Friday, July 2, 2010

Back to reality

Post-ALA doldrums! It's a common phenomenon. One attends programs, workshops, and events at ALA, gets all fired up with wonderful new ideas - and then comes back to one's library with the realization that it's going to be a tough fight to actually implement many of them.

With dozens of children's and YA librarian vacancies due to our 18-month hiring freeze, early retirement incentive package, and lay-offs, big change (unless it magically both improves services and takes less money and staff time) ain't gonna be easy. It's going to be hard to get approval from administration for anything Major, and buy-in from staff may be difficult as well.

(And it's unlikely that things will get better any time soon. Unless, that is, we can get a parcel tax measure on the November ballot - and it passes! That will give LAPL its own steady source of revenue that is not tied to City Hall. But in the meantime, we've not only laid off some amazing new librarians but won't be hiring any that have graduated this year. It's looking grim for next year's grads as well. Here's an insightful "letter to Mayor Villaraigosa" from a UCLA library student.)

So I need to remember that baby steps are okay. There are small changes I can bring about that will both simplify and improve our services to young people. For example, our tradition for summer reading club has been to distribute the same reading folders and other collateral to all of our branches, but then to let each branch determine how kids will measure their progress (# of minutes read; # of books read; weight of books read), when they earn prizes, and what prizes they earn. This is both confusing and lots of work. By creating one uniform system in which every kid at every library knows that when they read for x number of minutes, they get a sticker and when they read for y number of minutes, they receive a book - this should not only create a more fair and consistent program, but will make life easier for librarians as well. I also want to implement an online method for keeping track of our stats system-wide, which we don't currently have. Will we create this ourselves? Subscribe to Evanced or another product? Lots of discussion and research in my future...

These are simple ideas, and the need to improve our SRC has been brewing in my brain every since I was appointed to this position. But this ALA gave me the chance to attend programs on the topic, to question librarians and vendors, and to collect examples of SRC materials from around the nation. Which is why I love ALA - it can make my mind spin with way too many ideas, but it can also allow me to focus on particular timely topics as well.

And I do plan to report on highlights soon, I swear!


  1. Eva, your first post about the absurdity of collecting ever higher and higher numbers for summer reading club has stuck with me ever since the first summer I was chastised for reporting the "actual" numbers.
    I used to have between 40-60 kids come in for our weekly craft program and was advised to try and shoot for 200. Which left me thinking, "Um, fire codes?" also, "Have you ever been in a room with 200 kids? 40-60 busy crafters are quite enough!"

    I think you are absolutely right though... some librarians will be relieved to have easy, consistent programs handed to them, others will decry the loss of creativity and neighborhood uniqueness.

  2. Yes, the challenge is to create a program that is both simple and consistent throughout the library system, but also that allows for some flexibility and creativity from branch to branch. I think if the bones of the program are the same for everyone, folks will be able to do a lot of fun stuff while fleshing it out.
    One of the reasons I want everyone to use the same method of keeping track of kids' reading (# of minutes read, for example) is so that at the end of summer, we can submit a report (to the State, to our City, to the donors) that says "Participants in LAPL's 2011 SRC spend x number of minutes reading this summer" - which we've never been able to do.

  3. That giant caterpillar is FANTASTIC! I always loved coming home from Annual with a stack of new ideas and inspiration - I missed that a lot this year.

  4. I may be one of those decrying the loss of creativity....