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.

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