Posted by Peter Bromberg
This week I came to the end of two wonderful chapters in my life.
First, this was my final week of employment at the South Jersey Regional Library Cooperative (SJRLC), where I have enjoyed working for the past nine years. And second, this is my final post at the Library Garden blog, where I have had the pleasure of writing for the past four years. Both departures are bittersweet, filled with sadness and loss, but also mixed with excitement for the what lies ahead. On Monday, August 2nd I will begin as Assistant Director at the Princeton Public Library, and at the same time I will launch a new blog at http://blog.peterbromberg.com.
I would like use this opportunity, my final post at LG, to do something that I have never done before. I am going to break my cardinal Library Garden blogging rule and write a post that is intended primarily for the New Jersey library community. If you are not a member of the NJ library community I encourage and invite you to read on, as the topic I’m about to address has broader implications for librarianship. But again, I am writing directly to you my NJ colleagues.
CONGRATULATIONS, I’M SORRY
Those of you in NJ know that we have just emerged from a partially successful four-month advocacy campaign to restore state funding for library services. In March we received devastating news that the Governor had slashed library funding 74% in his proposed budget, effectively putting an end to vital library services including delivery, interlibrary loan, shared full-text databases, and the New Jersey Library Network including the four Regional Library Cooperatives. In late June, after an advocacy campaign that generated tens of thousands of letters of support, we learned that much of the funding was restored, and many services would be saved. Unfortunately, as in other states (including Colorado, Massachusetts and Illinois), the Cooperative system — a system in place for nearly 25 years — is being downsized, as the State Librarian has made a decision to consolidate the four Cooperatives into one.
I have been approached by a number of people who have asked me to either write or co-write an article on the phenomena of merging and downsizing regional library cooperatives. We’ve seen a similar pattern with many former OCLC affiliates like Palinet and Solinet merging into Lyrasis. What is the impact of merging library cooperatives — of effectively de-regionalizing? Are regional library cooperatives even necessary in this day and age?
I’ve been pondering the requests to write about these questions over the past few weeks as I clean out my office, thinking about the different angles and struggling to clarify for myself the core questions to be explored. Part of my struggle is this: I place great personal value on transparency, dialogue, and fact-based decision making, and have been feeling a great deal of disappointment in not seeing those values honored or expressed to the extent I would have liked as the decision to consolidate the Cooperatives was made. It distressed me that a very important decision with far-reaching ramifications was made so quickly and with what I regarded as little input from the library community. (The State Librarian put together an Advisory Committee to advise on budget/spending priorities but the Committee was not asked to give input on the consolidation of the Regions– a decision that had been made before the Committee convened on July 6th.) I resisted writing anything because I was aware that my own disappointment in the process, and my very personal and emotional connection to the results of the process, were making it difficult for me to think clearly or objectively about the issues.
BRIDGING THE PAST AND THE FUTURE
For weeks I have struggled to get clarity on my mix of emotions, experience them, and release them, in an attempt to get to a place where I could reasonably address the broader topic of the value of libraries cooperatives in 2010 in a relatively dispassionate manner.
And then, a bit of providence.
As I cleaned my office, finding all manner of interesting artifacts, I came across this document, a record of a focus group convened for the State Librarian in 1992 to explore the challenges then facing the New Jersey Library Network, then only six years old. The questions got directly to the heart of the matter: Are Regional Library Cooperatives of value, and if so, how and to what degree? Seeing these questions and answers helped me get to the heart of my questions and my concerns.
What, in 2010, is the value of having a Cooperative system? With the consolidation of our Regional Cooperatives, something is gained and something is lost. Looking forward, it is important that the New Jersey library community have an open and informed dialogue that addresses our reduced resources, and determines which spending priorities will most benefit the libraries, and hence the library customers. With regard to the consolidation of the Regions, I think it would be fruitful to ask:
- What has been gained by consolidation, and how do we maximize those gains?
- What has been lost due to consolidation, and how do we mitigate those losses?
As I write this I am at a point in my life of great change. At this moment I stand at a personal and professional juncture between my past experiences, accomplishments, and failures, and my future challenges, struggles, and (hopefully) victories and successes. Perhaps it is because I am straddling this brief period of time, bridging what was and what is about to be, that I have a desire to build another bridge.
VALUE OF COOPERATIVE SERVICES: TAKE THE SURVEY! (open until Sept 15!)
The focus group document from 1992 provides a useful historical context for exploring the questions we are struggling with in 2010. In the interest of furthering the dialogue — the open dialogue I firmly believe we must have to make wise and fiscally sound decisions that will strengthen our libraries and our library community — I have created a survey modeled after the 1992 focus group. It is a bridge between then and now, between where we were and where we need to be. I invite all members of the NJ library community to participate in whole or in part. The direct survey link is: http://spreadsheets.google.com/viewform?formkey=dG4zYmx1SEM1VGV4ZFFGdVBodHp4U1E6MQ. Note: Extended until Sept 15! the survey closes on August 9th.
