This article is based on a panel presentation at the College and University Libraries Section pre-conference at the Tennessee Library Association Annual Conference (Memphis, TN) in April 2015.
TLA 2015 Pre-Conference Presentation Abstract
The College and University Libraries Section (CULS) will host panel discussions on providing a place for everyone at the table regarding library spaces, collections, and interactions. How have advances in STEM, social sciences or humanities allowed for the creation of new opportunities to meet our collective needs?
Since coming to Linebaugh Public Library in 2011, Carol Ghattas has been constantly aware that things needed to change in order to better meet the needs of their community, but it was not until the entire system went through a new strategic planning process under the leadership of Sandra Nelson, that she found the empowerment she longed for to bring effective change.
What made the difference for Linebaugh? The new strategic plan was based on recommendations from a group of community stakeholders, so Carol was able to tell staff: We're doing this, making these changes because this is what our community wants.
Linebaugh Public Library System has been serving Rutherford County since 1948. Our current service area is close to 250,000.
Linebaugh – Main Branch, which I manage. We’ve been in our current building since 1992.
Smyrna – Second largest branch, which has been in its current facility since 1999.
Myrtle Glanton Lord or MGL – Contained within a community center in low-income part of town since 2004.
Eagleville – Shares building with a community center in rural area since 2006.
Bookmobile – Our mobile branch that has 30 stops over five days a week, including preschools, nursing homes and senior centers. Running since 2003; newest vehicle since 2005.
I came into this system in 2011, knowing the longtime positive reputation of the library. I soon realized that as the county was going through massive growth and change, the library was still operating on traditional foundations and buildings needed to be updated and become more accommodating to public needs and wants.
In 2012, I had the privilege to attend a Public Library Association (PLA) Results Boot Camp led by Sandra Nelson and June Garcia. I began to see the secret to what our system needed--community-led change and killing sacred cows. While I was able to begin implementing some of this in my own branch on a small scale, it was not until our Director and Board agreed to hire Sandra to lead us through a new strategic planning process that things really got rolling.
I cannot in a short time go through all of this process, but you can read much of it in Sandra’s book, Strategic Planning for Results. The basic premise is that strategic planning begins with what the community wants for itself. So, we had a group of about 18 leaders and individuals from our community meet in two sessions to look at what they wanted for our county in the next five years. Then they chose and prioritized library service responses, which were eventually narrowed down to five for us to focus on (one of the service responses translated into two goals).
It’s not what the library wanted to do for the community but what the community wanted FROM the library.
Here is our strategic plan that was approved by our Library Board, Library Foundation and two Friends groups:
1.Everyone will have attractive and welcoming places to meet and interact with others or work independently on personal projects.
2.Everyone will have free high-speed access to the resources and services available through the Internet.
3.Preschool children will have programs, services, and materials designed to help them develop a lifelong love of books and reading.
4.Children will have programs and materials that stimulate their imaginations.
5.Teens and adults will have the skills and resources they need to explore topics of personal interest.
6.Teens and adults will enjoy timely access to popular materials in current and emerging formats.
What did this mean for us at Linebaugh?
1.We needed to weed – and weed we did
a. Got rid of our Reference section
1)Not being used
2)We needed the space
b.Have weeded all collections and discarded materials that are not checking out in 3 years, along with other criteria.
1)Will reduce adult non-fiction (ANF) by at least 50%
2)Makes shelves look fresher, not as crowded
3)Able to remove shelving to make space in different areas
2.Looked at signage and verbiage
a.Names for desks – what do patrons understand? What is more welcoming?
b.Began to use vinyl signs: more friendly, easier to see and remove when need to change
c.Getting rid of the “NO” signs as much as possible. Allowing drinks now all over library.
3.Paint on a budget
a.Can’t paint it all at once? Paint a gallon at a time!
b.Smyrna branch is launching a fundraising campaign for new carpet and paint.
c.Don’t be afraid of color!
4.Desks, desks and more desks!
a.Linebaugh, Smyrna and Eagleville are all getting new front desks
b.Board is approving this money because it’s part of our strategic plan!
a.With our new desk, we will be eliminating a bottle neck, and opening up our entrance.
b.Children’s area is flipping collections and moving shelving to make more space for programming.
c.Upstairs, we are removing ANF shelving to make two new portable classroom areas for community meetings.
d.Board Room – Removing old board table and replacing it with smaller, flexible tables to better utilize space.