Re-Aligning the Ship of State

We have been undergoing some interesting changes lately.  One of our co-workers, The Hedgehog Librarian, went off to academic libraryland so we been dividing out desk times, selection responsibilities and the myriad little pieces that go into wrapping up a colleague's time with us.  Amidst all the good-byes and the funny feelings of not-quite-completeness, we are also looking at other changes that are keeping us big-eyed.

When I came on board (just two years ago), the place was like a ship on storm-tossed waters.  The atmosphere in the public areas felt like free-for-all-free-fall. There didn't seem to be alot of procedures or limits on what we were able to realistically offer to our public so we did alot of everything - but often without focus.  Over time, we used technology to ease our way; re-examined and re-thought our services and collections and began to shift our focus in a way that helps us manage the physical space to make it inviting and a little more sane. Changes big and small are now suggested all the time by our able crew and we make progress each month in making a great space better.

Lately I have asked my colleagues to step up the pace of change.  They have really gotten on board and we are creating some exciting changes on our ship.

What's ahead?
  • Creating hands-on pre-literacy activity areas for preschoolers around the department
  • Launching an initiative to encourage parents to read at least 1000 books to their preschoolers before kindergarten
  • Reducing in-house programs for school-agers and doing more outreach programs to that age group.
  • Increasing the number of outreach visits at literacy fairs, school parent nights and other venues where parents gather while reducing the frequency of preschool outreach visits slightly to accomodate offering services to a wider age range.
  • Creating "field trip adventures" rather than tours that make a class trip to the library the best visit in town. The content is specially targeted to specific age levels of the kids.
  • Networking and creating more partnerships with our schools and community organizations to create great programs and services
  • Streamlining our workflow to create more opportunities for creative thinking and idea generation.
  • Revamping our summer reading program to create a simpler experience and one that recognizes that libraries are more than just  reading - they are about checking out materials; attending free programs; and a place for support of writing and other literacy activities.
  • Re-imaginging and remodeling our physical space to remove a much-beloved but non-ADA compliant and unsafe boat facade and replacing it with a homage to our beautiful Mississippi River and bluff country.
Some of these changes have been/are welcomed by our patrons, some less popular.  Navigating through the reactions to these changes is probably our toughest challenge as a staff.  It's hard to tell a teacher of one age group that we have to reduce a service in order to offer services to other ages as well; or that our new adventure field trips replace a provider's routine expectations of a traditional storytime; or that we are limiting the number of seasonal books so everyone has a chance to enjoy a winter book.  On the other hand, it's easy to accept the grins of kids who experience the new field trips; listen to the excitement of our school colleagues when they hear about our Dr. Seuss presentation or our gross-out book talk; or accept the praise of families who feel more welcomed in the calmer atmosphere of the room.

I am lucky to be working with willing colleagues who are brave enough to step up to a change (or twenty) in course.  It might be awhile before we hit calm water but the crew is ready to play.  I hope to blog a little more in-depth about some of our initiatives over the next few months - although I have been quiet lately and don't know if this is one of those empty promises!  And I'll share the reactions of our public as we sail between the shoals of change.  It is a good time to be aboard!

Image: 'Ship'  http://www.flickr.com/photos/31805905@N00/35838005


  1. Our team is on a similar path as well - reviewing and revamping our services to expand our horizons and update our offerings.
    I can't wait for your follow-up posts and see how you are doing in meeting your goals. Sharing ideas and inspiring each other is what it's all about.

  2. Change is good but getting everyone on board can be.....uhhhuhhhh......difficult.How fortunate you are to have a staff who is excited about the changes ahead. How fortunate your staff is to have a fearless leader with wonderful ideas! I dream about being on your team : )

  3. We are working on the concept of virtual school visits especially featuring our historic Simmons branch that is not ADA accessible. Think circular stairway down to the children's room. With a virtual school visit we can reach every third grade class in their classroom with a tour of this amazing historic library as they study local history. I will let you know how it works out.

  4. Roxane, what a great idea! I am amazed about the possibilities we have now with technology to really reach out! Would love to hear the results.

  5. Please tell us more about your field trip adventures!

  6. Marge, I'm looking forward to hearing more about your changes and improvements. We're changing course as well, and it's a slow and difficult process because we're such a large and ungainly ship - and we all know how slowly huge ships change direction!