Spring Assembly: The anythink story

http://www.anythinklibraries.org/ | Spring Assembly | 4/19/2012 | Pam Sandlian-Smith

“It’s more than just transforming libraries, it’s about transforming as an individual and a professional.” – Pam

Headline: “Adams library system worst in state”

Formerly at West Palm Beach (where she made news and presented about Hospitality at PLA), then moved back to Colorado in 2007 to direct Adam county libraries with a new tripled levy…from $4 million to $12 million.  Opportunity to start fresh.  $43 million Capital Campaign at the start of her tenure, built on a typical library program and designed for bookshelves and not much else.

Design libraries for People and make the Books FIT around the PEOPLE!  (So true.)  Had to shift gears quickly and re-design and re-think.

Becoming Anythink: Started with a visioning exercise – staff and board contributed adjectives to describe the kind of library they wanted:  enchanting, friendly, cozy, dynamic, modern, magical – great!  That’s what they wanted to become, but not what they had been.  Opportunity to design a library for the future.

Conventions:  quiet, homework, research, books

Disruptions: community and connection | ideas | creativity | open doors | sparks and fuel

People + Info = Interaction!  70% of people who think about libraries, think about books.  Change the paradigm to the INTERACTIONS between info and people.  Need an outcome.

“We Open Doors for Curious Minds” – Mission of Anythink

Spaces – Same architect, added pizazz to the buildings (and rocking chairs).  Designed spaces around “Why People Shop” ideas.  Give people space to get oriented in the front of the library.  Open space, fire places, and unique personalities at each branch.  Local cabinet maker for wood shelving ($5 a sq ft).  Service desks – 90% self-service – Perches instead – friendly.  Look at these cool Visual Merchandising Guidelines!

Children’s area – Tree house in all of our libraries (it’s not her, it’s her staff – that was an idea from her HR director) – museum quality fake trees.  Experiences that float from the libraries, such as silk leaves they can rake out.  Play ‘fall’!  Provide opportunities for kids to connect with nature in the city, with collaboration with Arbor Day foundation.  Water features, tree cookies, outdoor spaces.

Displays on nice tables, indoor/outdoor spaces (outdoor fireplace), and Book Mobile – brand new (red and shiny – “Anythink in motion”)

Culture – Spaces, self-discovery, home-away-from-home, and all with a moderate budget.  Focus on hospitality, warmth and comfort.  Need happy, helpful staff, too!  Hardworking and Optimistic culture – work and play hard.   Staff Manifesto:

Part Wizard
 Part Genius
Part Explorer

Start of the culture shift to help staff understand the library is MORE than circ.  Re-wrote job descriptions, based on 13 competencies.

I am: customer focused | cooperative and a collaborator | understanding and compassionate | Strong work ethic | flexible | effective communicator | problem solver | responsible and honest | emotionally mature | continuous learner | innovator | leader  I am an Anythinker  

Can train to do a job, but not to love people.

  • Wrangler:  product placement, inventory control, display technician (circ clerk/page)
  • Concierge: customer service, tech assist, RA, product promotion (Circ staff)
  • Guide: Customer education, reference advocate, event planner (librarians)
Barn Raising – TEAMS.  Weeded collection as a team, mostly in one day.  Big party.  They allowed all staff to re-apply for a new job, without the fear of not being re-hired and the new job would have the same pay rate as their current position.  Some went for Wrangler roles that had less involvement with people, while others sought to be Concierge folks.  Many changed branch locations.  GREAT idea.
Disruptions: “SHHH is a Four-Letter Word” – (t-shirt) – Libraries aren’t quiet.  They are changing – libraries as active learning places.
Hospitality – exists when you believe the other person is on your side.” – Danny Meyer Setting the Table   How do people feel when they walk into your library?  Do they feel welcome? smart? feel like the staff are on their side?  “Stand back, I can get technical on you” – t-shirt worn by staff
Disrupting Dewey – abandoned Dewey.  Wordthink – “Travel” or “Cooking” – converted entire collection in one year, with opening day collections and weeding.  Bookstore model.  Cooking > Baking > Alpha by title.  Easy to orient.  In catalog with words.
mySummer – Blew out Summer Reading.  Read about something, think about it, and do something.  Intergenerational and about doing things.  Family programming.  Starts with a summer journal.  Example: Project Runway Experience – brought in fashion designers, designed a dress, constructed without sewing, teams, and a fashion show/runway judging.  The teams ended up helping each other out.
Experiences – Interact.  Tree sculpture at one of the branches.  Joan Frye Williams – library as laboratory.  Tinker, build, learn and communicate.  Make the library the community Kitchen – loud, messy and the center of everything.
Power of Creativity – Creative People ARE:  original, curious, open-minded, risk-takers, connectors, productive 
Example: Zen Garden that turned into sandbox as soon as the kids found it.   Intergenerational Programming and Community Gardens (grant-funded with Denver Urban Gardens)  It’s about growing community, not vegetables.  Gives neighbors an opportunity to get to know each other!
Branding – A brand is more than a logo.  As you think about marketing the library, pay attention to features at the bottom, Benefits in the middle,and Unique Ideas or Value at the Top (most important).  Simon TED Talk again!!!  People need to connect with you on the unique emotional space.   Hired a Marketing company to develop “anythink: A revolution of Rangeview libraries” – logo is a squiggle.  Big risk, but great reward.  Building a Brand – touchpoints include systematic signage – more behind the brand than the logo.  Connector that reenforces the brand and feel of the library.. Spark – newsletter – all have a cohesive link.
Results – People love the libraries and have a pleasant experience | Circ quadrulpled | 1.4 mil visits with 94% self-cehck, from 30,000 to 110,000 cardholders, and 300% increase in public computing.
NATIONAL MEDAL from Museum and Library Service!  Woot!
 Library had to write the application and 7 months later, they won!  December 2010, visited the White House.
What’s Next?
  • YOUMEDIA Project – Expand for all customers, not just Teens [Post about this]  “Hanging around, messing around and geeking out!”
  • Strategic Plan:  learning organization | experience Library | Community | Tech supports creativity | Shift perception of library
The world is changing, so the library must change, too.
Ended with a great video
Associated Articles about Pam:

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