Thursday, December 26, 2013

All-Cluster Meetings

An important component to taking the staff from six individual branches and getting them to work together as one unit is creating opportunities for everyone to come together to work, plan and play.  (Not necessarily in that order.)  All six branches were put on a Monday & Wednesday late night schedule.  This has two benefits.  Even though the branches have slightly different late night schedules, everyone has the same schedule for two days each week, which makes it easier to move staff around for coverage.  Also, we obtained permission to delay opening on the first Thursday of each month until 1:00 PM.  All staff report to the rotating meeting place at 8:45, and we meet until 11:30.  That gives all staff time to have lunch and travel back to their branches in time for the 1 pm opening.

The cluster "officially" kicked-off on October 1, 2013.  We had our first all-staff meeting on October 3.  The agenda was as follows.

Which chocolate bar did you choose?  (A fun personality test
What’s on a penny? (A team building exercise.
Siobhan Reardon and Sara Moran (about 10:30)
Let’s talk about community organizations
  • Organizations staff members are already involved with
  • Organization staff members know about
  • How do we find out about the rest
Those pesky targets – what to do  (See below for an explanation of the targets)
Next steps/Questions
Next meeting
An explanation of the aforementioned targets:  As an easy and unobtrusive way to gauge public opinion each branch made a hand-drawn target asking how we are doing.  After two weeks they were taken down.  At the end of the six month pilot project, we will post another target at each branch, and compare the results.  We really are hoping to see improvement!  Here is what the wall in my office looks like right now.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Statistics - Statistics - Statistics

Although North Philadelphia Neighborhood Libraries (NPNL) is supposed to be, and should be, people driven a fair amount of statistics need to be looked at in order to justify and support what we are trying to do.  Early on, I talked with the library managers about becoming familiar with the various databases the Free Library subscribes to that provide statistics and demographic information.  (Described below.)

Asset mapping became a frequently used term, along with Asset Based Community Development (ABCD). In other words, what are the assets that already exist.  I found two .pdf documents on the internet and printed copies for each of the library managers.

These two documents combined give you a good sense of what this exercise should entail.

Two databases were used extensively in compiling data for each of the branches.

"BusinessDecision is a consumer market database for small businesses, entrepreneurs, and non-profit organizations that helps businesses to succeed by increasing their market share and growing their clientele." (From the BusinessDecision "About" page.)

Reference USA is a database of 14 million U.S. business includes company name and phone number, complete address, key executive name, SIC Codes, employee size among other items of information.  It also contains geo-codes for mapping, which will help with asset maps.

The U.S. Census website has a new tool called Census Explorer.  It is a quick and easy way to get basic demographic data about a specific geographic area.

Friday, December 20, 2013

A Mission and other things

After several sessions of brainstorming, we were able to extrapolate some of the ideas that kept coming to the top of the list.  We took those and made a mission for the North Philadelphia Neighborhood Cluster knowing that we would not always have control some of the elements needed to fulfill it.  i.e. staffing.

Our mission is:  The North Philadelphia Neighborhood Libraries promise our communities that: 

·         Our libraries will be fully staffed and open during posted hours.
·         Our buildings will be clean, inviting, and welcoming havens within your community.
·         Our staffs will develop dynamic and informative programs for families and individuals.
·         We will actively work with community organizations to enhance library services.

Cecil B. Moore Library                Lillian Marrero Library                              Rodriguez Library
Kensington Library                      McPherson Square Library                     Widener Library

This mission statement was incorporated into an introduction piece that we had designed and printed as well as electronically that we could send to various officials and organizations.

Free Library of Philadelphia
North Philadelphia Neighborhood Libraries   

I am writing to inform you of a Free Library of Philadelphia initiative that will be introduced to your communities as the North Philadelphia Neighborhood Libraries.  We are working fervently to provide library service that is consistent, cohesive, and responsive to the needs of the immediate communities served by these libraries.  Six North Philadelphia libraries have been formed into a “cluster.”  The six libraries within this cluster are:

·         Cecil B. Moore Neighborhood Library located at 2320 W. Cecil B. Moore Avenue.
·         Kensington Neighborhood Library located at 104 W. Dauphin Street.
·         Lillian Marrero Neighborhood Library located at 601 W. Lehigh Avenue.
·         McPherson Square Neighborhood Library located at 601 E. Indiana Avenue.
·         Ramonita G. de Rodriguez Neighborhood Library located at 600 W. Girard Avenue.
·         Widener Neighborhood Library located at 2808 W. Lehigh Avenue.

The purpose of forming this library cluster is twofold:  (1) Serving as a cluster will allow us to provide more consistent service by always being open during our scheduled hours. (2) This new configuration will facilitate and enhance our libraries’ ability to work closer with neighborhood schools, health-centers, and other non-profit organizations so that we can support and complement the work that is already being done in these neighborhoods.

Our librarians in the North Philadelphia Neighborhood Libraries have pledged that they will endeavor to become well-versed in the potential resources that are available to certain targeted areas and audiences.  Some of the topics currently under consideration, but not limited to, are:

·         Early Literacy
·         Family Literacy
·         Health and Wellness Information
·         Job Seeking
·         Services to New Americans
·         Services to Seniors
·         Services to Teens

I am the newly designated Cluster Leader for the North Philadelphia Neighborhood Libraries.  I would be keenly interested to hear from you and your organization about ways that we can work together to bolster library services for your community.  I look forward to working with you and your organization.  Thank you for your time and consideration in this matter.

Marion Parkinson
North Philadelphia Neighborhood Libraries Cluster Leader

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Strategy Session Number 3

We met again on August 9, 2013.  Chris Caputo from The Office of Public Service and Support (TOPSS) and Theresa Ramos from the Free Library Foundation both attended to offer suggestions on how their departments might be able to contribute to the fabric of the cluster.  All in all, this session was all about brainstorming.

