Monday, July 25, 2016

Summer Makerspace Activities

The library was invited to participate in two community summer camps for children: KidU at Idaho State University and TLC Summer Daycare.  Participant age ranged from 5-13. At both sites, we visited once a week for an hour to lead children through maker activities:

Cardboard Squares
A fun engineering challenge that encourages kids to think creatively. They had fun working independently with their 5 squares, then combining their efforts to work on a massive project. We challenged them to make a structure as wide as possible and as tall as possible. Cardboard is so wonderful!

The kids in our groups had a bit of a struggle with remembering to stay grounded and to keep a complete circuit when working together. We used playdoh as our conductor. Beyond the piano and bongos, the participants enjoyed playing PacMan (make sure your Flash is up to date).

Edison Robots
We received 4 of these as part of our 2nd year participation in the Make It Idaho program. These are super fun and are quick to pick up. My first time using them was during a program. I learned they don't work very well outside on a sunny day because the sunlight interferes with the robot's IR sensor and makes it difficult to scan the pre-programmed barcodes. I like that these are kind of plug-n-play in that you can use the included barcode mat to quickly program the robot for different things and see the different functions of the robot, and also use a drop-n-click programming software to customize the robot functions.

This activity works well with younger kids (I've seen success with kids up to 10 years old).  We got some additional strawbees, so I think having extra supplies to meet the creative demands of the kids helps kids enjoy this activity. I have learned you can never have enough 3-prong connectors.

Paper Circuits
For libraries looking to add makerspace programs without a budget, I always encourage them to buy a roll of copper foil tape, some coin cell batteries, and LEDs. Paper circuits are always a great place to add a little STEM to traditional library crafts!

We seem to use the same activities for our Outreach events. From the patron perspective, this is still the first time they are getting exposed to the concepts, even if the librarian has been through it several times. To keep the librarians engaged, we're always looking for new ways to incorporate the same basic concepts to new projects. :)

See all the Make It Idaho Projects on Facebook

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Procedure Manuals

As part of the Public Services reorganization, I am working on creating procedure documentation for the Reference Department. As per feedback I received during Circulation cross-training in Reference, Circ staff are very unsure about some of the technology troubleshooting in Reference. I looked through the Reference Manual left by my predecessor and didn't see any tutorials on troubleshooting technology. I know that there will come a time when we will have to call on a Circ staff member to cover the Reference Desk, and some technology issue will come up. So, my priority is to create documentation for all the pieces of technology in Reference for staff to refer to, should they get stuck.

I have used Google sites ( to host the online Circulation manual for years. When I created the Circulation procedures manual back in 2010, I got staff feedback on each procedures section and built it bit by bit. Then I printed it. And every year I'd have to update the manual and reprint it. Then staff would struggle to find information while training a new staff member. So, I experimented with Google Sites to see if I could create a searchable document.  It has worked really well for hosting our manual. The site is linked on the web browser on each of the Circ computers and I know the Circ staff refer to it constantly (because they are always bringing updates to my attention). :)

The information on the left side corresponds directly with the new staff training checklist, so it's easy to find the information they need. The information on the right is where I post announcements about things I've updated on the manual.  I really do love this website.

I am trying to recreate that process for the Reference manual.  At the moment, it's a pretty sad site:

But, at each public services meeting we review another topic that I've added to the manual and that's one step closer to having a document to clarify procedures, use in training, and to refer to when staff aren't sure how to do something.  It's really very exciting to me!  This past weekend, during my Reference shift, I put together a tutorial on how to use Envisionware (the software my library uses to manage Internet sessions at public computers).  I have found that staff like the mix of written directions and visuals, so it has a lot of screenshots. Google Sites handles pictures pretty well.

Next month I'll be playing on the public Internet computers to create a tutorial on setting up headphones and printing different kinds of documents. This will take some experimentation on my part. I know it can be a struggle. Last weekend  while assisting a patron, I had to send a job to the print station three times before I could actually get the item printed for the patron.  And I'm supposed to be the expert!

