Monday, March 31, 2014

Computer access in the North Philadelphia Neighborhood Libraries.

This is another post written by Rebekah Ray from Lillian Marrero Library.  Rebekah worked with a group of LA's and Librarians from the cluster libraries to come up with these guidelines.  The goal is to have consistent standards across all six libraries.  The staff at LMB and KEN labs will set their own less restrictive guidelines for use. Please remember that these guidelines are what we have determined are best for our communities. Your community may have different needs.

The computers at our libraries are heavily used, and recognized as a valuable community asset.  Our staff is sometimes stressed by the need to provide maximum fair access to the computers.  In the interest of offering the best possible customer service to the people who use all of our libraries, the staff of the Free Library/ North Philadelphia Neighborhood Libraries have come up with the following plan:

“Computer access plan”:
All people desiring use of the Public Access Computers will have either a Free Library Card OR Out of state picture ID.
Clear instructions for using the PC RES station will be posted, and individual instruction also offered by any staff so that customers can access PC RES independently.  It would be useful to have standard instructions for PC RES signup and also for printing.
All Philadelphia/Pennsylvania residents are entitled to a FLP library card.  If a previous lost card has outstanding bills on it, the customer will apply for a new card with ID, and that card will be blocked, so it is for computer use only.  If the customer has ID that is inadequate per AG, including children, a blocked card will be created.   A note indicating the customer has a replacement card, or card created with limited id will be placed in the record.  After one replacement card, a standard replacement fee of $1. will be charged and indicated in the notes.   Children, teens, and some adults will be offered the option of keeping their cards on file at the circulation desk.  We want to encourage all customers to use and value their library cards: “Don’t leave home without it”.

Out of state visitors will present their photo id to any staff with access to PCRES.  The staff member will enter the last name and as much of first name as possible.  

The "Welcome Kit" committee

This blog post was written by Rebekah Ray, Library Manager at Lillian Marrero Library regarding our attempts to make it easier to move between the cluster libraries when necessary.

In early discussions about how the cluster model might enhance our work in North Philadelphia, we talked about the goal of moving between our libraries more effectively, and with more enjoyment.   We already shared staff to keep our libraries open, and we wanted to make this experience less stressful, and even fun.  We also wanted to encourage sharing the talent of our library workers among the neighborhood libraries.  We formed a committee to explore how to better define this goal, and then how to make it happen.
The committee is called “The Welcome Kit” committee.  At our first meeting, and in follow-up discussions, this is what we came up with:

The welcome Kit for each Neighborhood Library will include:
  • A floor plan map with location of materials.
  • A job description for visiting staff by job category.
  • A list of recommended nearby food vendors.
  • A supply of coffee/tea/sweetener/milk and canned soup and other long keep snacks maintained by the local staff, with an invitation to use them.
The schedule of activities and plans for the day will be updated and displayed, and part of the orientation.

Visiting staff will be welcomed and oriented by the person who meets them first, or that person will introduce the visiting staff to the person who will orient if they are urgently occupied.  It is the responsibility of all staff to welcome visiting staff.

At the Cluster meeting where this plan was presented, staff commented how important it is to be welcomed and oriented, and know what is expected, and where things are located.  Because staff have gotten better acquainted at our monthly cluster meetings, when we need to go to another cluster library, we are not only seeing familiar people, but we are better able to help our customers because we know where things are.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Impressions of the Cluster from within

Last week I was working on a proposal to present at a conference, and sent an email to all the cluster librarians asking for insights.  It didn't matter if it was a word, a sentence, or a paragraph.  In response I received the following very thoughtful and insightful response from the librarian at Widener Library, Christina.  It needs no other explanation.

