Monday, July 7, 2008

Stretching Existing Staff, ALA part 3

New Service Delivery Models

Those of you who know me well know that I believe libraries can not continue to offer the same services in these days of shrinking budgets. So I was intrigued by this PLA session at ALA on Saturday at 10:30am
Need more staff but the budget does not allow it? The PLA Workload Measures and Staffing Patterns Committee can help you by providing existing service delivery models from libraries across the U.S. Learn about self-directed service, new space planning in view of service delivery, one point information service and many other exciting ways that libraries have confronted staffing.
A panel of four representatives from various public libraries was right on target (topic wise) with their comments - "Tasks are infinite, staff are limited."

Ruth Barefoot of San Jose Public Library started off discussing the San Jose Way. Her four key points, which are outlined in her slides, are -
  • customers first
  • teach customers
  • reinvent environments
  • enable staff (to deliver and make environments thrive)
Some other ideas for libraries to consider -
  • what back room tasks can be modified (or eliminated) to free up time for staff/patron interactions?
  • simplify policies and discard outdated procedures
    • they standardized checkout periods, fines, barcode locations
    • got their staff out of the way
    • most services are self-directed - checkout, renewals, holds
  • quit shuffling customers - everyone undergoes basic customer service training
  • hire appropriate staff and provide social behavior training for all
  • create a single service point
    • no chairs (perches), roaming staff for various 'zones' (childrens, adults, main)
Then Valerie Rowe-Jackson of Richland County Public Library (SC) talked about the Link @ Ballentine. They replaced a bookmobile with a 2,000 sq ft permanent space with a video link to a live librarian at the main library. VERY COOL!! They have 3 FT staff and are open 6 days a week. They're using self-checkout with no fines. Video conferencing is being done using a TANDBERG system. Her slides aren't up but there are a couple posts from a local blogger and Curtis Rogers.

By the time Anne Haimes from Atlanta-Fulton County Public Library System got up to speak there wasn't much new for her to say. She did do a great job explaining how they merged service points at several branches. They merged the Children's and Adults services desks into an Information Desk. One of the surprising results is that it has fostered teamwork among the staff.

Then Dale McNeill from Queens Public Library got up and had about 5 minutes to speak. He didn't have slides but referenced a PLA 2008 Program, Customizing Customer Service. McNeill pointed out that what works at one place won't necessarily work at another. You need to - know your staff, know your community and what they want, and know your facilities. Some of the interesting things they've done -
  • hired a social worker to be a social worker (rather then having librarians be social workers)
    • does the job require a librarian or could someone else do it better?
  • self-checkout is checkout - they don't offer other options
    • machines do it all: fines, holds, multi-lingual
  • they are slow to implement change
    • pilot in high maintenance branches, then at several others, then it's an option for all then it goes to everyone
This was a great program that really made me think about how libraries do things. Some of us are stuck in the 'we've always done it this way' rut. If we really step out and think about why and how we do what we do, could be interesting. One of the speakers actually talked about eliminating many of the statistics they kept but actually did nothing with. What a concept!

Read the post from PLA's Blog.

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