Be informed : what don’t you know?

IBe inquisitive. Be informed. Be interested. There’s plenty of data to collect about collections and customers that can support & implement changes you want to make in your library. Find a problem. Collect the data. Find a solution.

Staff may say “we’re just *so* darn busy on [day] at [time]”. Collect the data to show when your physical collection is borrowed/returned the most. Is it Monday morning or Thursday night or Sunday afternoon? Find out.

What if … you adjust your staffing roster to match?

Map your active customer base against the demographics of your wider community. Find out who is not using your service. Is it 2nd year students, water quality researchers, family law practitioners, grandparents?

What if … you specifically allocated staffing & resources to find out how to improve services & collections for your most inactive community group? Either way, you’ll find out if they actually don’t need your services, rather than just being poorly served by existing ones.

Find out how much of your digital collection was never accessed in the last 12 months.

What if … you actively promoted all of the material that under-utilised, and then removed or replaced anything that still wasn’t accessed within 6 months.

Talk to your top 5% of customers about what they love and hate about your library. Ask your regular customers what they actually wanted staff to help them with.

What if … you made changes as a result and also reallocated staffing to match customer feedback?

Allocate all staff 5% of their work time to explore, use & learn about new digital resources.

What if … you asked staff to actively promote the best practice/cool features to your customers and then you measured actual usage by customers over a 3 month period?

Be healthy : not too much, not too little, just right.

HHave a balanced perspective when it comes to collections.

Too much “collections” is just as poor as too little “collections”. Too much on the physical or digital shelf is overwhelming for customers, and for staff. How can we find the “good” stuff to consume if it is squashed amidst the “should have got rid of it years ago” stuff? Too little on the physical or digital shelf is underwhelming for customers, and for staff. And it is highly likely that your customers will go elsewhere to meet their information needs if faced with either of these situations. Find the “just right” balance for your community.

Collections in libraries is both a science and an art. Science = using the numbers to measure & determine just about anything (how many books, how many shelves, what floor space, what server space). Art = adapting your collections because you are limited to what is actually available/published to add to your collection. Perhaps if the content doesn’t exist, you need to create it, or encourage your customers to create?

Aim for a balanced & healthy collection, a “just enough” rather than “just in case” collection. We have a responsibility to act as faciliators of knowledge creation (Atlas of New Librarianship) and part of that is providing access to information, not drowning the customer in ALL of the information!

Filter. Curate. Facilitate.

Unless your collection management policy states unequivocally that your library MUST KEEP EVERYTHING FOREVER (and if that is the case, you have much bigger issues to face), then collections will ebb & flow as customers needs change, as publishing trends change, as community needs change. Collections should be dynamic & adapting & changing, almost like a living organism. Collections should certainly not be static. Collections should not exist in isolation.

  • Determine the optimum size of your digital collection for your server capacity.
  • Determine how much of your physical collection needs to be out at any given time so that your shelves don’t burst at the seams.

And if the science of collection size & content doesn’t match the art of your collection size & content, then you’ve got some work to do. But, don’t make it harder than it needs to be. Focus. What do you need to achieve? Simple ideas. Simple solutions. Ask what would *actually* happen you changed something. What’s the best/worst case scenario?

  • Need to increase the number of items borrowed by each customer per visit?
    • improve Reader’s Advisory (make it easier to find interesting things)
    • improve self-issue process (make it easier to borrow interesting things)
    • eliminate holds charges (make it easier to borrow more of what the customer wants)
  • Want to increase the number of borrowers?
    • promote externally (your future borrowers aren’t in your library to see your lovely JOIN UP posters)
    • encourage family members to have own cards (more cards = more books)
    • each one, bring one (reward the person with the most new signups as a result of their encouragement)
    • partner with local schools to join all their students up as members
  • Need to decrease your processing budget?
    • identify a similar size library system, and ask what products/processes they use
    • explore what your vendors can do for you (determine the savings from shelf ready materials)
    • simplify your spine labels (do you really need pink dots or dragon stickers as well as spine labels?)
    • eliminate fiction spine labels (author names are usually printed on the spine)
  • Want to decrease your current collection size?
    • sell or giveaway your excess stock (make some money)
    • weed (if it was published over 10 years ago, weed it)
    • weed (if you have a newer edition, weed it)
    • make art with your excess stock (tie in with annual Art in the Community exhibition)
    • weed (if the information has been superceded, weed it)
    • weed (if the format is dead, weed it)

The same tenet for good health applies to libraries. Good input = good output. Just as our dietary needs change throughout our lives, and so do the needs of our customers & collections. We do everyone a disservice by reinforcing a bad diet with bad information.

Honest. Heroic. Hedonistic. Happy. Humourous. Holistic.

Be gregarious : find friends everywhere.

GKnow your #customers. Know your #community. Where does your library fit in the bigger community picture?