There are 12 questions, and all are essay/short answer. You may be as brief or as detailed as the spirit moves. Answer one question, or answer all of them. I appreciate any and all feedback that you can provide. It is only by generating this information that we can begin to have an informed and productive discussion regarding the future of Cooperative service for NJ libraries, and the best use of our increasingly limited state resources. I will use the survey information to inform my future writings, and will also share the results with the State Advisory Committee, the State Library, Infolink, and the New Jersey library community.
It is of course difficult to discuss resource allocation without knowing what the resources are, so for your convenience I am providing links to the FY2010 and FY2011 budget allocations from the state:
- FY2010 Budget Allocation for NJ Library Services
- FY2011 Budget Allocation for NJ Library Services
- All State Advisory Committee (includes comparative budget data)
SO LONG, FAREWELL, AMEN
I’d like to conclude this post by thanking my co-writers at Library Garden, especially Janie Hermann and Robert Lackie who were instrumental in founding and building this blog along with me. It has been an honor to write with all of you. I value the relationships that we have formed and know that we will continue to enjoy many adventures together.
I would also like to thank my co-workers at SJRLC: Sandi Augello, Beth Cackowski, Anne Marie Hering, and most especially Karen Hyman who has offered so much support and wisdom and from whom I have learned so very much. You are all my family, and it has been an honor and a pleasure to work so closely with you.
Finally, I’d like to thank the readers of Library Garden for any eyeball time you’ve given my posts over the past four years. If you’ve enjoyed or been otherwise engaged by what you’ve read, please join me as I continue the conversation at blog.peterbromberg.com. And I will join you as I transition from Library Garden writer to faithful Library Garden reader.
Links to documents referenced
- Survey link (closes 9/15 closes 8/9)
- FY2010 NJ funding for libraries
- FY2011 NJ funding for libraries
- 1992 Focus Group
- Statewide Advisory Committee (with additional budget information) (pdf version)
Posted by Peter Bromberg
Congratulations to Amy Kearns on her appointment as Assistant Director at the Middletown Township Public Library!
MIDDLETOWN TOWNSHIP PUBLIC LIBRARY
55 NEW MONMOUTH ROAD 9 MIDDLETOWN, NJ 07748
PHONE: 732.671.3700 * SUSAN O’NEAL, DIRECTOR
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: Susan O’Neal, Director
SUBJECT: MIDDLETOWN TOWNSHIPS LIBRARY NAMES NEW ASSISTANT DIRECTOR
The Middletown Township Public Library is pleased to announce that Amy J. Kearns will join the staff as Assistant Director / Manager of Adult Services on July 27, 2010. She will replace longtime library employee and Assistant Director JoAnn Strano, who is retiring.
Amy has her undergraduate and Master of Library and Information Science degree from Rutgers University, where she is a part-time instructor on the topic of information technologies. She previously worked in the Clifton and Paterson public libraries before her most recent position as the Program Coordinator for the Central Jersey Regional Library Cooperative.
Her experience in information technology includes the development of new programs and workshops for the CJRLC, a consortium of over five hundred member libraries, presentations at state and national library organizations, workshops in libraries and one-on-one training. “Amy is an unabashed change agent,” said Susan O’Neal, Director of the Middletown Library. “We have every expectation that Amy will help us use the same technology that our customers favor and channel it to meet library needs and improve services.”
Ms. Kearns has experience developing and using webinars for training purposes. According to O’Neal, use of web-based training has reduced continuing education and training costs for the library, and that Ms. Kearns will be putting her skills to work to create a series of information literacy webinars for the public to access from work, school or home. A sample class might be on how to do research on the library’s databases, replicating instruction that is provided in-house, but for participants, who, for whatever reason, cannot come to the library itself.
Duties will include management of the Adult Services Department, selection of reference department materials, personnel administration, staff continuing education and subscription database management. The Assistant Director is on the management team, participates or leads several internal committees, and is the person-in-charge in the absence of the library director.
When asked to comment on this appointment, Ms Kearns said, “The Middletown Township Public Library is a model of excellent and creative library service and I am honored to have the opportunity to work with Susan O’Neal and the talented staff. I am very excited about joining the library team and providing service to the Middletown Township community.”
The Middletown Township Public Library is located at 55 New Monmouth Road, just off Hwy 35. For information about the library and its services check out the website: www.mtul.org.
Looking to spice up your ALA Conference with something a little different? Something engaging? Something fun? Then get thee to the UNCONFERENCE, June 25, 2010 from 9am-4:30pm.
The incomparable duo of Michelle Boule and Sean Robinson, have joined together to bring you this year’s #unala10 unconference! So mark your calendars for June 25, 2010 from 9am-4:30pm, and then go register. Do it now, space is limited. Shhh.. listen… I think I just heard another seat fill. Hurry, register for the unconference now! (http://annual.ala.org/2010/index.php?title=Unconference_Registration)
WAIT, I WANT TO KNOW MORE
You want to know more? I already told you Michelle and Sean are involved, that’s not enough? Ok… They are mixing it up this year with flash debates, Pecha Kecha presentations, and a fishbowl at the end of the day. (A whatbowl? A fishbowl— Read the wikipedia entry.) The event is conveniently located in the conference center so there should be good free wifi too! What more could you want?
