Developing a Community-Led Service Structure

Following on his previous posts about strategy and staff structure, John’s latest contribution to the Community-Led Work in Practice: Experiences from Canadian Libraries series is on developing a community-led service structure.  A PDF of John’s paper can be found here, and link to all of the papers in the series is located on the Resources page.

Please also visit John’s regular column, Open for All?, in OLA’s online magazine, Open Shelf.

Developing a Community-Led Service Structure

by John Pateman

The service structure should be determined by the purpose, values, vision and strategic directions of the public library. Form should follow function. This will ensure that the right services are in the right places and at the right times. This will define the size and shape of the library network (the number and location of branches, opening hours), collections (size, range, formats) and programming (community development).

The strategic directions can be used as a Service Sieve. When an opportunity (project, idea, partnership, funding, other) is presented to or identified by the public library it can be put through the Service Sieve. Each sieve represents a strategic direction. The more sieves that an opportunity can pass through will determine its priority level. If an opportunity passes through one sieve it will be a Level 1 (low) priority. If an opportunity passes through several sieves it will be a Level 5 (high) priority. If an opportunity does not pass through any of the sieves it will not be a priority and should not be taken forward. This enables the public library to say yes or no (with a strategic rationale) to new opportunities. This will facilitate the development of a realistic and achievable Service Plan.

Most service structures are driven by history, culture and opportunity rather than by strategy. The size and shape of the library network was determined by historical settlement patterns. But demographics change, both in the size and composition of local communities. A library may have been built to meet the needs of a specific community which has changed or moved away completely. It’s a similar story with opening times. These may have been introduced for a specific reason at a moment in time which no longer applies. But service structures rarely keep up with the times and often become increasingly out of sync with (more…)


Strength in Partnerships: Rejuvenating library service in a rural community

This is the fifth paper in the Network’s Community-Led Work in Practice: Experiences from Canadian Libraries series. A PDF of the the paper is available here. You will find the entire Community-Led Work in Practice: Experiences from Canadian Libraries series in the Resources section.

Strength in Partnerships: Rejuvenating library service in a rural community

By Amanda Fullerton and Sara Gillis

In 2013 we were challenged with the task of investigating a sustainable service delivery model for the Musquodoboit Valley, a rural region of Halifax and Halifax Public Libraries’ (HPL) only catchment area without a library branch. During the course of our six-month project we built relationships with the community, collaborated to bring programs to the area, and created a plan for service delivery by applying a community engagement approach, using both community-led and traditional service planning strategies.

A History of Library Service in the Community
The Musquodoboit Valley, and other rural and suburban communities, had access to Mobile Library service until 2012 when, due to a combination of reduced usage, increasing costs, and a reduction in the library’s operating budget, the service was cancelled. Studies of usage indicated many communities were choosing to instead visit their nearest library branch. The exception to this was the Musquodoboit Valley which is geographically isolated from HPL branches.

At the time of its discontinuation, there were six Mobile Library stops in the Musquodoboit Valley totaling just over 7.5 hours of service a week. The Mobile served a group of loyal customers with a strong attachment to both the service and the library staff who worked on the bus. The community response to the cancellation in the Musquodoboit Valley was vocal with residents actively trying to save the service which they’d known since 1961. When Mobile Library service ended, customers were directed to HPL’s Borrow By Mail, a service which had been in place for rural communities since 1981.

In 2013 the library committed to investigating a sustainable service delivery model for this region with the mandate of identifying potential ways to serve a community without a physical library branch in the vicinity. Under the direction of the Library’s Director of Community and Branch Services, a term Community Librarian position was created to work with the Community Engagement Manager on a six-month project to better understand community needs and pilot services. (more…)

Honoraria and food

Hi everyone,

I’m curious about what various library systems do to acknowledge participants’ time when seeking input from community members for library purposes.

At VPL, we’re compiling a report on our Access VPL card (low-barrier card) and are interviewing community members about their experiences in order to create case studies. Our general policy is that we don’t provide honoraria, but this is one of those cases where we’re looking at the possibility.

Thanks for any input!


Creating a Community-Led Staff Structure

Last week John Pateman wrote about developing a community-led strategy.  This week his post delves into aligning a library’s staffing structure to its Purpose, Vision, Values, and Strategic Objectives – critical for the community-led library.  A PDF of John’s article can be found here. This post also appeared in Open Shelf, OLA’s online magazine. 

Creating a Community-Led Staff Structure

by John Pateman

What is Structure?
There are two types of Structure in public libraries – the Staff Structure (how staff are organised and managed) and the Service Structure (what services are offered, how, where and when). The Staff Structure will determine how many tiers of staff there are, the number of positions at each tier, and what each position does (defined by job title and job description). An efficient and effective Staff Structure enables the public library to get the greatest value out of its most significant and valuable resource – its staff.

