2010 has been a busy and eventful year at APL. Looking back, here's a few of the things that jump out:
- Changing of the guard: new leadership, or APL:TNG -- Colleen Rortvedt has been tapped as the next Library Director -- I probably list this first because looming retirement somehow seems like a big deal to me. But after I've been gone for six months, it'll either be "Terry who?" or "this is great -- why did we never do it before?" I appreciate the extensive hiring process our Board went through to find the next Director: they made a great choice. Colleen will bring some great new energy and innovative ideas; she is poised to make positive changes. 2010's accomplishments testify to her vision and effectiveness. In any case, fifteen years of me in this chair is enough.
Last May, Brian Kopetsky succeeded Meg Shriver, our longstanding reference supervisor with whom I worked for 30 years. Meg was well loved for many reasons, nonetheless Brian has begun making some positive changes as well, showing leadership in social media, marketing, technology, and the Wisconsin public library community.
- Friends Executive Director & board bring new activism and energy -- After our Friends and Foundation merged last year, they spent some months getting organized and hired their first Executive Director -- Janice Daniels Quinlan -- who then set up a great annual meeting, recruited new board members, and has greatly expanded fund-raising and advocacy. With Jan's leadership, the Friends are increasing their visibility and effectiveness while fostering increased connections with the community.
- RFID sparks massive weeding, slated for complete implementation in 2011 -- There are four great things about the way RFID is going. First is the concept of tagging the collection mainly with volunteers, making the process shorter and cheaper to implement. Second is the tight teamwork of the group that planned the details of implementation, and went through the RFP and vendor selection process. Third is the totally massive weeding project that saw tens of thousands of marginal, worn, or outdated items pulled from the collection, buying us some needed space and making the tagging faster and more cost-effective. And finally, the bold plan to complete the project next year with sophisticated self-checks, security gates and automated materials handling. The Library Board, Mayor and City Council all approved the $400,000 capital project, which will transform many tasks when implemented in 2011.
- Meeting room changes -- We had several responses to increasing meeting room use, with associated workload issues as well as supply and demand problems. We created a new small meeting room, permanently set up as a conference room and thus readily available with minimal effort. We implemented the Evanced meeting room booking and calendar software, allowing anyone to check on room availability and put in a request 24/7 without staff mediation. Lower level rooms are now available to community groups on Saturdays. We set up a new color-coded directional signage system on the lower level, clarifying room information and eliminating confusion.
- New long range plan -- Beginning with a staff retreat in February, through meetings of a staff task force in the Spring and a Library Board/community committee in the summer, we revised our long range plan. While the new plan did not represent a radical departure (only prudent in the midst of management transition), it includes a redefined mission, a serious update and some useful new directions. Some of these were already underway with building recommendations, RFID, changes to the Friends and updated marketing efforts.
- Marketing plan & social media -- After a long evolutionary process, we have a new marketing plan with some good mechanisms to maintain communications. An active team has made our Facebook page into a great information source and opportunity for community conversation. We are poised to integrate calendar feeds, improved email communication and other social media, along with a re-branded Friends organization, to possibly re-brand the library and finally bring home the oft-delayed website revamp.
- Program attendance & meeting room use jumps -- Our annual program attendance is pushing 40,000, an increase of 16% over last year. This is related to marketing efforts and to hardworking and innovative program staff, putting together cultural and educational offerings for all ages. There's also been a huge increase in use of our meeting rooms. Both these changes reflect the increasing community center role of the library.
- Monitors depart and “Maintenance” turns into “Operations” -- We significantly tweaked, rather than transmogrified, our former Maintenance Clerks to provide some increased security and oversight backup for public services staff. We had done this with part-time Monitors for after-school hours nine months a year, but had been unsuccessful for years in getting funds to expand the Monitor hours. Instead we eliminated a few part-time unbenefited jobs, folded those duties into the Maintenance job descriptions, and gave the full-time, renamed, Operations Clerks additional training on policies and Black Belt Librarian techniques. As city Facilities Management staff has taken on more of the maintenance duties here, our Operations Clerks have used the time to start some new routines, checking in with service desks while doing their regular rounds, and provide public assistance for the increased meeting room use.
- Ebook platforms and discussions proliferate -- While a bunch of have been excited by the iPad this year, we continue to have supply, demand, format and DRM issues with eBooks. Through our system and a statewide consortium, we are able to offer downloadable eBooks in our catalog, and these can be read on Sony Readers and Nooks, as well as Androids, iPads, and iPhones. There are not yet enough titles or copies, and they're not perfectly easy to use, and they don't work on Kindles, but it's a good start. There's been a lot of conversation with much more to come.
- Building project stalls with ongoing economic concerns -- The City Council referred the Library Board's building request to a special Capital Facilities Committee, which met for some months, and is currently on hiatus until late winter or early spring. Community Development Director Karen Harkness summed up the situation nicely, saying she:
"believes the Committee would be in agreement that the most prudent way to proceed would be to build a new library. However, she also believes the Committee would be in agreement there are too many unknowns such as stimulus dollars, fundraising and the economy."Stay tuned!