Complete information is available at: http://annual.ala.org/2010/index.php?title=Unconference.
Posted by Peter Bromberg
Posted by Peter Bromberg
It’s been a while since I blogged about the difference between Agents and Gatekeepers, wherein I quoted one of my favorite passages from Danny Meyer’s book, Setting the Table (the book is also a favorite of the Darien Library, according to John Blyberg; Char Booth has also expressed her appreciation for Meyer’s ideas.)
An agent makes things happen for others. A gatekeeper sets up barriers to keep people out. We’re looking for agents, and our staff members are responsible for monitoring their own performance: In that transaction, did I present myself as an agent or a gatekeeper? In the world of hospitality, there’s rarely anything in between.
I was recently reminded of the power of the “agent” concept while reading an article by Dan Pink on theories of motivation. The following quote caught my attention (It is from Maury Weinstein, founder of System Source, explaining to his sales staff why he did away with sales commissions):
We want you to be an agent for the customer rather than a salesperson.
Agent for the customer… Yes, yes, yes! I love this concept! Meyer says that hospitality exists when the customer believes the employee is on their side. He suggests that hospitality is present when something happens for you and is absent when something happens to you. I’m sure we can all quickly think of experiences where we felt that the person helping us was on our side, (was doing for us), and we can reflect on how that translated directly into a positive customer experience for us– even if the the interaction began because of a problem…
HOME DEPOT: CUSTOMER SERVICE TURNAROUND
I’m coming to the end of an 18 month renovation to my house, which means I’ve spent an awful lot of time (and money) at The Home Depot over the past year and a half. During the last few months I’ve noticed a marked improvement in the customer service at the store. There are more employees available to help, there are always one or two greeters at the door, and employees who are just walking by smile and greet me.
The most noticeable (and appreciated) phenomena though is how Home Depot has handled some recent problems with a damaged sink, and the return of a few (expensive) items that we did not need. On three different occasions, three different customer service agents took care of me, ensuring that the returns were taken, restocking fees were waived, and the stockroom was manually checked for a replacement part even though the computer said it wasn’t in stock (and the correct item was found saving me a trip to another store.)
This is some turnaround in customer service ethic for The Depot and apparently I’m not the only person who’s noticed. I can sum up my recent experiences by saying that in each interaction I felt that the Home Depot representative was on my side. They were friendly, patient (at times exceedingly patient), and consistent in their desire to meet my needs. I was not quoted policy, I was offered apologies. I was not told to wait in another line, I was brought over to the service desk where I could be more comfortable and given quicker service. I was not asked for receipts, I was asked for my address so they could look up my account and review my purchases. In other words, I was consistently served by agents rather than gatekeepers.
As I make my transition back to the world of public libraries, I will strive to keep this experience, and the ideas of hospitality and agency –of being on the side of my customers (both internal and external) – uppermost in my mind. Being on the side of the customer is a simple idea, but one that offers powerful guidance. And, I hope, powerful results.
By Peter Bromberg
It was an honor to be a part of TEDxNJLibraries.
For more pictures from the event, see: http://www.flickr.com/groups/tedxnjlibraries/.
To follow the Twitter stream, see: http://search.twitter.com/search?q=%23tedxnjlibs.
Posted by Peter Bromberg
Hey, check out my new post at ALAlearning.org on the benefits of co-presenting:
What do these five people have in common?
- Marie Radford
- Joe Janes
- Anne Lipow
- Jim Rettig
- Carole Leita
If you guessed that they’ve all been honored for their distinguished contribution to reference librarianship by being selected for RUSA’s Isadore Gilbert Mudge Award you’d be right!
RUSA’s press release discussed why the awards committee selected Marie this year:
In selecting Radford for this honor, the committee cited her many accomplishments, including authorship of four books, among them “Conducting the Reference Interview (2nd ed.),” “The Reference Encounter: Interpersonal Communication in the Academic Library” and “Web Research: Selecting, Evaluating, and Citing”; editorship of three other books, including “Reference Renaissance: Current and Future Trends”and “Academic Library Research”;numerous articles published in top library journals; and dozens of conference papers and presentations.
In addition to her publications, Radford brings high energy, deep passion and an interdisciplinary approach to the study of face-to-face and virtual reference. She has provided inspirational leadership in professional organizations such as RUSA, ALA, the Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL) and the Association for Library and Information Science Education (ALISE). Radford is currently co-chair of the conference program for the Reference Renaissance 2010 and co-chair of contributed papers for ACRL’s 2011 National Conference. She will be the keynote speaker for the upcoming 2010 REFolution Conference.
Marie, a hearty congratulations from your fellow Library Garden bloggers on this well-deserved recognition. It’s nice to see others in the profession noticing and celebrating what we in New Jersey have known for a long time — you are amazing!!