Saturday, December 12, 2009

It will be the best of times and the worst of times

At the end of the year, it's traditional to look back at the highlights and low points of the last 12 months. This year, I can't help but reflect on all the changes that will be coming in 2010, and there will be plenty in my library system.

Already, an unprecedented City budget crisis has made it necessary to furlough most employees 3.5 hours every other week. Because this has stretched our already thin staffing to the breaking point, we have also, as of yesterday, cut back on Friday hours at all our branches - from open hours of 10 am - 6 pm to 1:30 pm to 5:30 pm.

Our staff is about to get much smaller. Due to the passing of a City early retirement incentive package that is hoped to save the City money by encouraging retirements, we will most likely lose about 20% of our library workforce in the next few months. All of these folks are of course experienced and most are in frontline and/or crucial managerial or administrative positions. It'll hurt to lose them.

We'll survive - and we may even thrive - but it will mean a lot of change and some tough decisions. What exactly those changes will be is probably being hashed out even now in the highest levels of the library's administration. Input has been encouraged by our City Librarian Martin Gomez, but as yet no one knows who exactly is doing the decision-making, what the decisions will be, and when they will be made.

All that is too scary and uncertain for me to dwell on right now so I think I'll focus on the positive, and there is plenty of fodder for me even in these dark times. Mr. Gomez gave a presentation to Senior Librarians and other staff members last Wednesday, during which he made some extremely encouraging remarks.

The first had to do with two items he felt we should focus on in order to strengthen LAPL's performance: staff development/training and performance measures/evaluation. Yes! These are two issues that are dear to my heart (here's my lament on so many training needs/so little time and one of many posts on the beauty of outcome measures) and to which our library system has not paid much attention. Staff development and training almost disappeared the moment the budget got bad, and we have yet to adopt a system-wide method of measuring performance or outcomes. According to Mr. Gomez, a staff that is trying to do a topnotch job with fewer resources needs more and better training, not less. And in a time when we might be cutting back or streamlining services, we'd better be darn sure the services we do offer are performing effectively.

I was also extremely glad to hear Mr. Gomez announce that he feels we should focus on 3 main goals rather than the 8 or so in our strategic plan, which is luckily expiring in 2010 - see the outcome measures post I mentioned above for some comments on that. Those goals are:
Invest in reading readiness
Help students succeed
Bring the benefits of technology to all
This is balm to my children's librarian's heart, let me tell you! We're already doing much in these areas, and we can do much more with every level and part of our library (not just the Children's Services department) working toward these goals.

So - we may have a much smaller staff in 2010 and we may have to undergo some possibly painful reorganizing and cutting, but I sincerely believe that the result will be a more effective and efficient organization with its resources and energy firmly focused on some very crucial goals. I'm so happy I'll be a part of it - in whatever capacity I end up serving after all the reorganizing shakes out!


  1. I need more training! =) And MORE order meetings and area meetings!!

  2. Hi Eva, That news certainly doesn't sound good at all, but as you say, if you focus on the positive, perhaps a tighter ship will mean everyone pulls together more, and your service delivery will be just as good or better once the dust has settled. It's bad that it coincides with a time when library usage is higher than ever--or, that's what we're experiencing. More patrons, but less staff to shoulder the additional load.

  3. Whoo, whoo Eva! From your lips to Martin's ears!! I think he should read your blog. I listen to the streamed speech and was heartened by what he said. We already have many programs in place to achieve his goals. Notice how CS was touted as doing the best job at training. An AMEN to that! Peer traing works well when we don't have the money to bring others in.

    We soldier on.