Trends, Achievements, and Perspectives
The pandemic forces the adoption of new and, at times, innovative ways of working. Roles are reimagined from task-specific and metered to functional and project-based accountabilities. The pandemic presents an opportunity for the library where I work to pivot from a transactional brick and mortar service point to a safe and engaging relational, always on, always available, always engaging virtual experience. And it is not alone. All across the provice and the country, libraries are doing the same.
Libraries pivoted quickly, changing their attitudes on the idea of office work or on-site work. Before the pandemic, the convention held that a central place to work was critical to productivity and colleague engagement. At the very outset of the pandemic, library staff explored and adopted various technologies effectively, delivered library activities virtually, all the while ensuring that critical processes could carry on remotely. With strong service leadership, the CEO/Chief Librarian strengthened and reconstructed work practices creating a sustainable, dynamic work community. The library broke from the inertia of past organizational constructs by dispensing with suboptimal habits, assumptions, and systems to create a better staff experience and increase productivity.
This kind of change takes ongoing transformational thinking. The outcome, for me, was thrilling and truly rewarding.
During this time, I participated in a workgroup to redesign the library’s website not once but twice, taking it from a group of pages listing services and resources to become the library’s primary communication and marketing tool.
Researching and critically evaluating existing online resources and digital collections showed subscriptions that no longer met the communities’ needs. With that came the opportunity to trial many online resources and digital collections, review and evaluate the evidence, and make an informed decision on what to purchase. Bringing a sharp analysis to the fiction and non-fiction collections was most rewarding and transformational. Library administration embraced decolonizing the collection, increasing content for marginalized voices, and rethinking stack allocations.
Transformational thinking and putting into place evidence-based plans produces amazing results. For example, the adult non-fiction collection assessment and management process moved it from having less than 35% of it’s items published in the last 5 years to 54.5%. The standard for adult non-fiction collections is to have more than 50% of the items published within the previous 5 years. The adult fiction collection’s average age moved from 18 to 8.4 years. The standard for adult fiction collections is to have an average age of fewer than 10 years across all genres. Paperbacks comprise no more than 6% of a library’s adult fiction collection. And it does now!
Indigenization of all library records and collection is underway, and with that, some relocating of some materials is necessary. For example, belief systems of Indigenous peoples are moved from legends, folk tales, or myths to religions and philosophies.
Stack management was a more prodigious, time-consuming, and labour-intensive project. The Juvenile and Young Adult non-fiction were intermingled with Adult Non-fiction. Integrating these collections had, at one time, been an experiment of sorts in many libraries, an iteration from which library staff could collect data on usage, browsability data, input from shelvers on efficiencies, visibility, and accuracy of re-shelving.
Studies show that separating Juvenile and Young Adult non-fiction materials from Adult materials increases the browsing quotient, re-shelving is 35% more accurate, and patrons can readily locate the materials they need and new titles, too, in neighbouring shelving locations. This project was completed, and the next two years of data collection and interpretation will inform further stack management decisions.
Transformational thinking is multi-faceted. Transformational leaders know how to encourage, inspire, and motivate staff to perform in ways that create meaningful and impactful change. The staff become more engaged and empowered to innovate and help shape a positive and dynamic work culture.
I am grateful and honoured to work with a leader who is a transformational thinker.