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A Crisis Is a Terrible Thing to Waste . Re: inventing Your Library during Challenging Times David Singleton and Julie Walker. Libraries Facing Challenging Times . Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm issued an executive order to eliminate the Michigan Department of History, Arts, and Libraries.

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a crisis is a terrible thing to waste

A Crisis Is a Terrible Thing to Waste

Re: inventing Your Library during Challenging Times

David Singleton and Julie Walker

libraries facing challenging times
Libraries Facing Challenging Times
  • Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm issued an executive order to eliminate the Michigan Department of History, Arts, and Libraries.
  • New York City's three library systems face 22% budget cut
  • Cuts force Seattle Public to close for one week
  • Ohio libraries will lose $84.3 million over next 2 years
challenging times in georgia
Challenging Times in Georgia
  • Public Libraries in Georgia facing local cuts ranging fromo 3% to 49%
  • Board of Regents employees, including state-paid librarians, face 3 furlough days before the end of 2009
  • GPLS and Public Libraries face a minimum of 5% state budget cuts in FY10 and FY11; reductions of 12% remain from FY09.
  • “Challenging times” are different than ordinary times
  • Staff react to challenging times on both cognitive and emotional levels
  • Personal and organizational leadership make the difference in environment (and success) during challenging times
how are challenging times different
How are challenging times different?
  • Environment often unstable or changing quickly
  • Reduced or stagnant resources, sometimes with increasing demand
  • People tend to feel less valued and less knowledgeable (what they know isn’t working)
  • Scrutiny increased; mistakes are often more visible
reactions to challenging times
Reactions to Challenging Times
  • Cognitive level
    • Observable/tangible changes
    • Fewer resources available
    • Major changes in operations often occur
    • Important to acknowledge and communicate clearly about tangible changes and their possible impacts
reactions to challenging times1
Reactions to Challenging Times
  • Emotional level
    • Confusion (staff and public)
    • Staff may not feel as valued/competent
    • Often focused only on the present
    • Sometimes eager to assign blame (human reaction); the rumor mill churns in the absence of facts
    • Essential to acknowledge and communicate clearly about, preferably in person
reactions to challenging times2
Reactions to Challenging Times
  • Inertia (do nothing)
  • Complain (energy focused on wrong things)
  • Lead
  • “The challenge of the time: make asset scarcity a source of innovation, not enervation.”

John Ulmschneider, Virginia Commonwealth

in calm weather all ships have good captains swedish proverb often attributed to adam smith
In Calm Weather, All Ships Have Good Captains Swedish proverb, often attributed to Adam Smith
Leadership is Key to How Libraries and Other Organizations Survive (and Thrive) During Challenging Times
essential for the leader
Essential for the Leader
  • Know What You Believe
  • Embrace Optimism
  • Be Courageous
  • Prepare Relentlessly
  • Recognize Weaknesses/Solicit Help
  • Communicate, Communicate, Communicate (and work with your staff)
know what you believe
Know What You Believe
  • Our services and programs are vital to communities
  • We offer high value for every dollar allocated
  • We are stronger together than we are apart. Cooperation and collaboration are key.
  • Perhaps no place in any community is so totally democratic as the town library. The only entrance requirement is interest. - Lady Bird Johnson
know what you believe1
Know What You Believe
  • Nothing sickens me more than the closed door of a library.- Barbara Tuchman
  • The dissemination of knowledge is one of the cornerstones of civilization.- John F. Budd
  • Libraries are America's Lifelines. Leave Them Alone.

-Kenneth C. Davis

embrace optimism
Embrace Optimism
  • There have been bad times before, and we have survived.
  • Increased demand evidences the value of libraries
  • Difficult times offer opportunities to reexamine what we do, why we do it, and how we do it
  • A crisis is a terrible thing to waste
be courageous
Be Courageous
  • Speak truth to power; do not hesitate to tell your story
  • Be relentless in pursuing adequate funding (even more important to quantify the need)
  • Be honest in your assessment of your ability to provide services with limited resources
  • Do not be afraid to change
prepare relentlessly
Prepare Relentlessly
  • No one is better than librarians at gathering and analyzing statistics; use your strength.
  • Educate your staff about the library and costs associated with operations/services
  • Energize your Friends
  • Remind trustees of their advocacy role
  • Unite with your colleagues; we’re all in this together
recognize weaknesses solicit help
Recognize Weaknesses/Solicit Help
  • Self assessment (be brutally honest)
  • A few sources of help:
    • Peers
    • Staff
    • Friends of the Library
    • Trustees
    • Volunteers
    • Community leaders
    • State library
    • Library associations
communicate communicate communicate
Communicate, Communicate, Communicate
  • Not a time to hide—Be visible to staff and to the community
  • Talk face to face whenever possible
  • Share what you know, even when the news is not great
  • It’s all about respect
  • "Advocating in a Tough Economy" toolkit is available at www.ala.org/tougheconomytoolkit

