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Thursday, February 18, 2016

Tackling Library Sacred Cows

Back in December, I was contacted by Kimberly Knight, a branch manager with DC Public Library for an article she was writing for Public Libraries Online about addressing change in libraries, especially around the issue of "sacred cow" services like book clubs.

At first, she was very nervous that I would not be willing to talk to her since I am a vocal supporter of the importance of book clubs in libraries.

Sadly, Kimberly was right to worry about me being resistant and even angry about her wanting to honestly discuss when book clubs should be terminated because in our profession, that is often the response to change-- one of anger. But, thankfully for her, and me, I am not typical in this regard.

Anyone who has spent anytime with me or even only interacted with me through what I post here knows that I thrive off of constantly reevaluating how we do things and advocating for new ways of thinking.  This constant vigilance on my part of always looking to improve and never settling to keep things the way they are just because they seem to be working okay makes me great at my current job as a library staff trainer and educator. But for the record, it made me a bad library employee in many of my former coworkers' eyes-- hence job change. All of my "energy" spent striving to always look for improvement has often been seen as troublemaking by other librarians. I have even been told that I am trying to make others look bad.

Kimberly expressed some of this same response to her desire for change when we spoke. So, lucky for Kimberly, she picked right by contacting me. We had a fantastic 30 minute conversation about why libraries should have book clubs, but also when libraries should consider scrapping the clubs too. We talked about change in libraries and how open and honest discussions of meaningful change can happen in our profession.

My conversation with Kimberly was part of a much larger issue. In fact, here is the link to the article that came out of our talk entitled, "Tackling Library Sacred Cows With Structured Debate."

In the article, Kimberly gives very good AND very necessary advice on a plan for libraries who are serious about change. All of you need to read this right now. I will still be here when you come back.

As I have seen in my years both working in a library and going into many of your libraries to help be a vehicle for change, we have a long way to go in this profession when it comes to making meaningful changes to our services and processes. Over the last 15 years, I have had far too many conversations with Directors who have not been happy with the advice I gave their employees in a training. But thankfully, those conversations are starting to be outnumbered by the wonderful and encouraging administrators who want me to bring my "radical ideas" of putting patron service ahead of library workers directly to their employees.

I applaud Kimberly for providing a valuable tool for those of us who care more about patron service than the "sacred cows." I am happy to have gotten the chance to talk to her.  She has inspired me to believe that more systemic change may be closer than I thought.

Join me in putting the patrons first by reading Kimberly's article and/or talking to me about how you can put serving your patrons in a way that is the best for THEM [not you] at the top of your goals.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

“If an activity serves less than 5 percent of the target audience, it is not effective. No further evaluation is necessary.”

I'm curious about this. In the example of the book group, what is your target audience? All adults in my service area? Then of course you won't get 5% (thankfully).

Becky said...

That's a good question. I didn't not write the quote you cited and personally I am not a slave to statics. But if your time and effort at providing a service does not feel worth the number of people you are serving, well then it is time to get serious and start thinking about change.

What is or isn't worth it though is a subjective issue.