The way Regina Greer Cooper likes to lead is by saying yes to new ideas.
As executive director of the Springfield-Greene County Library District she is the leader of 260 employees. She says she has adopted former President Dwight Eisenhower’s leadership motto: “Gently in manner, strongly in deed.”
“When my employees bring a new idea to me, we talk through it and then do some research that allows us to make a good, solid decision,” Cooper says. “Once the decision has been made, we go full-speed ahead.”
When she became the executive director, Cooper says she inherited an already great system, but working with the staff and hiring the right people has played a big role in the library system’s success.
“When I arrived in 2009, I worked with our human resources director to revamp our hiring process based on the Jim Collins model in his book, ‘Good to Great,’ of getting the right person in the right seat on the bus,” Cooper says. “Once we do that, there is nothing we can’t do.”
One of her largest projects was recreating the Brentwood Branch Library, now known as the Schweitzer Brentwood Branch.
“We raised $2.5 million of private money to fund this project, which features additional space and parking, modern amenities and technology and artwork by local glass artists as part of the decor,” she says. “As a neighborhood library, it is a very important asset.”
She has also been an integral part of building two stand-alone branches, the purchase of a bookmobile and the opening of a 24/7 vending unit in an underserved area.
Kathleen O’Dell, the library district’s community relations director, says Cooper also led the effort in 2014 to certify two library branches as Passport Acceptance Centers, so the public can apply for passports, and she oversaw the Race to Read early literacy program.
“For all those efforts and more, (the district) was named Missouri Library of the Year in 2013 and again in 2016,” O’Dell says.
Cooper has taken part in many professional groups, with the most current being a member of the Missouri Secretary of State’s Council on Library Development, of which she is also a chair.
Outside the library system, she is involved in the Springfield Area Chamber of Commerce, Springfield’s Tax Increment Financing Commission, Rotary Club of Springfield’s Program Committee and Sunshine Committee, Junior League Advisory Board, Leadership Springfield, Springfield Barons and the Springfield Symphony Orchestra Board.
Cooper looks at these and other projects in the community outside of her job as a way to do more for the community. But she believes the library is a big part in bettering the community.
“I am leading my staff in making the library a place that contributes greatly to the quality of life in our community,” she says. “Everyone is welcome at the library and treated with dignity and respect. The library’s mission is to improve and enrich the lives of our users.”
The Forward SGF comprehensive plan was born from the input of residents, and one message that came through loud and clear was their desire for connection.