Friday, August 19, 2016

KaWhat!?! - Job Description Trivia

At several points during the last few years, I have heard staff in various positions question whether a particular task was their job, or not.  Things like this are what get my wheels turning.  How can I address this without lecturing (to which no one would listen), or doing some dry, boring activity. Fortunately, my co-worker attended a presentation by the Free Library's New American's committee and they used Kahoot! in order to present some facts and figures about immigration in the U.S. Perfect!

Kahoot! is an online interactive platform that allows you to design a trivia game or lesson that participants use their individual devices in order to answer the questions. (Click on the word Kahoot! to go to the site.) Score is kept and progress is shown on the screen after every questions.

We did the exercise at our last cluster meeting.  Hilarity ensued, and Aha moments occurred.  I do believe a number of people were surprised by some of the answers.  Below is a screen shot of the questions we asked.  All of the answers were validated afterwards in a PowerPoint presentation that directly quoted the job descriptions and the Customer Service Policy, which I informed the group trumps job descriptions every time. To see the slides, click here.  If there are FLP Cluster Leaders, or other staff out there who are interested in using our Kahoot! I believe this link : will take you there.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Patron Bill of Rights - The Final Draft

The staff of North Philadelphia Neighborhood Libraries has, over the course of multiple Cluster meetings, worked on developing the statement below.  This entire process has been described in previous blog posts.  At the June meeting, we took a final look at this document, and realized there was no mention of computers in our initial draft.  Since this is the purpose for the majority of visits at our libraries, it needed to be added.  Currently, all staff agree that this statement addresses all of the primary areas of providing good customer service.  It will be posted in our workrooms, as a reminder to all staff why it should be that we come to work each day.

Patron Bill of Rights
When patrons enter any of the libraries in North Philadelphia, they have the right to expect:
  • Courteous, friendly staff with a willingness to listen
  • Clean, safe, and comfortable building
  • Staff to give accurate information and/or appropriate referrals 
  • Access to working PC's with staff able to give appropriate assistance as needed

We are still in the process of working on a similar statement for staff, and have a draft.  More to come on that later.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Bringing Nature Inside at the Libary

There has been much research and many studies recently regarding the effects of nature and natural materials on the psyches of children and adults.  The link below will lead you to some of them, however, to sum it all up; children and adults need nature in their lives.  ( )

In several previous posts, I've described the six libraries in the North Philadelphia Cluster in many ways. This time I'll describe their settings in regards to the availability of nature and natural settings.

Three of the libraries have little or no nature close at hand. Kensington, has no grass, trees, or any other type of natural growth immediately on its property.  Ramonita de Rodriguez  and Cecil B. Moore each have a couple of small trees in the front, but, otherwise nothing else.  Widener has a small area of grass behind the library, which has been used for various programs involving nature. Lillian Marrero has a fenced-in yard surrounding it. And, McPherson Square sits in the middle of a large square, which would be wonderful, if it wasn't also known as "Needle Park"as it sits at the epicenter of the heroin trade.  Long story short, there isn't much opportunity for programs involving nature outside of our libraries.  What do you do?

Of course, you bring nature into the library.  I have, on several occasions, attended the Nature Play Study Group organized by DVAEYC.  It is attended by a number of teachers from preschools that have outdoor classrooms or access to forested areas.  There are also people from other types of organizations who are interested in this topic. I attend each meeting with the primary purpose of considering how to adapt the activities to take place in a library setting.

We have done some very simple things, like using sweet gum tree balls and small pine cones with
the kitchen sets instead of purchased play food.  (The play food tends to disappear rather quickly, and the children do not put the natural items in their mouths.)

Tree cookies are another item which works well in the library.  They are
good for building, counting, as loose parts to be used with wooden blocks, examining textures, and every other thing the children can dream up.

There are several ideas we have and will make them available as soon as we have the materials needed.  An example is this simple building project that uses twigs and stones.

These are very small efforts, indeed.  However, at the rate these items go home in pockets and bags, and need to be replaced by librarians and others, it become apparent that the children are fascinated by these natural objects and don't always need store-bought pretend food or other things.

