Haley K. Holmes | Movers & Shakers 2020–Change Agents

When Haley Holmes moved to San Antonio, TX, she got one job offer—to shelve books at the public library. Fifteen years and seven positions later, she’s still at the library, and in each job, she’s found new ways to get patrons to come to the library, too.

Sidsel Bech-Petersen

CURRENT POSITION

Public Services Administrator, San Antonio, Public Library, TX

DEGREE

PhD in Information Science, University of North Texas, 2007

AWARDS

City Manager’s Excellence Award, San Antonio, 2016 and 2019

COAUTHOR

Library Programming Made Easy (Rowman & Littlefield, 2019)

FOLLOW

mysapl.org; guides.mysapl.org/operation-transformation

Photo by Bob Schatz

Culture Changer

When Haley Holmes moved to San Antonio, TX, she got one job offer—to shelve books at the public library. Fifteen years and seven positions later, she’s still at the library, and in each job, she’s found new ways to get patrons to come to the library, too.

So it’s no wonder that library director Ramiro Salazar tapped her three years ago to look for ways to empower the library’s staff. "We realized that there was reluctance to try new things due to fear of failure, as well as barriers such as funding. There was a lot of resistance instead of a ‘getting to yes’ attitude," says Holmes.

Her answer: Operation Transformation.

Over the past four years, the Re-visionaries, librarians and aides from every branch, have met monthly to brainstorm solutions to employee concerns. When frontline staff said management wasn’t engaging with them, the Re-visionaries created 2nd Fridays with SAPL, a monthly dinner that lets the two groups socialize informally. One librarian told Holmes she credits the dinners with her recent promotion. The Re-visionaries also launched an all-staff conference with 32 breakouts and keynotes.

Another solution was the Idea Incubator on the staff web portal. Anyone can submit a proposal—and that’s resulted in 20 new initiatives, including adding comic books to the digital collection, and palm cards in the restrooms to reach out to people in abusive relationships.

Morale has gone up measurably—the number of librarians who feel their contributions matter has risen 22 percent; 21 percent more staff feel their innovations are being encouraged. Employees feel more empowered to try new things as well. Maybe that’s why Holmes’s favorite cheesy quote is "Change nothing and nothing changes." 

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