Why does it matter?
The Staff Structure should employ the principle that form follows function. In other words, the Staff Structure should reflect the Purpose, Vision, Values and Strategic Directions of the public library. If the Staff Structure does not reflect the Strategic Objectives of the public library then it will not be able to deliver those objectives. It will not be fit for purpose. Many public libraries go through a regular process of reviewing and updating their Strategic Plan every three to five years. But few public libraries review and update their Staff Structure to reflect the new Strategic Plan objectives. Over time this means that the gap between the Strategic Plan and the Staff Structure gets wider and wider. At some point this gap will be so wide that the organisation can no longer deliver its objectives. This will then require large scale structural change to bring the Staff Structure back into line with the Strategy. It is a much easier task to continually adjust and fine tune the Staff Structure on an ongoing basis so that this misalignment does not occur.

Who should be involved?
Changes to Staff Structure have the most immediate, direct and biggest impact on staff, and so they must be actively involved and engaged in the change process. This must include everyone who works for the public library, from the CEO / Chief Librarian to the Cleaner, and everyone in between. The public library Board must also be involved because an effective Staff Structure is vital to the good governance of the organisation. Partners and suppliers should be engaged as well. They can play a useful role as ‘critical friends.’ They do not work directly for the public library and can give independent and objective perspectives on what works and what can be improved. The community must also have a say, whether they be active library users, passive users or non users. Their taxes pay the salaries of staff who exist to meet their needs and so they should have a significant input into the structural change process. (more…)

Let the Community Lead: MPL’s Community-Led Strategic Planning Process

In 2012 Markham Public Library made a significant organizational change by repositioning professional librarians from public service roles in branches to Community Librarian positions dedicated to community development.  Wanting to further build on their community engagement work, MPL turned to community stakeholders when developing their 2015-17 Strategic Plan.

A PDF of the the paper is available here. You will find the entire Community-Led Work in Practice: Experiences from Canadian Libraries series in the Resource section.

Let the Community Lead: MPL’s Community-Led Strategic Planning Process

By Andrea Cecchetto and Leah Rucchetto

Markham Public Library’s 2015-17 Strategic Plan was developed through a community-led process, reflecting our community members’ opinions, ideas, thoughts, hopes, and dreams . Their contribution has shaped the way that Markham Public Library will support our community in the creation of the life and vibrant community that they desire. By adopting a community-led approach to strategic planning, MPL committed to creating community conversations that connect people and empower individuals.

Community Development is Not New
The library has long played a key role in facilitating community access to the tools for education and empowerment. These tools look different today as compared to 50 or even 20 years ago, but our role and the impact that we provide for the community is unchanged. Library Sector associations including the Urban Library Council have “supported the development of vibrant communities by strengthening and promoting the value of libraries as essential public assets,” (Becker).

To continue contributing to a vibrant community, MPL made a significant organizational change in 2012 with the introduction of the Community Librarian role. This role was introduced as a part of a major organizational transformation that resulted in professional librarians being removed from public service in the branches and repositioned as dedicated community development resources. MPL undertook this change as a result of a strategic commitment to reprioritizing the library’s involvement in community building. This decision was taken for a variety of reasons. First, the nature of the Markham community was such that there was a genuine need for community development; the city continues to experience massive growth and urbanization, and there is an increasingly diverse population base with complex needs and expectations for their community. Second, the library administration recognized the unique potential libraries possess to engage disparate community stakeholders in an impartial way to bring them to a common table. Third, MPL has long been committed internally to principles of engagement and innovation. Staff have developed internal expertise in managing and creating change and recognized the potential to apply this expertise to issues of community development. Fourth and finally, we saw this change as an investment in our own sustainability – with our customers’ changing relationship to information and other traditional library services, we were determined to invent our own future with respect to the relevance we have in our community. (more…)

Developing a Community-Led Strategy

In this second paper of the CLLS Network’s  Community-Led Work in Practice: Experiences from Canadian libraries series, Thunder Bay Public Library CEO John Pateman explores the importance of active community and stakeholder involvement in the development and evaluation of a community-led library’s strategy. A PDF of John’s paper is available here.

Developing a Community-Led Strategy

By John Pateman

This paper outlines how Thunder Bay Public Library (TBPL) developed a community-led strategy. I will describe what worked for us, but each solution has to be driven by local circumstances and community needs – which is the essence of a community-led library. We used tools and techniques which have been developed by Edmonton, Vancouver, Halifax and other public libraries in Canada. There is never a one-model-fits all when it comes to community-led, but we now have some tried and tested approaches which provide a blue print and road map for developing community-led services.

What is Strategy?
Strategy is at the heart of a community-led library. It drives everything we do, from staff and service Structures, to Systems (policies and procedures) and Culture (‘the way we do things around here’). If a library does not have a community-led strategy then it cannot be a community-led library. The Strategy provides the WHY a library service exists, WHAT it is trying to achieve, and HOW it is going to achieve its ambitions. The community must be actively involved in all three stages of this process.

Most public libraries have a Strategic Plan but how many of these Plans drive every aspect of the library service? How many staff and patrons are aware of these Plans and put them into practice on a daily basis? I would expect that ‘not many’ is the answer to both of these questions. If staff and patrons are not actively engaged in the development of the Strategic Plan, it is unlikely that they will know or remember what is in it; and it is even more unlikely that they will own and deliver it. (more…)