The following ideas were put forward as ideal.  Realistically, we know not all of this is possible.

·         All six branches will be closed ½ day per month for training and catch-up work.
·         As of 10/01/13 … closing for “lack of staff” is not an option.
·         Clean open havens.
·         Both computer labs should open all of the time for classes.
·         Maps for cluster + hot spots + computer labs.

·       1 LA3 and 1 Digital resource Specialist assigned to the Cluster.
·         All job classes should be willing/able to “skill-share.”  Siobhan wants “downward decision-making.”
·         When we are complete, the Cluster should have a collective total of 38.0 FTE.  LMB may have 1 LS1 + 2 Librarians.

·         Suggested that we explore Business Decision Tapestry profile for future analytical needs.  Marion presented a completed profile for CBM as an example.
·         We should count the number of “smiles and ahs!” per hour.

·         We need a cluster pithy Mission Statement (that should fit on a t-shirt).
·         How is Clustering different:  level of sharing; embedded librarianship; more intentionally a part of the community; better career path for LAs; there are not many tangible rewards, but there are many intrinsic rewards; 10/01/13 is our initial starting date, but it will take 1 to 1½ years to be fully clusterated.
·         What “Outcomes” does the Cluster desire?  
·         Can we have train-the-trainer sessions?  Can we have a collective calendar?  Can we have a Peer Resources Calendar?  Can we have a Central Community resources Calendar?  Can we have a Cluster Facebook?  Can we have a Collective Outlook Calendar?
·         SEPTA route cluster map.

      ·        Stamp out illiteracy.
      ·         Family Literacy = whole family (seniors, adults, teens, tweens, children, babies).
      ·         Each branch should have an Adult easy reader Collection.
      ·         Should be F-U-N.
      ·         Inspire the community.
·         Foundation Outreach Specialists and Digital Resource Specialists will be made available to the Cluster to help with programming and outreach.  The may be interest in Makerspaces and other related programs.
·         LSTA Grant monies may be available for Teen Makerspaces under the aegis of “Teen Services” + University of Pennsylvania graduate students and concomitant expertise may be available.
·         Full-day Makerspace program at CBM has been planned.
·         Digital Resource Specialist position is critical, but “up in the air” at the moment.
      ·         TOPSS is happy to facilitate the formation and implementation of our cluster.
·         TOPSS was asked if they could develop “canned” programs for the cluster.
 ·         Each branch should have a specialty, but the cluster should be able to solve all the library needs that a customer has.
       ·         Some communities love to have arts and music programs.  We need to have contacts                 with arts/music adjuncts with schools/institutions within cluster.
       ·         Tie literacy in with all arts/music programs.
       ·         Ask Stephanie Scordia whether Philadelphia Stories, Jr. can expand for other age                     groups
       ·         Karaoke, arts/music programs with literacy components that are F-U-N. 
       ·         Art is a universal language … even for New Americans.
       ·         “Tell Your Story” workshop
       ·         Broken toys & missing puzzle piece programs.
       ·         Introduce “Write Your Own Book” programs as a combined book arts and Literacy                       program.

The second meeting

We met again in mid-July and just started to bounce ideas around the room.  Here is a rough list, in no particular order, of some of the things that were suggested.

  • Branches would have intensive family literacy programs
  • Family programming on Saturdays 
  • Have a common "cluster-wide" system for reporting statistics
  • Design a bookmark, or half-page handout with the locations of the cluster on one side and a SEPTA route map on the other side.
  • Have full-time Digital Resource Specialists for the two computer labs in order to allow library staff more free time for programs and outreach
  • Have seasoned outreach personnel
  • Branches will closely evaluate which schools in the service area have been closed, and how that effects other schools, the branches and charter schools
  • How should we serve students who attend the cyber charter schools
At the end of the meeting it was decided that the cluster would, henceforth, be known as: North Philadelphia Neighborhood Libraries.

The Beginning

The North Philadelphia Neighborhood Libraries
An Experiment

As a recommendation, the Design Team of the Free Library of Philadelphia, it was suggested that the library adjust to their service model to one that "clusters" several branches together to provide program and other services to neighborhood residents in a more collaborative way. The cluster is supposed to be autonomous and visionary.

 The other recommendation is that the libraries and the librarians become "embedded" in their surrounding neighborhoods.  The goal is to enable librarians to move from behind their desks and computers and to go out to provide support to local schools and social service organizations.

As soon as it was confirmed that Cecil B. Moore, Kensington, Lillian Marrero, McPherson Square, Ramonita G. deRodriguez and Widener would be the branches to form the first cluster, and that I would be the leader of the cluster, I started meeting with the branch heads.

At the first meeting, on June 14, 2013,  we discussed some ideas in very broad strokes.  We talked about how to share skills and what that might look like.  Everyone agreed to go back and look at the Free Library's strategic plan once again.

We had a brief discussion about how we would evaluate our own success.  We decided to use Outcomes Based Evaluation and referenced a tutorial from New York State Library to learn more about that form of evaluation.

Two outcomes/objectives we quickly identified are:
1.        Facilities that are beacons in their neighborhoods.  They should be groomed, bright and welcoming.
2.       Plan and initiate a standardized orientation for new FLP employees that includes filling out timesheets, etc.
In reference to the first outcome, we talked about having a “cluster gardener” that could be an MG with a particular talent.  We also talked about a collaboration with PHS or Penn State’s Master Gardener program.

A cluster Social Worker was also mentioned.  Someone who could spend one or two days at each branch.

Other ideas mentioned were:

  • Ordering our own materials
  • Have a shared gmail address
  • Webcams for conference calls or teleconferences