Maricopa County Library District, Winner of the 2009 Innovations in Reading Prize

February 2016



Maricopa County Library District (AZ) operates 17 libraries throughout one of the largest and fastest growing counties in the U.S. Its mission is to provide access to a wealth of informational and recreational resources for people of all ages and backgrounds so that they may have the opportunity to expand their horizons through reading and learning.

“The Library District sees itself as a popular reading library meeting the needs of its customers. Our approach is customer centric,” Harry R. Courtright, the Director, said. On customer surveys, when we asked our customers what they want, they said they come to the library to ‘browse’. We already were thinking about the ‘neighborhood’ concept when the customer surveys convinced me that organizing the libraries into neighborhoods, the way bookstores are organized, would be a good way to meet our customers’ needs.

“Part of the appeal comes from the addition of bookstore-like features, including lower shelves, lounge furniture and grouping topics together…but we took the concept further and decided to drop the Dewey system completely…and our customers like it. It’s comfortable and easy and circulation figures show double digit increases. Customers are reading more. Browsing works.”

“It is certainly an honor to receive this recognition from the National Book Foundation by awarding us an Innovation in Reading Prize for our Dewey-less approach to organizing libraries. It may inspire other libraries to also try new ways to get people reading.”