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PLA preconference, Top Ten Benefits of Tough Economic Times

The PLA preconference, Top Ten Benefits of Tough Economic Times, was presented by Cathy Hakala-Ausperk and Kim Bolan Cullin. Cathy and Kim started the session by talking about the importance of the CASE philosophy. If you’re unfamiliar with the CASE it stands for Copy and Steal Everything.

In that vein, I am going to present to you a summary of their top ten benefits of tough economic times in reverse order;

10. Refresh Your Organization- This is the opportunity to look at the positions in your organization to see if the needs can be met through making positions more diversified or by changing the roles and services provided by the positions. You should be asking yourself if there is a need for the position, how else it can be filled, what else can be done? How much of the work is really relevant and how much is just filler? Its important to make the positions more fulfilling and satisfying by utilizing the talent that the employees.

9. Developing Staff Skills – Tough times can give libraries the opportunity to learn and grow from each other. Instead of paying for coaches and consultants, you can utilize the knowledge of your staff to train other staff members. Its important to allow staff to cross train other staff in a various roles and positions to give them the opportunity to grow and help people on multiple levels. Allowing staff to work together to teach each other can also help staff work more effective in teams, improve moral, or to work more collaboratively.

8. Make New Friends- In the good times, all these good friends existed out there but we weren’t talking to them. Now, in the hard times, we need to renew these friendships and make new friends. It’s important that you rely on local organizations and that you encourage them to rely on you for the resources that both can share. For example, the library can supply the community space for a food or hunger organization and the organization can provide the program.

7. Finally Write That Grant – Get someone who has an affinity for writing, has attention to detail, and most importantly has an interest in writing a grant. It would be helpful to get someone on your staff to help review state and federal grants so that they get trained (for free) about the grant writing process. You can also utilize volunteers who are looking to keep their work experience solid while they are unemployed to write grants.

6. Say It Better (Improve Communications) – good old fashion face-to-face communication. These times we have gone through have created so much fear and libraries are relearning the importance of communicating effectively to staff. Simple things, like leaving your door open, can help staff change their perception of you.

5. Kill Mission Creep – The most important skill a manager has is to demonstrate confidence with a clear message and knowing what they want. You want staff to get behind your initiatives and know where the library is headed. It’s important to revisit the strategic plan to make sure that all staff is working towards the same goals. Bad things start to happen if the only thing your working towards is keeping the doors open. Figure out what is it you really want to do and do it really well instead of trying to do to many things part way. In order to accomplish this, you should figure out how to say no to things that lie outside of goals of the strategic plan.

4. Enjoy Spring Cleaning (Leaner Facilities) – There is a lot you can do to fix up and change your facility for little to no money. Take this opportunity to clean out and throw away what you don’t need and to create a leaner space. Remember the adage, there is a place for everything and everything in its place and having too much “stuff” around the building leads to less efficiency. Explain the why’s of why a leaner space is a better space. For example, decrease the number of flyers on the desks and teach staff to be better salesman with face-to-face interactions.

3. Weed’em and Reep – Many libraries are weeding significant portions of their non-fiction collections to make room for more computers and chairs or other resources that patrons may need at a higher level. Perform a turnover analysis on all of your collections and anything that is low should be considered for downsizing.

2. Meet New Needs and Create New Users – Its important to have fun and change with the needs of the community to gain a new set of users. If people had an experience that is relevant to their lives, its more likely that they will vote in favor of the library when it comes time to go to the taxpayers for funding. We have created many rules to preclude patrons from using the facilities and we should be starting to change to more welcoming spaces.

1. Adjust Your Attitude – A fish stinks from the head down. Managers and leaders who are up against the challenges of the economic downturn and are negative will not inspire staff to rise above the challenges to solve the problems. By solving the problems from a positive space the manager creates a sense of team and comradely. Even if you’re not in a leadership position its possible to lead through your attitude towards staff and situations.