2018 Librarian’s Guide to Homelessness

Multi-district workshop on Friday, May 18, 2018, King of Prussia, PA
Speaker: Ryan Dowd, runs the 2nd largest homeless shelter in Illinois, is Founder of the Homeless Training Institute and author of ALA’s book “The Library Guide to Homelessness.”

Web site: http://www.homelesslibrary.com/

You can subscribe to his weekly newsletter from the home page.


Four Goals of Training: Recognize the power we have to resolve problems | Have great confidence doing so | Our library will have fewer problems | Our library will be more compassionate and inclusive

Keys: Empathy-Driven Enforcement and the Psychology of Voluntary Compliance
Notes in bold are taken directly from the note guide.
PART 1 – Deeper Understanding of Homelessness
The cycle of inter-generational poverty leads to a culture of poverty and economic apartheid.  There several types of homelessness, but chronic homelessness involves people with multiple problems, including mental illness.  Homeless individuals grew up poor and due the cycles of inter-generational poverty, they are part of a culture of poverty.  For example, compared to middle class culture, they understand how to travel 20 miles using multiple types of public transportation, know when sales happen at different thrift stores, and how to move their family with less than 24 hours notice.
Homeless individuals have a different communication style.  They have a smaller vocabulary, missing things like adverbs and other descriptors, making it harder to communicate. A middle class 3 year old has a much larger vocabulary than an adult who grew up in poverty.
Homeless individuals speak differently, have a smaller vocabulary, and pay more attention to nonverbal cues than you. Middle class children learn to differentiate between Casual Register appropriate for friends and family (includes slang and cussing) and Formal Register appropriate for job interviews, professionals, and people in positions of authority (police) (does NOT include cussing).  Children raised in poverty do NOT learn Formal register and us casual register with everyone.  This can lead to misunderstandings and ‘rudeness.’ They use body cues to determine meaning – How you say something matters more than what you say.  Use simple words, but use non-verbal cues like volume, inflection, and body language to give meaning.
Homeless individuals argue differently than you. The middle class are quieter, keeping their voice at a “level 2” and only resort to “level 10” volume when on the verge of violence (screaming at a kidnapper, for example). Poverty is LOUD – shelters are loud, a large family living in a small space is loud, so any feelings beyond calm, from annoyed to angry to furious, goes from a “level 2” to a “level 9”.  It is hard for the middle class to differentiate between “level 9” of “annoyed” and a “level 10” of “violence.”
Homeless individuals have experienced more trauma than you. Children raised in poverty and homeless individuals have experienced more sexual and physical violence, including traumatic brain injuries that kills off parts of the brain.  The brain trauma leads to mis-perceived threat stimuli (so everything seems threatening and causes an overreaction) and to difficulty self-regulating anxiety and anger – it’s hard to regulate emotions.  Homeless individuals get anxious and angry faster, they stay agitated longer, and it takes longer to calm down. They also suffer from PTSD.
Homeless individuals have experienced more punishment than you.  They have experienced so much they are habituated to it and give up being good.  Punishment beyond 24 hours is not effective because Homeless individuals have a different worldview than you and only focus on their needs for the next 24 hours.  A middle class person has a “time horizon” of 70+ years, roughly a lifetime, while a homeless person only looks forward 24 hours.  They are in survival mode and focused on immediate needs – food, sleep, and safety trump retirement planning and mortgages.  If a problem can’t be resolved in 24 hours, it derails the homeless person.  The average lifespan of a homeless person is 30 years less than a middle class person.
Homeless individuals view respect differently than you.  In the middle class, respect is granted or given automatically and (we) expect to get respect in return.  Respect is the other person’s to lose.  In the culture of poverty, this is flipped.  You must EARN respect first, or you’re a chump.
Homeless individuals view protection, retaliation, and insults differently than you. There are three dominant cultures in the world: Face culture (Asian), Dignity Culture (USA, Australia and Western Europe) and Honor Culture (Latin America, Africa, Urban poverty, and Middle East).
Dignity Culture: trusts the rule of law, strong authority figures, relative affluence, protection is through the police or government and courts, retaliation is viewed as tacky, and insults are viewed with amusement or ignored.
