Tuesday, November 10, 2015

What we think of each other's jobs - Part two of Developing Empathy

We did a group activity at the November meeting of the North Philadelphia Neighborhood Libraries. The group was divided  by their job classes.  Municipal Guards. Library Assistant 1's.  Digital Resource Specialists with Library Assistant 2s/3s.  Librarians and Librarian Supervisors were also together.  Each group was charged with developing a list of the five best and worst parts of each of the other groups' jobs based on their own perceptions. Then, each group was tasked with determining the best/worst parts of their own jobs.  Here are the results of that exercise.

Library Assistant 1's

The Municipal Guards thought:

Best /Easiest

  1. They get rotating desk shift
  2. Shop online
  3. A lot of free time
  4. First impression patrons get of the library's tone
  5. If they like you they "got ya" back
Worse /Hardest

  1. If they don't like you, they DON'T have your back
  2. Too much idle time
  3. They like to be security
  4. They want things to go their way all the time
  5. They have to listen to two supervisors

The Library Assistant 2's, 3's and Digital Resource Specialists thought:

Best / Easiest
  1. Lack of responsibility
  2. Repetition of work
  3. Advancement Opportunities
  4. Processing Materials
  5. Overtime available
Worse / Hardest
  1. Various interpretations of Rules / Policies
  2. Dealing with irate patrons
  3. Coworker relationships
  4. Poor leadership
  5. No proper training - consistency

The Librarians thought:

Best / Easiest
  1. Helpful options
  2. First face - greeter - get to know names
  3. Finger on the pulse (really know what is going on)
  4. Shelving - keeping in order - meditative
  5. Not in charge - pass them on
Worse / Hardest
  1. Saying, "You owe money"
  2. First problem receiver
  3. REALLY know what's going on
  4. Chaos
  5. Bathroom Monitor

The real story according to the LA 1's.

Best / Easiest
  1. Don't have to order supplies
  2. Being on the front line
  3. :)
Worse / Hardest
  1. Making cards continuously for the same people
  2. Being on the front line
  3. Can't satisfy everyone
  4. Pay

Library Assistant 2's, 3's & Digital Resource Specialists (DRS)

The Library Assistant 1's thought:

Best / Easiest
  1. They provide training
  2. Resourceful
  3. Having a great staff to work with
Worse / Hardest
  1. Have to keep track of paperwork
  2. Dealing with patrons with no computer experience
  3. Ordering Supplies
  4. Being innovative when you have nothing to work with

The Municipal Guards thought:

Best / Easiest
  1. They really know their job
  2. They love their job
  3. They really step up when the time comes
  4. They get to schedule computer programming & the lab
  5. They order our supplies
Worse / Hardest
  1. They think they run the library
  2. Responsible for the money
  3. They can do yearly reviews
  4. They try to boss you around
  5. They have to do the scheduling for all the LA's

The Librarians thought:

Best / Easiest
  1. Team Leader - Learn Leadership Skills
  2. Training new staff 
  3. Trusted
  4. More variety
  5. Digital Resource Specialists can really specialize
  6. They see results / rewarding
Worse / Hardest

  1. Caught in the middle (mediator)
  2. Same as LA1
  3. Keeping up with changes - AS 45 issues
  4. Scheduling when short / Keeping track of fairness
  5. DRS - Dealing with frustrated computer users

The real story according to the LA 2's, 3's & DRS.

Best / Easiest

  1. Delegating
  2. Pay increase
  3. More input
  4. More responsibilities
  5. Creating team environment
Worse / Hardest
  1. Delegating
  2. Repeating yourself
  3. Separating work relationships
  4. Staff scheduling
  5. Negative attitudes

Municipal Guards

The Library Assistant 2's, 3's & Digital Resource Specialists thought:

Best / Easiest
  1. Down time
  2. Meet many people / i.e. buildings / contractors
  3. Financially rewarding
  4. Uniform by employer
  5. Work station
Worse / Hardest
  1. Grounds Keeping
  2. Bathroom cleaning
  3. Handling difficult patrons
  4. Securing building
  5. Essential personnel

The Library Assistant 1's thought:

Best / Easiest
  1. No LA duties
  2. Get to walk around
  3. Get to put people out
  4. Offer coworkers a sense of protection & safety
  5. Uniforms show patrons exactly who they are
Worse / Hardest

  1. Unruly patrons
  2. Cleaning public bathrooms
  3. Grounds-keeping (grass, snow, etc)
  4. Some guards not properly trained
  5. Dual job (guard & custodian)

