Patrick Losinski

CEO, Columbus Metropolitan Library

Patrick Losinski was a young librarian when a mentor told him something that’s stuck with him. “She said, ‘The most successful libraries are those that weave themselves into the fabric of issues of the community,’ ” recalls Losinski, now 52 and CEO of the Columbus Metropolitan Library (CML).

It is in this spirit that CML has adopted three initiatives: “My Library,” a personalized library experience; “Young Minds,” which promotes children’s learning and growth; and “Life Skills,” aimed at career, health, financial and technological literacy. “I think in the Young Minds area in particular is probably where I would point to many of our accomplishments,” says Losinski.

Around 2004, a study showed that nearly 40 percent of kindergarteners entering Columbus City Schools weren’t adequately prepared. “We thought two things: This isn’t a school issue, because these kids haven’t even been to school yet. And secondly, we have this large summer reading project, we have preschool storytimes throughout. How can we have this great library system and have those kind of results for our community? It just didn’t make sense to us,” says Losinski.

Subsequently, CML launched Ready to Read, a program that helps at-risk parents prepare their children for kindergarten. In mid-January, President Barack Obama named library staffer Sagal Ali a “Champion of Change” for her work in the program. Losinski was recognized in February as the United Way of Central Ohio’s 2012 Champion of Children for the launch and expansion of children’s literary programming.

The library itself has garnered accolades, too, as the 2010 National Library of the Year according to Library Journal and recipient of a 2011 National Medal for Museum and Library Service from the Institute of Museum and Library Services—the top honor for community service initiatives in libraries and museums.

In addition to its youth outreach, CML has opened 21 job help centers in its libraries, with computers, reference materials, staffers and volunteers available to job seekers. Almost 40,000 people have used the centers. “There’s no better feeling in the world than to know you helped someone who was down on their luck, and library resources were leveraged to help make them successful,” says Losinski. Similarly, CML’s homework help centers, which share the job centers’ space, have seen nearly 60,000 visits.

This year, CML plans to open a technology center between its Linden and Northern Lights branches, which have the highest wait times for computer access. In addition to computers, the center will be a laboratory of sorts, bringing in technology that “kids in that part of the city might never see” otherwise, says Losinski.

The nonprofit CML, which has a little more than 600 full-time equivalent workers and about 600,000 cardholders at 21 branches, has a 2012 operating budget of about $55 million, most of which comes from a 2.8-mill countywide ongoing property tax levy.

CML trustee Cindy Hilsheimer, managing principal of executive recruiting firm SC Search Consultants, says Losinski has positioned the library as a collaborative, innovative community partner. “He’s an articulate spokesperson with a great sense of humor,” she says. “And he’s also really a classic visionary leader. I don’t use those words often, given the work I do in evaluating people, but he is truly a visionary leader.”

Reprinted from the April 2012 issue of Columbus C.E.O. Copyright © Columbus C.E.O.