Honor Culture: distrusts the government, weak authority, high corruption, high competition for resources, protection is through self-defense, retaliation is essential – to prove your reputation for self-defense is to ensure safety and is a shield against violence and secures future safety.  Insults are seen as a probe for weakness and they MUST retaliate against insults for self-preservation.
Do NOT Insult homeless individuals, as they live in an Honor Culture.
Homeless individuals have different triggers than you: Uninvited touch and unfairness.  Uninvited touch triggers past traumas (muggings, sexual assault).  Unfairness and discrimination and being treated as undesirable or being treated as ‘lesser’, being dismissed, ignored or talked down to are also triggers.  People enjoying their misfortune are triggers – 10% of the population are “everyday sadists” who enjoy giving people a hard time, enforcing the rules, singling out the homeless for poor treatment, bullying the powerless.  Homeless individuals are OK if everyone is treated poorly (like at the DMV), because at least it’s fair treatment.
Part II – Punishment
What is punishment?  Threat to enforce compliance and just making people feel bad.  “I’m so disappointed in you, child.” < That is a form of punishment.
The Problem with Punishment: mental illness makes punishment less effective, as does substance abuse, being habituated to punishment, past trauma, having a short time horizon, and growing up in the honor culture where insults are taken with great seriousness.  In fact, punishment oftentimes has the OPPOSITE effect of what you intended. 
You can keep punishing until everyone is banned and you hate your job, you can allow anarchy and not enforce any rules, or you can find a way to get people to follow the rules voluntarily!
A new paradigm: Empathy-Driven Enforcement
It’s compassionate and more effective – it’s all about HOW you enforce the rules.
Part III – Empathy-Drive Enforcement (TM)
Psychology of voluntary Compliance
Emotional Contagion  – Mirror neurons fire in response to positive or negative emotion.  Mirror neurons are stronger in women, who tend to have greater empathy as a result.  You can catch negative emotions and give away your own emotions.  Be Aware.  People are more likely to voluntarily comply if you share positive emotions. 
The Psychology Conflict teaches that you can’t think abstractly when you are angry, but that is when you most need abstract thought to have empathy and problem-solving skills. [INSERT GRAPH].  Binary thinking – when a person only considers two options – is most prevalent in a high-conflict situation.  People are more likely to voluntarily comply if you lower the level of conflict. Use reciprocity (I’ll scratch your back scenarios) to lower conflict.  What matters is perceived, not actual, treatment. Their perception is your reality – their perceived version is stronger than the actual version. People are more likely to voluntarily comply if they owe you a favor instead of 5 times the revenge. Eye for an Eye was actually a commandment to stay with a 1 to 1 retaliation, when normally humans retaliate in a disproportionate amount than they were harmed – a 1 to 5 ratio!
In relationships, there is a 5 to 1 ration – you must provide 5 positives for every 1 negative.  For example, if you miss a special dinner with your spouse, just bringing flowers isn’t enough…but if you bring flowers, a gift certificate, a favorite food, complements, and a gift…then maybe you’ll be forgiven.
Relationship Builders: compliments, questions (conversations that show you care), deeds, and touch
Relationship Destroyers: criticism, defensiveness (expect problems/combativeness), stonewalling (silent treatment and repeating the same answer), and contempt (the worse, shows the other person is worth less than you and is often shown through body language).
People are more likely to voluntarily comply if you do five positive things before you ask. 
Psychological Inertia – Positive relationships will continue moving in that direction – an option in motion will tend to stay in motion.  It matters how an interaction starts – the First Five Seconds.  He showed a great video demonstrating the importance of eye contact, introducing yourself, asking for their name, and asking how you can help.  People are more likely to voluntarily comply if you get their emotions moving in a positive direction instead of a negative direction.  It takes FIVE times the effort to reverse a negative interaction.
Neurochemical chemistry of aggression and empathy
Serotonin, Dopamine, and Oxytocin decrease aggression and increase empathy. A handshake raises oxytocin, as does eye contact, social standing (being treated like an equal), and predictable ritual (especially for people with autism).
Cortisol increases aggression, causes the fight/flight reflex, created when feeling threatened by a saber tooth tiger – life or death. Homeless individuals are AWLAYS in this state, their brain is “swimming in a pool of cortisol.” People are more likely to voluntarily comply if you help them have the proper brain chemistry. 