The Librarians thought:

Best / Easiest

  1. Seeing immediate results of their work
  2. Variety
  3. Get to be outside when its nice
  4. Relationships (talking time to talk)
  5. Creating safety / haven

Worse / Hardest
  1. Cleaning bathrooms
  2. Emergency cleaning
  3. Problem patrons
  4. Constant awareness
  5. Shoveling snow

What the Municipal Guards had to say:

Best / Easiest
??????? (They ran out of time)
Worse / Hardest
  1. Cleaning toilets
  2. Grass
  3. Babysitter
  4. Shovel snow
  5. Lack of good equipment
  6. Underpaid
  7. Clean up behind people
  8. Have to deal with problem patrons


What the Library Assistant 2's, 3's & Digital Resource Specialists thought:

Best / Easiest
  1. Sit down
  2. Execute their vision
  3. Help patrons
  4. Spend Grassroots money
  5. Salary
Worse / Hardest
  1. Managing staff
  2. Writing reports / evaluations
  3. Difficult decisions about patrons
  4. Communication with staff
  5. Dual roles

What the Library Assistant 1's had to say:

Best / Easiest
  1. Reference questions
  2. Don't work circulation desk
  3. Going on outreach
  4. They don't have to do library cards
  5. Don't have to do money drawer
Worse / Hardest
  1. Managing staff
  2. Being on floor all day
  3. When to enforce policies
  4. Dealing with building issues
  5. Dealing with disgruntled patrons

What the Municipal Guards thought:

Best / Easiest
  1. They get a nice check
  2. Responsible for the branch
  3. Get to decide how to spend Grassroots
  4. They get to do outreach
  5. If they like you they have your back
Worse / Hardest
  1. Have to deal with everyone
  2. Take public's side
  3. Disrespectful to guard
  4. Listen to LA's
  5. They have to make the final decision

And, the Librarians say:

(They actually did two.  One for generic "Librarian" and one for "Library Supervisors/Branch Managers")


Best / Easiest
  1. Focus on programming
  2. Focus on patron service
  3. Relationships
  4. Buying stuff
  5. Reference Questions
  6. Not so many staff issues
  7. Vocational calling
Worse / Hardest
  1. Staff issues (without formal authority)
  2. Being Acting LS1
  3. LS1 not letting me do what I need to do (micromanages)
  4. Job insecurity
  5. Lack of respect / understanding of vocation

Library Supervisor (LS1) / Branch Manager

Best / Easiest
  1. Authority
  2. Learning new things
  3. Still a librarian
  4. More diversity in job
  5. Setting the tone of the library
Worse / Hardest
  1. Telling people no
  2. Policy interpretation / access to policy
  3. Mediating
  4. Scheduling fairly
  5. Keeping the building open
  6. Ninja problem staff
Note:  I did very little editing to these responses.  All have been transcribed to the best of my ability.


Developing Empathy for our Patrons - and Each Other

Warning!  This is part one of a two part post.  The second part is: "What We Thing of Each Other's Jobs"

I have found over the last two years that the job of Cluster Leader involves much more than dealing with the logistics of overseeing six individual libraries, their staff and their communities.  It is continuously keeping a finger on the pulse all things North Philadelphia Neighborhood Libraries. This is partially done by listening carefully to verbal as well as non-verbal communication.  It helps tremendously that there are several staff members from up and down the ladder who will apprise me of the prevailing attitudes of the group.  Several months ago, I detected a significant dip in morale, attitude and customer service levels throughout the cluster libraries.  There seemed to be numerous reasons for this, which need not be addressed here.  It was time for action.

At the September meeting, I introduced an activity which I deliberately kept fairly open ended. Using resources from the Design Thinking for Libraries pre-conference training at the 2015 American Libraries Association conference, I chose the Define a Design Challenge Activity.  The activity has four questions.  Groups of 4 - 5 staff identified a user group and worked on their scenarios.

  1. Who is the user group?
  2. What are the problems they struggle with that you could solve?
  3. Is there the potential to explore multiple solutions?
  4. Is it feasible to complete in a 5-6 week timeline?
The scenarios where then passed around to the other groups for a rating process described below.

Rate each design challenge, then add up your score.
Considering the project with the highest score is a dimension that can help you select your project.

