Is this thing on?

December 16 will be my 5 month anniversary at Huntingdon Valley.  I’m still getting acquainted with the community, my staff, the Board and the overall priorities of the library.  I’ve been asked to come up with a draft Strategic Plan, so here’s my SWOT..


  • Great Building with meeting space, two ISPs, new computers, a living room, beautiful grounds and modern shelving.  The carpet is in passible condition, as well.
  • Dedicated Board – full of smart and successful people who want what’s best for the Library.  They’re also willing to spend money.
  • Generous budget, that we have underspent for a few years in a row due to Director and staff turnover.  The State requires that we prove “local effort” at a level at or above the previous year.  Local effort isn’t determined by income, but by expenditures.  Hard to spend money when you’re without a Director every few months/years.


  • Customer Service.  It’s not up to my unreasonably high standards.  The Board wants “Hospitality industry” standards and so do I.  This will take time, training and a slow indoctrination process.  They will drink the kool-aid eventually.
  • Building Maintenance – we need paint, new tile flooring and a new circulation desk. The Circ Desk is key – the stand-up configuration and large span between the patron standing at the desk and the staff person sitting at their workstation does nothing to help with customer service.  People feel they’re bothering us when we have to get up and walk to the desk.
  • Inconsistent leadership and vision.  The library has been limping along, the staff trying their best to keep it going, without a plan, a vision, or useful mission.

Opportunities (external):

  • Community Hub.  Via the Chamber, outreach, meeting room usage, fundraising efforts and basic community involvement, I think we can make ourselves invaluable.  As one staffer said, we need to do something or we’ll be obsolete in 5 years.
  • Family Place.  Libraries have an opportunity to corner the market on early-literacy.  Story Time is just the beginning.
  • Lifelong Learning Center.  This community is all about programming and lectures and cultural dinners, so we’re working with the Friends to provide more.  This is one of those areas that suffered due to inconsistent leadership, I think.

Threats (external):

  • Obsolescence.  If tax payers and private funders don’t value the library or see what role we play as a community center, literacy/education support institution, or social equalizer…we’ll go the way of the Dodo.
  • Economy and Budget.  Aid from the Commonwealth continuously decreases and financial support from the Township is not guaranteed.  Private donations of both time and money are shrinking, as well.
  • Changing Demographics.  How do we attract and keep both young adult and adult users?  Small children and seniors are good, but not enough to sustain us.
  • Staffing.  We need more staff, more staff training, and clearer expectations to ensure we can actually achieve our new strategic goals.

For my own sanity rather than vanity, here’s a list of accomplishments.

  • Staff interviews.  These were useful and it’s time to start up with them again.
  • Social Media and PR.  We’ve resurrected the Facebook page, started a weekly eNewsletter and linked a WordPress blog created by the previous director to the Web site via RSS and call it the “news blog.”
  • Improved relations with the Friends.  I hope I have shown them I’m capable, reasonable, responsive and appreciative.  In turn, they’ve given us almost $30,000 in grants, when we normally get $17,000.
  • Collection Development.  We are now a team.  By putting our RA guru back into the role of ordering adult fiction, having our Circ Supervisor link the new fiction and taking on Non-fiction ordering and cataloging myself, I think we’ve done a good job of having what our patrons want in a fairly timely manner.
  • Supporting Youth Services.  Not only was the acting supervisor promoted, we hired her an assistant who is great.
  • New Technology and a MAC.  The Board let me buy 8 new computers and hire a MAC/Tech consultant to help with Polaris and our tech needs.  We also upgraded our Comcast bandwidth from 10 to 50 Mbps, so we have some uber-awesome wireless for patrons.

And my list of challenges:

  • Staffing.  Between major illnesses, surgeries, resignations and injuries…I haven’t had a full cadre of staff since I started.  We’ve made due and I’ve been up at the Circ Desk a lot, but we really, really need everyone hale, hearty, healthy and ready to work.  We’ll have several folks on light duty for a few more weeks, but hopefully they’ll be back to full speed by mid-January.  Luckily, I was able to hire a Substitute who saved our collective butts last week.  Oh, and I lost my Bookkeeper last week.
  • Overwhelming needs.  It’s been hard to prioritize and hard to accomplish much when I’m working the desk (except modeling customer service, getting to know patrons, learning our policies and becoming more familiar with the ILS).  Time management is tough, but I’m told by staff that even though I don’t feel it…I’m getting more done than some previous directors.
  • No NEKLS.  Seriously…Kansas Libraries are SO Lucky to have the regional system with consultants, architects on retainer, NEST, watch-parties, and standards.  I haven’t been shy about asking questions, but still…it’d be nice to have  Mickey or Laura to call on occasion (which I do).

Overall, I’m still glad to be a librarian, happy to be a Director again and just tell myself often…what doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger.

A funny Tina Fey Quote found via  This Blog via Pinterest.



One thought on “Is this thing on?

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