Monday, May 23, 2016

Library Reorganization: Public Services Department

This month we focused on:

Discussing our newly created Library Page positions. These staff members will take over the bulk of shelving duties from Circ clerks. We won't have the extra support for patron interactions. Staff discussed that this will be a balancing act and that I'll be looking for feedback on the best fit for this position at our library.

We worked out a partnership with Administration and Maintenance to make sure the public computers are turned on and logged in, ready to serve the public when we open without having to adjust schedules for early arrivals by staff.

We completed cross-training between Reference and Circulation. Feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. When we get finished with summer, I expect to revisit cross-training between the departments. For now, we have added Library Card applications and fine payment to the Reference Desk.

We talked quite a bit about teen behavior in our library and discussed that staff need to be consistent with follow-up and ask teens to leave. We have several groups right now that know which staff members will not make them leave the building.

During the public services staff meeting today, I loved that the Circ and Reference staff had more of a conversation between themselves. I look forward to providing more discussion fodder to solidify our team!  We also reported back on our Self-Directed Achievement topics, which was great to hear about from everyone. 

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Presenting SDA to City Department Heads

Last week I was invited to present my library's version of Self-Directed Achievement at the City's monthly Department Head Meeting.

My SDA Presentation in PDF
My favorite parts of the presentation:
1). In just over a year of completing SDA, library staff have completed 142 training hours
2). Outcomes
  • improved patron/staff interactions
  • new displays, 
  • sharing ideas during monthly staff meetings (increased communication),
  • improved leadership from all levels, 
  • improved processes,
  •  new community programs, 
  • new services and kits for patrons, 
  • improving informational pamphlets for patrons, 
  • staff are increasingly confident in departmental processes,
  •  improved departmental communication and cooperation
The big take-aways for adapting this as a city-wide process
I had a great conversation with the department heads on this process. Two big concerns that came out of those discussions:

I meet with my staff (currently 13 people) once a month. The department heads and I discussed how this helps me stay on top of issues and keeps meeting short and productive. There had been times when I canceled meetings because there's "never enough time." This just resulted in having to take more time identifying and resolving issues. I empathize with other city supervisors about the lack of time to meet with each staff member you supervise, but I emphasized that you already spend a lot of time putting out fires anyway.  Better to get a jump on potential issues. Plus, it's valuable time I get to spend getting to know my staff member and allowing them to get to know me. The rest of my time is a whirlwind of other tasks, which doesn't leave a lot of time to check in with staff and see how they're doing. My team appreciates the dedicated time we spend together.

I haven't met with too much resistance on this program. Staff initially had a difficult time thinking up ideas, but once they got going, I've had very few without anything to do. It also helps that other staff members are enthusiastic about what they are learning during SDA and share with each other, which promotes a positive perspective on the process.  I also incorporate all of the achievements into the Goals section of the annual evaluation, which lets staff celebrate all that they've accomplished and shows that I'm paying attention to the great work they are doing.

The City asked me to present because HR is currently re-vamping the staff evaluation process to be a more customized, goal-oriented process, which would incorporate more frequent follow-ups than just an annual meeting with your supervisor.  SDA makes it easier for staff to accomplish those goals beyond their daily duties.

My take-aways from attending the Department Head Meeting
This was my first time at this meeting. I found the interactive process with the mayor fascinating. The meeting had a section regarding the mayor's priorities, truths and rumors about the city, each department's priorities, and a great forum for discussion. My director goes to these meetings, but I really hope to go again soon. I had great conversations with several department heads about training opportunities for city employees and brainstormed ideas about how to meet those needs.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Library Reorganization: Public Services Department

This month we focused on:

We had a Circulation staff member resign due to her spouse relocating for work. This vacant full-time position is still pending approval to fill at the city.

We are focusing on cross-training our Reference staff in Circulation.  I like the dual purpose of cross-training to improve the overall procedure competency of staff and the added perspective of what other staff members do all day.  Plus, it has been great for building our Circulation and Reference staff into a more unified team.

