Force Base, Ga. -- You won't find any of the Base Library's nine staff members sitting around reading a book in its two-story facility.

They're too busy tracking down professional periodicals, providing research material and heading programs that make reading and learning how to use research tools fun.

It's that kind of hard work and dedication to providing excellent customer service and programs that made them one of 19 winners of Air Force Services Agency's Five-Star Award.

The Five-Star programs provide annual recognition, acknowledging bases that have reached the highest standard of achievement in all aspects of program management. The comprehensive program recognizes excellence in the following five areas: operations, programs, training, facilities and customer service.

Blanchella Casey, supervisory librarian at the Base Library since 1999, said the library, which moved from its former home in Bldg. 1011 into Bldg. 905 in 1982, has come close to winning the award in the past, earning recognition in four out of the award's five categories. A change in the award's standards for judging library buildings leveled the playing field for the library, which enabled the staff to earn the final star in the program.

"I'm thrilled," she said. "We won the Four-Star two years in a row. The big problem we had was the facility's size, and unfortunately, there's nothing we can do about that."

Betsy Miller, senior library technician at the Base Library since 2001, said she's excited about the award as well.

"This is the first job I've had in a military library, so I'm not as familiar with the programs and the ways in which we're evaluated," she said. "But, I'm just thrilled over the fact that they (judges) did redo the way that they figure the awards so that even though we could not add more physical space to the library, we're still able to get our fifth star based on the other components."

That fifth star wasn't obtained by chance. It came at the hands of a staff that works closely with customers from pre-school age to senior citizens through programs to help them learn and grow.

The library's "Read by Mail" program, worked through the Robins Youth Center, gives children up through fifth grade credit for the number of pages they've read from an approved list of books.

Other programs like the Preschool Story Time and Summer Reading Club encourage pre-school and school-age students to keep up their reading skills and have fun in the process.

Ms. Casey said the library often holds classes like "Climbing Your Family Tree," a class to help people learn how to trace their ancestry, and "Surfing for Seniors," to help older adults learn how to use the Internet, to enhance personal growth.

People can flip through the pages of best sellers and even stay up on books on Oprah's Book Club list with the library's rented book collection. Books are available for rental on CD and tape.

The Interlibrary Loan program enables the Base Library to borrow popular non-fiction books from any library and fiction books from other base libraries, per Air Force regulation, to meet customers' needs.

The facility also provides numerous databases and resources for people working toward higher education. The library works hand-in-hand with the Base Education Office and the Professional Military Education program to help civilian and military members reach their academic and professional goals.

Ms. Casey said the job of the library staff has a wide range.

"One of the nice things about working at the Base Library is that you can be reading stories to 4-year-olds within an hour of doing research for a master's degree," she said. "Most people look at us as being a public library on the base. They don't realize we also have that academic portion and that special portion that we do with the mission."

The supervisory librarian said she hopes the facility will continue to exceed the standard in library service.

"This is a great library," she said. "Facility-wise, when I walked in here in 1999, I thought I'd died and gone to heaven, because I had worked in an old dining hall, in a World War II youth center, and my last library, before I came here, was on a third floor. Everything had to be carried up and everything had to be carried down. So, this is a wonderful library and we're trying our best to make it the best library in the Air Force."

For more information, call the library at 327-8761 or 327-8762.