2009 Eureka! Leadership Institute: George Needham
Growing up three blocks from a branch of the Buffalo and Erie County (New York) Public Library had a profound influence on George Needham. He began pestering the branch manager for a job when he was 12 years old. When he turned 16, the legal working age in New York State, the beleaguered branch manager finally hired him as a student assistant. George's love affair with libraries has continued unabated. His work is driven by an unshakable belief in the transformative power of public libraries, and he's been a passionate advocate of these institutions in his many positions. As Alan Kay once said, "The work is the same, only the sponsors change."
George splits his working hours between a consulting practice and OCLC. His consulting, frequently in collaboration with library futurist (and fellow Eureka! mentor) Joan Frye Williams, focuses on strategic implementation, change management, service planning, and staff development. He is also OCLC's Vice President for Global and Regional Councils. His portfolio includes OCLC's elected governance structure, the international fellows program, and OCLC's Library. He contributes to the blogs It's All Good with several OCLC colleagues, and Viral Optimism with Joan. George and Joan also podcast for Infopeople under the title George and Joan: Thinking Out Loud.
Before joining OCLC in 1999, George was State Librarian of Michigan, Executive Director of Public Library Association (a division of ALA), Member Services Director of the Ohio Library Association, and Director of Fairfield County Library in Lancaster, Ohio. He began his library career at Charleston County Library in South Carolina.
George earned MLS and BA degrees from the University at Buffalo, New York. He's taken additional courses at Fisher College of Business at The Ohio State University through OCLC's Center for Leadership Development.
George is thrilled and honored to be a mentor at Eureka! He's served as a mentor at several leadership institutes, including Snowbird, Library Leadership Ohio, and Northern Exposure to Leadership Institute in Canada. One of the not-so-hidden secrets of leadership institutes and mentoring is that mentors learn more from participants than participants learn from mentors.
For relaxation, George revels in his grandchildren Jake and Mallory. He also plays the guitar and loves anything involving theater; this may stem from the fact that he met his wife, Joyce, at an audition for the play On Golden Pond. His sole brush with non-library fame was as a two-time Jeopardy! winner in December, 1994.