You can’t be all things to all people, but you can choose to be all things to some people or some things to all people or some things to some people. Be comfortable with your choice. Look wide & far for opportunities. Find friends in unlikely places.

Where are the well-established networks in your community? Where can you best focus your time to make new friends, new contacts, new opportunities? Find the sweet spot of time & investment. Focus your efforts on the highest return on investment to begin with.

Are you a solo librarian?
What if … you partner up with another solo librarian in your field to build a broad & deep collection that you share?
What if … you encourage your customers to co-publish research? (hint – find out the overlap in research interests of your staff.)

Are you a school librarian?
What if … you supplement your collection with different resources from National Library or your local public Library?
What if … you encourage your teaching staff to share with you which resources they always promote to their students? (hint – make it easy for them to switch to new alternatives.)

Are you part of a higher education buying consortium?
What if … you train your frontline staff know & understand how to promote & maximise the collection sharing arrangement?
What if … you encourage your customers to submit information requests electronically (hint – improve your submission process to make it easy peasy.)

Are you a small public library?
What if … you offer your space to other groups when the library is closed?
What if … you partner with a local organisation to share a location, which shares your overhead running costs? (hint – find customers in common who will benefit from two services + one location.)

Are you a large public library?
What if … you encourage schools to join their students up to increase the use of e-resources?
What if … you partner up with local school librarians to share your in-house e-resource training? (hint – hold the sessions outside of school hours, and not in school holidays)

Gorgeous. Generous. Glamourous. Gigantic. Gifted. Groovy. Gleaming.

Inspiration from “Creating Room to Read” by John Wood

IMG_0648Over the past few years, I have been aware of Room to Read via Twitter, but it wasn’t until I read John Wood’s second book, “Creating Room to Read : A Story of Hope in the Battle for Global Literacy” that I truly got the incredible work that Room to Read does. I ploughed through this book, taking notes, adding post-its, nodding A LOT. A powerful story about making a difference, on an audacious scale.

The stats are mind-boggling. 13,000+ libraries established in 10 years. And growing. What an incredible achievement. Go back and read that number again. Yes, really, it is that many. Check out their 2011 Annual Report for more detail.

Several key concepts really reasonated for me in this book.

GSD = Get Sh*t Done. It is what makes the difference between achievements like this, and the raft of great ideas that get talked about & then never actually happen. Without putting actions to the words, it remains simply a great idea.

Hedgehog Concept (refers to “Good to Great” by Jim Collins):

  1. What are you uniquely good at?
  2. What are you passionate about?
  3. What drives the resource energy in your organisation?

Ask. In asking, you give people to opportunity to participate. They may not give you what you ask for, they might in fact give you even more than you ever imagined.

My aha! moment : “Room to Read is the biggest publisher you’ve never heard of” (p.105). Tagging ideas in Creating Room to Read

To solve the lack of materials published in local languages, Room to Read set up a publishing arm. Local authors. Local illustrators. Brilliant. #win. #win.

This got me thinking.

One issue we often face in the Collections team at public libraries in NZ is a lack of resources published in Pasifika languages. And what is published may not reflect the reality for Pasifika kids & families.

What if … we had a Pacific focussed Room to Read chapter, supported by Australian & New Zealand Librarians & Libraries?

What if … we could support local authors & local illustrators to write & illustrate materials?

#win … We support literacy in the Pacific. We now have materials to support our Pasifika kids & families across Australia & New Zealand (and possibly there’s also a market in parts of American as well). We support local storytellers & local artists.

Recommend this to : People who give a real damn about literacy & want to see firsthand what impact Room to Read is having to resolve Global Literacy. People who want to see #audacious in action, and see truly lasting impact from big dreams!

Be flexible : adapt, respond, change.

FCollections & customers do not exist in a vaccuum. All manner of things change to affect why you collect, and why your customers access your collection. The only constant is change.

How flexible are you to respond to ongoing change?

Review your collection statements annually. Make sure that they are still fit for purpose. Make sure the language is accessible. Overhaul your collection policies every three to five years. Technology changes, research outputs change, funding changes, customers change.

What if … you asked new staff members to read your policy statements? Would you listen to their feedback?
What if … you asked your students to write your purpose statement? How closely would it match the language that you use?

Review your customer base annually. Are there specific groups that no longer access your library? Or do they access it differently? Overhaul your customer database every two years. Remove non-active users from your membership database OR actively bring them back to the library.

What if … you let customers know that you were going to cancel the membership, and asked why they stopped using the library? Would you seriously consider what factors influence non-users?
What if … you sent an email saying “We miss you. We haven’t seen you around in a while. Is there anything we can do to see you again?” and offer users to remove themself from the database (like an un-subscribe opt-out).

What matters most for your customers : the journey or the destination? Are you walking alongside them or watching from the sidelines? Be flexible & respond to change.

Fast. Flighty. Fabulous. Fun. Faithful. Funny. Fancy. Famous. Fierce.