As we, the leaders, deal with tomorrow, our task is not to try to make perfect plans. Our task is to create organizations that are sufficiently flexible and versatile that they can take our imperfect plans and make them work in execution. That is the essential character of the learning organization.

    • Gordon R. Sullivan & Michael V. Harper
focus for the organization
Focus for the Organization
  • Services
    • Focus on Customer Service Excellence
    • Work Toward Continuous Innovation
    • Remove Barriers (ask your customers)
    • Explore New Service Models, including rethinking digital presence
focus for the organization1
Focus for the Organization
  • Internally/Organizationally:
    • Expand Partnerships (where they make sense)
    • Plan for the Future
    • Realign Resources/Organizational Structure
    • Re-examine Your Core Mission
    • Tell Your Story
customer service excellence
Customer Service Excellence
  • Empower staff at every level
  • Invest in staff training (free or low cost training is plentiful if you look around)
  • Engage customers in dialogue about services
  • How can volunteers contribute more while staff remain valued?
work toward continuous innovation
Work Toward Continuous Innovation
  • Empower staff
  • Ask for suggestions from staff and customers (remember to respond)
  • Examine workflows throughout organization (Staffing for Results can help)
  • Standing still is not an option
remove barriers
Remove Barriers
  • Empower staff
  • Fines/Fees Resolution Programs
  • Read Down Your Fines
  • Go to your customers if they can’t come to you (outreach)
  • Think access, not ownership
  • Be creative with volunteers and partnerships
explore new service models
Explore New Service Models
  • Focus on Critical Services
  • Internally
  • Digitally
  • Outreach
  • Collaboration
  • Remember to let go of what is not working
expand partnerships
Expand Partnerships
  • Partnership=a cooperative relationship between people or groups who agree to share responsibility for achieving some specific goal
  • Expands your resources and builds advocates who understand the value of the library
plan for the future
Plan for the Future
  • Without vision, the people perish. The leader articulates the vision.
  • Strategic planning involves stakeholders throughout the community and builds awareness and advocacy while setting direction.
  • During economic downturns, infrastructure is less expensive to build.
  • Don’t forget to prepare for the good times to come.
realign resources organizational structure
Realign Resources/Organizational Structure
  • Brainstorm
  • Examine other models
  • Take risks (OK to abandon what doesn’t work)
  • Encourage flexibility
  • Reach out to colleagues
tell your story
Tell Your Story
  • Repackage what you do in terms that the public can relate to
  • Return on Investment (ROI) data can be very useful; several websites allow you to calculate rough ROI
  • Friends of the Library
  • Trustees
  • Challenging times are different.
  • They offer opportunities as well as challenges.
  • Staff respond to challenging times on multiple levels.
  • Leadership is the key to surviving/thriving in challenging times.
  • American Library Association, “Advocating in a Tough Economy Toolkit,” http://www.ala.org/ala/issuesadvocacy/advocacy/advocacyuniversity/toolkit/index.cfm (accessed July 27, 2009)
  • Corwin, Scott, Elisabeth Hartley, and Harry Hawkes, “The Library Rebooted,” http://www.strategy-business.com/press/article/09108?gko=ef8aa-1876-27600325 (accessed July 27, 2009)
  • Lehman, Jeffrey, “Leadership in Difficult Times,” http://www.livemint.com/2009/01/13212610/Leadership-in-difficult-times.html (accessed July 27, 2009)
  • Mayo, Diane, and Jeanne Goodrich. Staffing for Results. American Library Association, 2001.
  • Nelson, Sandra. Strategic Planning for Results. American Library Association, 2008.
  • “Rudy Giuliani on Leadership in Difficult Times,” http://www.sacredheart.edu/pages/25193_rudy_giuliani_speaks_on_leadership_in_difficult_times.cfm (accessed July 27, 2009)

David W. Singleton, Director of Library Experiences

Public Library of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County


Julie Walker, Deputy State Librarian

Georgia Public Library Service