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.
- Who is the user group?
- What are the problems they struggle with that you could solve?
- Is there the potential to explore multiple solutions?
- Is it feasible to complete in a 5-6 week timeline?
- Instinctively, how excited are you about this design challenge?
- What potential for impact in your community does this design challenge have?
- How feasible is it to tackle this challenge over the next 5-6 weeks
The groups identified in descending order of their rankings were:
- Group: Patrons
Problem: Lack of Computer Skills
- Group: Jobseekers
Problem: Struggle with online applications
- Group: Children (4 - 10)
- Group: Staff
Problem: Lack of Communication
- Group: Students
Problem: Computer help/Boredom/Programs
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.