We worked on some issues with communicating statistics between floors.

We incorporated safety training into monthly meetings. This month we discussed calling other staff when you find yourself alone at a public service desk and need assistance (for whatever reason). We also discussed that if you are called and asked to come to another desk, don't question why, just go. 

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Outreach Reorganization

We received approval from the mayor to utilize volunteers to conduct Outreach!

This means I can start recruiting for drivers.  We first posted the information to VolunteerMatch. I like that this links to Other social media sites, such as LinkedIn.

We canceled our Senior Center Outreach at the end of March. This had been the only Outreach service continued by a staff member. She was visiting the Senior Center each week. I appreciated that the staff member came to me and suggested we cancel it. Many of the Senior Center patrons do come into the library. My staff member identified the few who would not be able to make it to us and we folded them into homebound deliveries. A sad loss, but luckily we were able to minimize the negative impact to community members.

I have two delivery drivers now!  Volunteer recruitment is a slow and unsure process, but it's working.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Supervisor Safety Training

Safety Fest 2016
Course: Reasonable Suspicion & Supervisor Training for Drugs & Alcohol
Date: April 7, 2016
Library Application Overview:
·          Locate and review City drug policy. Compare and identify information that needs to be included/updated in library safety manual.
·          Implement supervisor tool related to "Observed Behavior /Reasonable Suspicion Record"
·          Look into ways to provide more safety information for small business owners

Summary: This course emphasized the importance of a written drug policy and clear procedures that are consistently followed, including making observations regarding staff behavior, having those observations confirmed by another supervisor, documenting observations, confronting the staff member, and conducting a reasonable suspicion test. Anne Butler indicated to me that the City has a drug policy in place, available through the supervisor portal on the Intranet.
Participants were provided with a standardized form for documenting observations.   Supervising people is an emotional process, but I like that this form forces the supervisor to take an objective look at the situation. While the form provided specifically addresses behaviors associated with drugs or alcohol, I can see a similar form as an aid in implementing the city's new expanded evaluation process where clear-cut performance categories can be observed and documented.
The questions asked by other participants, most small business owners of construction and other industrial companies, illustrated for me the need of comprehensive information on safety issues for small business owners. The library can help in this process by identifying resources of information important to small business owners (specifically policy building) as well as avenues to convey information to small business owners.

Course: Managing Conflict at Work
Date: April 5, 2016
Library Application Overview:
·          When identifying and resolving issues, try to look for the underlying causes, including ways things can be communicated more effectively in the future or if follow up should have been conducted so the staff perceive the work being done.
·          Utilize the Conflict Analysis Worksheet to identify the appropriate response to the issues.
·          All library supervisors could benefit from on-going management training and mediation certification.

Summary: This course identified a "conflict" as: a condition between people who are task interdependent, where one or both people feel angry, find fault with the other and use behaviors that cause a business problem.   Things that cause conflict are perceptions, expectations, differences, communication issues, and wrong reflexes. This course illustrated that leaving conflict unresolved can cost the business more in time (slowdown of production due to conflict issues) and money (training, voluntary terminations, rehire/training) than spending a few hours mediating the issue.   To successfully resolve a conflict, both parties must agree to sit and work through the conflict. Neither party can walk away from the process until a satisfactory resolution is reached and no one can impose one-sided solutions.  
Participants were provided with a conflict analysis worksheet, which helps  identify if the situation can be handled using managerial mediation, or if an independent 3 rd party or professional mediator needs to be called in to resolve the conflict.   When setting up in-house mediation, set aside a mutually agreed upon time to talk, use inclusive language that builds a team against the problem, not individuals against each other, and plan for the future.
I learned I need to identify my own "wrong reflexes" or my involuntary reactions in times of conflict. When I am aware of these reflexes, I can make a conscious effort not to do those things. I also learned that a lot of conflict arises from the perception of how things "should" be done, versus how things are really getting done. If the outcome is satisfactory, then the process is probably not as important.