Each element is rated from 1 - 5
  1. Instinctively, how excited are you about this design challenge?
  2. What potential for impact in your community does this design challenge have?
  3. How feasible is it to tackle this challenge over the next 5-6 weeks

The groups identified in descending order of their rankings were:

  1. Group:  Patrons
    Problem: Lack of Computer Skills
    Score: 47
  2. Group: Jobseekers
    Problem: Struggle with online applications
    Score: 44
  3. Group: Children (4 - 10)
    Problem: Bored/Unattended
    Score: 38
  4. Group: Staff
    Problem: Lack of Communication
    Score 36
  5. Group: Students
    Problem: Computer help/Boredom/Programs
A month later, at the October meeting, I took this process one step further.  Using the book, Game Storming : A Playbook for Innovators, Rulebreakers, and Changemakers by Dave Gray, Sunni Brown & James Macanufo, I found something called an Empathy Map.  The object is to quickly develop a customer or user profile.  We did a map for each of the groups mentioned above.  My initial intention was to create a simple "Bill of Rights" for each of the user groups as a reminder to staff about why they should be delivering outstanding customer service to everyone. (Photos of the Empathy Maps are at the bottom of this post.)

Close examination of the Empathy Maps indicated some really intuitive insights into all of the user groups, and showed potential paths to take for each.  However, the staff map was screaming for attention.  Clearly, that is where we should be focusing our attention right now.  I spent the next several weeks considering how to address this.

I finally had a plan for the November meeting.  Our activity was very loosely based on exercises I had participated in many years ago at a diversity training.  I divided the group by their job classes. Municipal Guards. Library Assistant 1's.  Digital Resource Specialists with Library Assistant 2s/3s. Librarians and Librarian Supervisors were also together.  Each group was charged with developing a list of the five best and worst parts of each of the other groups' jobs based on their own perceptions. (The results of this is in the post mentioned above - "What We Think of Each Other's Jobs")

We processed this exercise very briefly because of time constraints.  The feedback I received is that there were several "aha" moments for everyone.  There are parts of all of the jobs they had not considered before, and there is a better appreciate for everyone's job.  Next in the plan is to use this insight to build a North Philadelphia Staff Bill of Rights.  What can all staff expect when they come to work every day?  While most of that might seem obvious, my experience is that there are almost always a few surprises when any team comes together to this type of work.

Stay tuned.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

The Story of Ferdinand the Pit Bull

The following post was written by Marcela Franco, Manager of Kensington Library about the rescue of a dog from a vacant lot behind the library.  Ann Dougherty, the Children's Librarian at Kensington, had a deep love and respect for all animals. Prior to her sudden death in early March 2015, Ann helped to rescue the dog and was instrumental in finding him a permanent home.  A mural was commissioned and installed using funds donated by Ann's family and friends to commemorate Ann and her dogs.

The mural at the Kensington Library in honor of Ann Dougherty was completed last week! I thought that this would be a good time to post an entry telling the story of the part Ann played in rescuing a dog from a junkyard behind the library.  The dog, Ferdinand, is featured in the new mural. This story conveys the compassion, kindness, and love of animals that were so apparent to all who knew Ann.

I first saw the dog looking sad and alone in a yard behind the library. The lot was full of junk and trash, and had a fence around it. I assumed he was owned by someone in a house located directly in front of the vacant lot. A couple of weeks later, a man came in to tell me that the dog was hungry, itchy, and had cuts all over him. He spoke only Spanish, and asked me to call the ASPCA for him. I made several phone calls and was promised that someone would come out to check on the dog.

The next day, as Ann Dougherty was walking into the library in the morning, she saw the dog with his nose against the fence. He was whimpering. A neighborhood resident told us that the dog’s owner was incarcerated. He said he had been alone in the junkyard for several weeks, and they were feeding him through the fence. Ann came in and reported the information to me, and I made another call to ACCT.

As fate would have it, Gigi Glendinning of 22reasons animal welfare organization was scheduled to meet with us at the library that morning. When she arrived, Ann led her outside to see the dog. He came out from his hiding place and greeted his friends on the street, licking their hands through the fence. Gigi felt it was time we took him to the animal shelter. With that, Operation Rescue Ferdinand began.

Ann and Gigi took their meeting on the road, and drove Ferdinand to PAWS, a no-kill shelter. There they were told that rescued animals were not admitted on site. They would have to go through the Animal Care and Control Team (a kill shelter) on Erie Avenue, and PAWS could “pull” Ferdinand from there in a few days. They proceeded to ACCT, all the while falling in love with this face-licking pit bull who was clearly happy to be rescued!