The staff of the North Philadelphia Cluster think I'm a little obsessed with this, and maybe I am.  Here is an article from the National Association of the Education of Young Children to back me up.  Also, if you are in Philadelphia, we will happily accept donations of pine cones, pebbles, tree cookies, and other natural objects.


Friday, May 13, 2016

In a world of change ...

"In a world of change, the learners shall inherit the earth, while the learned shall find themselves perfectly suited for a world that no longer exists."  Eric Hoffer

I heard this quote while attending a seminar titled, "The Leaders Role and Responsibility as Mentor" presented by Dr. Chip Bell, and it made an immediate impression on me.  I started to look back on the approximately two and a half years of North Philadelphia Neighborhood Libraries Cluster.  There has been a natural ebb and flow of the group coming together and then drifting apart, into what looks like a dysfunctional family.  There is a closeness and a camaraderie that is only found in groups that have worked together over time, along with the type of tattle-tailing and bickering that frequently happens with siblings.  I don't see this as a bad thing.

We see this with staff.  The people who have "learned" or accepted new ways have had an easier time adapting.  Those who were sure they knew what it is all about took longer to catch up.  I've noticed those are sometimes the ones sitting in the back of the meeting with their arms crossed, or they are the people who always seem to have some other important commitment when cluster meetings are scheduled.  The rest of us are having much more fun discovering new and different ways to do thing.

My thinking then expanded to the wider FLP world, specifically, the staff forums. Who are the people we hear from most on those forums?  The learners or the learned?  Who are the persistent nay-sayers? And, who are the voices of reason that occasionally pop up?

I asked a few different people what they thought about this quote, and got the response below from one of them.

"I feel like this implies a willingness to change and adapt.

We see this now with highly educated people who refused to learn/ keep up with technology-  and now they are totally left behind and out of the loop on many current events, innovations, discoveries, etc.

We see this with librarians (and Las) who refuse to accept and adapt to the changing nature of what our job is and insist on reference and books being everything."

I would be interested to hear other people's thoughts on this.

Friday, March 4, 2016

Empathy and a Bill of Rights for Patrons and Staff

At our March 2016 cluster meeting, we had a very nice presentation by the Stephen and Sandra Sheller 11th Street Family Health Services of Drexel University.  The staff at Ramonita G de Rogriguez library have developed an active collaboration with the health center, and wanted to be sure all of the cluster staff were familiar with their services in order to be able to refer patrons as appropriate.  Also, there are several other health centers in North Philadelphia who offer similar types of services. It is helpful that all of the staff are aware of them.

After the presentation, and a break, we were FINALLY able to get back to the work of creating a bill of rights (for lack of a better term right now) for patrons and a separate one for staff.  In other words, what can a patron expect when they walk into one of our libraries.
This process started in September and October  with exercises to begin to think about our patrons.  These are described here.  In November we talked about walking in each other's shoes and about the perceptions each person has about the other's jobs.  That is described here

At this meeting, after yet another soapbox speech by me about the importance of good customer service, staff self-selected whether they wanted to work on patron rights, or staff rights.  I was very pleased that the majority wanted to work on patron rights.  They were divided into groups of 3 - 4 and with newsprint and markers went to work.

Step two of the process involved them "voting" for the points they felt were most important to them using stickers.  Photos of the "voting" process and the completed sheets are at the bottom.

After the meeting, I and a colleague carefully reviewed all of the sheets and boiled down all of the information to the statements below.  This does not complete the process.  This information will be shared back with all of the staff for them to review for anything that is missing, or items they feel should not be there. Additionally, I imagine some wordsmithing will happen.

When completed, these documents will be made into posters for display in the staff workrooms as a reminder.  They are not meant to become public documents.

Patron Bill of Rights

  • Courteous, friendly staff with a willingness to listen
  • Clean, safe, and comfortable building
  • Expect all staff to give accurate information and/or appropriate referrals 

Quality of Work life Expectations
  • Mutual respect and common courtesy
  • Work as a team – support each other beyond job class
  • Communication at all levels
    • Updates on policies, events, patrons, potential problems, etc.
    • Expectation that email will be read on a daily basis
  • Adequate and timely training
  • Tidy, clean, and safe facilities
  • Adequate staff
  • Adequate supplies