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.

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