Team Building-  I think that the monthly staff meetings encourage team building on across our individual branches and the cluster. In these meetings, I often find myself talking to a librarian sitting nearby. These starter conversations usually lead to a good idea about cross branch programming and resources for our communities. Once the fire is lit, we can flesh out the details electronically via email. For example, Chera, Mieka and I were discussing that the kindergarten registration programs are great for the cluster. We agreed that a program was needed for 7th graders to decide on their high school choice. Chera did the leg work to contact a representative from a local organization. I believe he attended the last cluster meeting and that we intend to each host a workshop at our respective branches (MPS, LMB and WID). Also, the cluster meetings bring together employees of job classes within the cluster and allow an open forum for discussion of policies and procedures. The meetings also serve to ensure that all branches within the cluster are offering consistent, excellent service to our communities.

Community Collaboration- There are always organizations who’d like to collaborate with us. Often, budget is the greatest barrier. Many of our local organizations are non-profits and have limited resources. Many, if not all, of our cluster branches do not have Friends’ Groups to fund supplementary programming and supplies. We rely heavily on grassroots money from the sale of flash drives/Books-To-Go/donations and TOPSS programming, which is given to us based on either a first come first serve model or a geographic model. A steady funding stream through the cluster via fundraising/targeted grant writing will allow us to bring free, innovative programming to our communities that they do not have access to currently. Another barrier is technological devices. STEM programming often requires the host site to provide the tech needed for the program. Some of our branches have labs, iPads and smartboards. However, I’d like to see a laptop cart for the cluster which will allow each branch to host a variety of STEM workshops including computer coding, video game coding, forensic science and architecture.

Shifting Duties and Responsibilities- I don’t see a shift in my job duties, per se. I have always tried to maintain a balance between reference, outreach and programming. However, juggling three duties can sometimes mean that one is falling through the cracks. The cluster model helps me plan accordingly both individually and collaboratively.  In order to balance the workload of the duties and responsibilities, my supervisor and I have weekly meetings during which we discuss outreach/programs/staffing/meetings/anything that is relevant to the daily operation of the branch. We try to ensure that at least one of us is in the building while the other is conducting  outreach into the community. We have created a list of targeted groups that we’d like to connect with in our zip code and will begin to do in the near future. This list includes seniors, children with learning disabilities, mental health organizations, new moms, 55+ job seekers, and incarcerated individuals among others.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

March 2014 Cluster Meeting - Let's Have Some Fun

Thursday, March 6, 2014, was our sixth all-cluster meeting.  Technically speaking it was the last meeting of the "pilot."  By all indications, the pilot was a success, and we will be moving forward as an official cluster.

We started the meeting, as always, with introductions and other news and items that needed to be shared, including an update on the Mango Languages contest.  We found that several of the staff ran into a snag with the Mango Languages contest.  Mango requires the use of a microphone connected to the PC.  Since none of the library's PC's have them, several people tried to start and could not get past the first lesson.  In order to solve this, we have ordered two headsets with built in microphones for each library.  I have "swag" from Mango Languages that will be used for prizes once people get underway with their language-learning.

This meeting was the first of the six that I "allowed" an "outsider" to come in to present a topic.  I really felt it was important for the staff to become a more cohesive unit before I honored any requests for observation or time on the agenda.  In this case, it was Sarah Levin-Lederer, from TOPSS, who is the Library Project Coordinator facilitating the partnership between FLP and the  Philadelphia Department of Public Health..  This was the first presentation of DPW's Dispense Assist training.  We all learned about how the library might be asked to help in the event of the city's needing to distribute some sort of vaccine and medication to all of it's citizens in a very short period of time.  (Let's hope we never need to use it.)  

The third portion of the agenda was planned by the cluster's "Fun" committee.  At their suggestion, we arranged to have "Trivia with Bob."  The staff from each library played as a team.  We did two rounds of questions with a few shout-out type questions between.  Everyone seemed to really enjoy themselves.  Our thanks to Bob Rubenstein for coming out to do this.  

Finally, I decided to get another "barometer" reading by having staff weigh-in using stickers on a target.  It seems we are really hitting the mark with the monthly meetings.

More to come soon.