Roosevelt Weeks: Head of Austin’s Public Library System

Roosevelt Weeks, the director of the Austin Public Library, sees the 23-branch system not as a group of facilities, but as a resource that reaches into the community to help people make positive changes in their lives.

Weeks left his hometown of Indianola, Mississippi to attend Texas Southern University. There he played football, met his wife of almost 31 years and joined Omega Psi Phi, which he calls “the greatest greek fraternity in the world.” After graduation he climbed the corporate ladder with successful stints at both Aetna and Accenture, before becoming Chief Technology Officer for the City of Houston.

In his office at Austin’s Central Library, Weeks explained that it was a fluke that he got into the industry. A library director friend was looking for someone to teach a computer class. Weeks volunteered and discovered the power of libraries and how they were becoming more and more technologically advanced. “Helping people and helping them to learn technology was a perfect fit,” he said, “I fell in love with it.”

I like to look at myself as more of a quarterback than a coach

Before coming to Austin, Weeks spent 10 years as the Deputy Director of Library Administration for the city of Houston, where he managed most aspects library operations, but Weeks isn’t a sit-behind-a-desk kind of guy. He gets involved with the patrons and the staff. “I like to look at myself as more of a quarterback than a coach,” he said, “because I like being there on the field, helping the team provide services.”

It was because of his penchant for service and teamwork that My’Tesha Tates, the manager of Houston Public Library’s Community Engagement Team, nominated Weeks for the I Love My Librarian Award, which he won in 2016. The award encourages library users to recognize the accomplishments of exceptional public, school, college, community college, or university librarians, according to the I Love Libraries website.

In her nomination, Tates describes Weeks’ willingness to help with every aspect of library work, including driving the Mobile Express book mobile, and that he partnered with other organizations to promote literacy and a love of reading throughout Houston. Tates also wrote how Weeks deployed the Mobile Express to help community members fill out FEMA applications following Hurricane Ike.

A high level of interaction between the library and the community is what he also plans for Austin. One of the services he’d like to add is hot spot lending, so that kids whose families may not be able to afford internet services have a way to get web access at home. The library will also partner with Austin Community College to hold some classes in library spaces.

Austin’s new Central Library opened in October of 2017.

Weeks considers the library buildings to be a gathering place for the community, especially the new Central Library that opened in October of 2017. The facility located at 710 West Cesar Chavez St. features a special events center (available for rent), a rooftop garden with a great view of the city, and 14 shared learning spaces equipped with technology for videoconferencing. The learning spaces are free and can be reserved online. There is also a book store, reading rooms, and a literary-themed cafe and bar on the first floor.

Being in libraries is not about books, it’s not about technology, it’s about people

Weeks lauds the number of young adults he sees at the library, the expertise of his staff and the potential of the Austin library system to foment change.

“Being in libraries is not about books, it’s not about technology, it’s about people” he said, “I like to see people move forward in their lives. I think libraries are a great way to do that.”

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