Do you know what systems thinking is? Does your library organize around the work? Do we know why we do what we do? Does your library mission fit on a pen?
Gina started her tenure at the Topeka & Shawnee County Public Library meeting with her new staff in a series of 35 meetings over 4 months to draw on the ‘brain trust’ or “the collecive wisdom of your organization.” She mentioned that during this time, she had to behaviors to avoid: “no ‘turf'” and “no passive/aggressive.” Noting that it’s hard to have a diverse organization with different perspectives without some conflict, these ‘rules’ enabled the organization to work together to reach consensus. After asking a series of questions (see the powerpoint presentation), she and the staff created a “To Do List,” a prequal to a strategic plan. This is the “Build a shared vision” and “Draw on the collective wisdom of staff.”
She also talked about “scanning the environment” – sharing how she keeps on top of new and interesting developments in library land – The competition, google alerts, library link of the day, etc.
Next on the list of what to do to get ‘r done is to “Listen to the Customers” – base decisions on feedback, observations, stats, and new technologies, like geographical information systems analysis.
“Invest in staff” – what work needs to be done? what does the staff need to know to get it done? Gina believes that for her staff, the situation is “here’s the job, these are the requirements, what needs to be done?” So, at TSCPL, custodians work until 1 am, Tech services works 7 to 4 – they try to be responsive, but balance the needs of the organization against the needs of the staff. Gina also ensures that staff have training on core values, such as intellectual freedom (Defending Access with Confidence training module by ALA to all staff), and play time, with gadgets purchased by the Friends for staff to use and learn and become comfortable with through play.
“Be the Best” and “Organize Around the Work” – through continuous improvement, systems thinking, striving for excellence and re-allocating “resources to focus on the work, including the most important one – US!” With “systems thinking,” you start with the belief that there is always a better way to do something – you just need to analyze and improve the process. Trouble = 80% process problems, 20% people problems. Good people in bad systems in libraries, which are living organisms.
The remainder of her talk was about how they used these steps to develop a new Virtual Branch at the library, full of original content developed by library staff.
Side discussion: Customers v. patrons – Gina began thinking in terms of customers who have prepaid for services, trust the library with their tax money and require that the library justify its existence and keep a close eye on the bottom line, just like a for-profit business. (Topeka’s new digital branch should be up by December.)
Questions: Gina Millsap, Topeka & Shawnee County Public Library 785-580-4480 :: firstname.lastname@example.org