Saturday, May 10, 2014

This week at the library; or, Last week of programs! Also, thinking about the FUTURE

Random Commentary
  • I was inspired by Charlotte's Library to label all my review posts that could possibly fit into diversity. I came out with 125 Reading Diversity posts which could be better - but it could be worse!
  • This week I was finishing my programs as well as frantically trying to get ready for my super-early school visit next Tuesday! I did find time to finally listen to a webinar from UW-Madison that I've been trying to listen to since the beginning of April - Get Up and Move! Why movement is part of early literacy skills development with Dr. Allison Kaplan which was pretty good.
  • I'm really glad spring is over. It's been a very stressful year both personally and at work and while I still have a huge and daunting pile of work ahead, I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. Hopefully it's not an approaching semitruck. I'm still feeling all at sixes and sevens (apparently I am the only person that uses this expression - too many British children's books I suppose) and I'm worn out mentally and physically, but onward! I really think I'm getting to a better point soon - we're not changing summer reading, I have an associate, and I'm working on plans to simplify next year.
  • However, one of the things I'm really thinking a lot about is where I'm taking the department (I'm having my first departmental meeting in a few weeks! I will have an actual department!). Sometimes I look at what other libraries are doing and feel, not exactly daunted, but like I'm not doing enough. I especially felt that way when I went to our youth services meeting recently and looked at all the things other people are doing - special science programs practically every week, heck, one library offers after school programs every day. Tons of tie-ins to the summer reading theme, book parties, special initiatives, stealth programs, it goes on and on. I start to feel defensive about the model I've built - the same basic programs year-round, minimal preparation and staff needed to run them, emphasis on process not product art, and we rarely decorate anything! Then I remind myself that I had the highest program attendance in 2012 in our consortium, including our one city of 80,000 (my town is 10,000 with a service pop. of 23,000). Of course, it's not all about numbers - in our We Explore programs for example Pattie pulls in up to 100 for We Explore Science, while I average about 25 for We Explore Art and Stories - but those are the numbers those programs are designed for. One is a more structured storytime/art experience, the other is a casual, come experience science and stuff program.
  • So, I'm really thinking about where I want the department to go, especially as I finally start getting some more staff. Despite the pressure I sometimes feel to do more "special" programs, I really don't want to go that way. I want to stick with the model I've built, which I think is successful in our community and our library, and which leaves me time to focus on collection development and reader's advisory, which in turn helps us also turn in high circulation numbers.
  • Where do I see us in the future? I'm working on setting goals right now and for the first time ever, I will not be adding any new programs next year! Instead, I will be consolidating what we have, increasing visibility and participation, adding some additional stealth programs, and working on collection projects like the Neighborhoods. I'm also doing a major overhaul of our outreach programs, which I started last year with mixed success. Right now, teachers randomly call me and I scramble to fit all the classes in and then try to convince them to check out books and do something other than the standard tour. I tried last year to do different offerings, but a lot of teachers don't want to check out books at the beginning of the year and while it did help in some ways, it certainly wasn't perfect. I'm planning to get away from the "call and we'll fit you in" model and instead make a handout that says "these are the outreach programs we offer. these are the times we do outreach." Then, when I get more staff, I can expand the available times and dates. 
  • Basically, I want to get away from recreating the wheel constantly. I want to have a basic set of marketing tools - newsletter, flyers, etc. so for every semester I just plug in the dates and specific programs and there you go, instead of making new flyers every couple of months. I want to get away from changing the summer reading theme every year - I'm waiting for a theme I can live with to come up through the Illinois Library Association and then that will be what we use for a long time to come. People like traditions and our programs with the heaviest attendance are almost always the ones we repeat every year. It doesn't mean we can never do anything new and exciting - I'm doing lots of new science programs this summer, but under the umbrella of Mad Scientists Club and We Explore Science.
  • This is how I see the department in the future. Some of this might happen soon! Some of it is misty and far away....
  • Staff
    • Pattie will continue to offer the bulk of our early childhood programs. A full-time associate will allow me to keep the children's desk staffed consistently during the day and we will share outreach and other programming responsibilities (taking turns doing after school clubs etc.). I will increase the hours of my aides so I have two 12-hour a week aides. We'll keep our third aide in the summer. Unless we are able to get our hands on a MASSIVE chunk of money and renovate the basement, we won't have a teen librarian. Teen programming will continue to be shared out among the staff (now that we're moving the teen area there is no longer a place for a teen librarian to work the desk anyways, which is something we'd thought about). At some point, Pattie is going to retire and I would be surprised if they replaced her with someone able and willing to do what she does. When that happens, we'll probably need to hire a part-time early literacy person. I know quite a few libraries with this position and while I don't see Pattie leaving any time soon (please, please don't leave us!) I'm keeping this in the back of my mind because I will need to make some really vigorous arguments against just dumping everything on current staff.
    • Programming - I don't foresee a lot of change in what we offer now. Early childhood programs in the morning and a few in the evenings, outreach during the day, and after school clubs. Eventually, I'd like to add a second weekly after school club on Tuesdays and extend at least one to 5:30 or 6 for families wanting to come after work. This is what I see the schedule looking like:
      • Mondays - Pattie offers playgroup or special interest groups in the morning and we offer Tiny Tots or Preschool Interactive in the evening. No outreach - this is our planning and preparation day!
      • Tuesdays - Pattie offers Toddlers'n' Books, I do outreach and an after school club. In the summer we have performers and large programs on Tuesday afternoons.
      • Wednesdays - There is going to come a time when we no longer have regular preschool storytimes. This morning will become outreach, specifically for visiting groups of preschoolers. I'll figure out a way to let individual families know what's scheduled and they can join in.
      • Thursdays - I do outreach in the morning, Pattie does Books 'n' Babies, and then after school club in the afternoon and Pattie offers family game night in the evening.
      • Fridays - We Explore interspersed with large program events for school groups in the morning, special events in the afternoon (Dr. Seuss Celebration, Sewing Workshops, etc.) Ideally, I would have the staff so we could intersperse our offerings and nobody is doing back to back programs. Until that happens, only one thing on Friday at a time!
      • Saturdays - open craft time in the Storyroom (I'm still working on convincing staff that doing this while I'm not there to watch every participant will not result in opening a doorway to hell and destroying all life as we know it)
    • This sounds like a lot, but remember that outreach times are just open times - there won't be an outreach group every day of every week! Some things, like family game night and We Explore aren't offered weekly as well. This doesn't include teen programming - I'd like to set up times at least weekly when the middle schoolers can use the storyroom to play games and have one or two teen programs a month. We also have special programs like Santa's Kitchen, Dr. Seuss Celebration, etc. that are scheduled either on Friday afternoons (which means no program in the morning) or on Saturdays at the beginning and end of a program semester.
So, these are some things I'm thinking about....

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