At this point, the story almost took a tragic turn. If not for follow-up phone calls from Gigi and Ann to check on Ferdinand’s status, he would have been euthanized due to lack of space. PAWS made no effort to pull him as promised.  Fearing for his life, Gigi officially adopted Ferdinand. She took him home to care for him until she could come up with another plan. (She had two cats and a full schedule, and could not adopt Ferdinand herself.)

Though he is a lovable, gentle dog, Miss Gigi had a challenging week or so taking care of Ferdinand and trying to find a home for him. Then something wonderful happened. A friend of a friend came forward to adopt Ferdinand! They took him into their lovely home, and thanks to Ann, Gigi, and the compassion in our Kensington community, this lucky dog went from the filthy junk yard to a warm home with a devoted family! His new name is Franklin Ferdinand.

After Ferdinand’s rescue (which was in September or October of 2014), Ann proudly displayed a large photo of Ferdinand on her desk until the day she passed away. She also shared photos, video and news of him like a doting grandmother.

(The white dog at the top is Ferdinand. The other dog is Ann's family pet.)

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Musings from Annual Reports

As much as I am a proponent of open communication, and encourage feedback of all types from everyone on staff at any of the six cluster libraries, I don't always feel like I know the true thoughts about how "things" are going.  In preparing my own Annual Report, I read through each of the library's report multiple times, and in some cases, got an insight into the managers' assessment of this great experiment.

Without identifying the library, or the manager, and without editing the relevant comments, here is what has been reported.

Under "Reports on Goals for FY14"

  • The North Philadelphia Neighborhood Libraries Cluster started officially in October 2013.  We have experienced greater collaboration and collegiality as a result of monthly training meetings and regular staff sharing.  The quarterly Community Council meetings with community partners and other nonprofit agencies has been very useful and has led to collaboration and sharing resources including staff, program ideas and outreach and networking opportunities.

  • Cluster changes.  Our goal was to be part of a successful implementation of the Free Library's new cluster model.  The cluster is now a year old.  Among the benefits the cluster model has brought us are closer working relationships staff at our sister libraries.  Now when we telephone one of the other cluster libraries the person at the other end is a comrade, not an anonymous voice.  Staff is more willing to help cover staff shortages at other cluster libraries.  They are comfortable because they know the staff, and since they've been to all the cluster libraries for monthly meetings, they know the buildings, and they have their SEPTA route or parking issues worked out.  We have made some useful community contacts at our cluster community meetings.  One of the most helpful to me was meeting a representative from the SEPTA transit police, who has been sending his officers to my library to check on drug activity in the park and to sign our police log book.
Under "Statistical information"
  • Registrations increased from 2,556 in FY 2013 to 2,703 in FY 2014.  Branch librarians speculate that the North Philadelphia Neighborhood Libraries Cluster policy for requiring a library card to use a PC contributed to this increase.  The new policy, which was put into effect in March of 2014, also allowed for computer use only cards.  The ID requirements for the computer use cards were not as stringent as those for acquiring a regular library card.  These factors likely led to the higher number of library cards issued in FY 2014.
Under "Problems encountered" is further comment on the computer use cards.  (I recognize that the reference to fines being a barrier to receiving a card was not officially true, but it is one that many library staff believe to be true.)
  • We used to have a constant stream of the same patrons wanting guest passes to use the computers day after day.  These were mostly people who couldn't get a library card because of accumulated fines and lost item charges.  Others consistently "forgot" to bring their cards every time they came.  Others were using the guest pass system dishonestly to get around the one computer turn per day PCReservation limits.  As a cluster, we decided to issue computer use only cards to people who owe money.  We also decided to strictly limit guest passes to patrons with out of state identification.  This has been a positive change.  We no longer have to deal with the same people day after day.  Patrons have learned to be responsible about bringing their cards.  Patrons who ow fines are glad to be able to use computers without having to plead for a guest pass.
Finally under the "Plans for FY15"
  • Research into child development has shown that too much screen time for young children is not productive.  We plan to increase the number of manipulative activities in the children's room to lure children away from screens.  This will include more puzzles, busy boxes, blocks and other quiet toys.  The challenge is to choose toys that are library friendly - not too noisy, not too many pieces to lose, and nothing that will add too much to the cleanup tasks of the guard.  This is a goal of our library, as well as our cluster.