BCLA Presentation: Under the Hood

Krista Scanlonkrista

I once read somewhere “it’s amazing how empowering it is when someone has confidence in you.” I’m sure we can all think of someone who just by including you and asking you for your ideas and opinions, made all the difference. When an entire organization and management has this confidence in its most valuable asset – its people – magic happens. That’s what’s been happening at NVDPL since 2013.

How did we move through this transition to get to where we are now? How did these changes affect the collection – those books, dvds, databases & ebooks – that make up that core library service?

We started by looking at how things were done before to see if there was another way. The process is still ongoing, but within the past 3 years though some things have stayed the same, many things have changed.  From the perspective of collections, here’s what I’ve seen:

It starts with something as simple as a name. What we used to call Technical Services is now Collection Services and that name encompasses all aspects of the collections & the staff involved in selection, acquisitions, cataloguing, ill and more.  My workspace too is in the actual Collection Services Dept. rather than being in an office on another floor. By sharing the same space, we are all there working together and any issues that come up can be discussed easily & quickly. This might seem like a small thing, but it has made an enormous difference.

As for the Collection itself, we’re open to trying new things & looking at what has worked in the past and what hasn’t. The phrase I so often hear when ideas are run past management is “go for it” so we are!

We’re involving staff from all Departments: Collections, Librarians & Library Techs, Circulation & Auxiliaries. I still do the selection, submit orders, evaluate and overall maintain the adult collection however I’m not doing it alone.

How are we empowering staff?

  1. Displays: all staff are encouraged to be part of creating book and media displays, including Circulation staff.  Something simple but we’re fostering staff involvement in promoting the collection. It isn’t just a “librarian thing.”
  2. Weeding :  often when we run weeding reports , we have Circ or Collections staff pull material from the shelves, then a librarian will make that final decision about whether to weed it or not.  This has sped up our weeding tremendously and everyone is part of the process
  3. slide-kristaStaff picks: we’ve always had librarian booklists “recommendations” on our website in our catalogue and in print, but we’ve just launched a new program where anyone can submit a mini-review of a book and a shelf talker will be created and displayed in the stacks. Again, connecting staff to the collection and the community.
  4. Visits: I make a point of being as available as I can to anyone and visit each of our branches on a regular basis. I want to talk to staff & hear what’s working & what’s not. Everything from cataloging issues to ideas for shelving, promoting the collection, space concerns and more. I want input and involvement and from the feedback I get I know it’s appreciated. They feel their opinion matters and they have a say in decisions that are being made.

Public: Of course the library collection isn’t there just to look nice on the shelves. It has to be a “diverse collection responding to community needs” & supporting “lifelong learning, literacy and the love of reading.”

How do we know what they want and need beyond the latest bestsellers, blockbuster movies and TV shows? We ask:

We’ve certainly seen an increased use Suggestion for Purchase and How Are We Doing feedback forms.  Sometimes to ask us to buy a specific title or let us know we need more on a particular topic, sometimes to voice concerns and other times just to say thanks

One HAWD feedback form I received about a book we recently purchased said “Thank you so much for the PTSD book. Public libraries save lives. So enlightened and so wonderful to be properly educated at last…” I know we got that one right!

Another recent feedback form was from a patron at our PG branch asking if we could shelve all the SciFi books together like we do at the LV location. I ran it past manager as it involved space allocation and she said that familiar phrase “go for it!” In less than a month staff worked together and it was done.

There’s much more I could say, however I’ll conclude by reiterating just how much innovative change there has been.  I’ve worked in this library for over 30 years and I feel these transitions we’ve seen over the past 3 years have been overwhelming successful. Staff are involved, ideas are encouraged, and we’ve been able to see real progress. Certainly it has not been easy for everyone and not everyone is always on board with decisions that are made.  Still we are able to discuss things and know that we have been heard and participated in the process. To me, that has made all the difference.

Return to Under the Hood

Links to panelist speaking notes:

Andrea Freeman, Manager of Welcoming Initiatives

Jennifer O’Donnell, Digital Services & Resources Librarian

Sabina Burnett, Circulation Assistant, Capilano Library

Ashika Debba, Circulation Supervisor, Lynn Valley Library

Paul Taylor, Branch Librarian, Parkgate Library

Jacqui Jones-Cox, Branch Librarian, Lynn Valley Library

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