Likeability – When people like you, they comply and help. Favors – get potential funders to do favors for the library – makes us more likeable!  We like people who like us.   People are more likely to voluntarily comply if they like you, which you can accomplish by showing that you like them and let them do favors for you. 
Legitamcy – Three requirements for authority figure to be viewed as legitimate:
1) Be listened to (have an audience)
2) Rules are predicable and
3) Rule enforcement is fair (for example, does a library tell the bank president who comes in stinking after a workout that he smells or just the homeless individual?)
What is not required? toughness, seriousness (jokers can be legit), or distance/aloofness
Rigid consistency can be a problem because sometimes you cannot be consistent and fair – autism rude v. jerk rude.  People are more likely to voluntarily comply if they view you as legitimate. 
Additional Concepts:
Prepare for Problems: Form habits or muscle memories – know how to use your tools. Practice doing it right everytime – develop a routine, use scripts/set statements (Appendix of the guide). Just Do It – practice working with problem patrons – see them as a learning opportunity, rather than a threat.
Solve problems as early as possible – before any conflict erupts. Non-verbal cues start fights, then “mouth follows body into stupidity.”  Gather more tools – Empathy “blue” tools and a few Fire/Punishment “red” tools (he had a toolbelt with actual red and blue tools…
Mindset Tools
We have enormous influence over patron behavior – 80% is prevention and staff training
Start with your Empathy Tools and leave punishment as a last resort.
Lead, Don’t Follow Pull not push – can you push a string? No, you have to pull it.  Lead them where you want them to go, don’t follow them into stupid stuff.  Model appropriate behavior. Whoever controls the TONE of the conversation, controls the situation.
Know Your Goal – It’s simple – “Compliance with the Rules” – don’t care what they think of you, think in general – just comply with the rule.  Don’t make it about you – keep ego out of it.  Don’t care what they thinki, as long as they do what we want them to do – It’s Not About You!
Focus on what your patrons action not what they think.
Don’t Judge – Imagine they are a relative and treat them as such, with dignity.  Treat them the way you would want your family treated.  Help stop judgment by remember the kid you felt most sorry for. Helps explain their behavior.  Hurt people hurt people.
Be Calm – Mirror neurons – your calm is contagious. Calm leads to calm because of psychological inertia, and BREATHING is the key to calmness.
When stressed out, don’t suffocate yourself.  You can generate anxiety from oxygen deprivation > an emotional response to the physical deprivation leads to illogical actions…so BREATHE.  Pause and ask, “Am I breathing?”
Be Respectful – Honor culture demands it – you earn respect by being respectful.  Use honorifics or Sir/Mam, use your formal register, especially when you first meet someone and during conflict.  It is in our best interest for the homeless individual to behave and comply.  Learn from Big Bird and Barney!  Manners and common courtesy. Turn up the respect in the first five seconds. The three times is it helpful to be disrespectful: never, Never, NEVER – It just makes matters worse, like Russian roulette.
Slowdown – “Slow is smooth and smooth is fast.” Take time to resolve small problems to prevent worse problems.  A two minute intervention v. a 2 hour issue.
Pre-Conflict Tools – 1st stage of conflict
Stages of conflict go from Pre-conflict to Non-verbal Escalation to Verbal Escalation to Crisis
Cups of Pennies – Consider it a respect-o-meter.  Fill your cup with pennies (courtesies, positive interactions, legitimacy, respect, Oxytocin from a handshake, etc.) in advance, before problems erupt.  Target certain patrons to focus your pennies on – for example, Ryan scans the shelter each night and sees who he needs to interact with to help head off any potential problems.
Use Names – Give your name, then ask for a name.  Offer First. If they don’t reciprocate, use Sir or Mam, not “Hey You.” Ask patrons to call you by your first name. 
Small Talk – Compliments and questions – ways to build relationships. What trade were they in? Likes? Dislikes? – He had examples of some crazy and some very true past experiences, like one guy who was secret service for Bill Clinton. Do what society is not willing to do.  Add pennies to the cup.
Be Walmart – Greet everyone.  Walmart greeters were brought in to stop shoplifting, but their customer satisfaction rating soared after introducing them…because while they let the potential shoplifters know they were paying attention, they made the non-shoplifters feel welcome.  Say Hello, let everyone know they have been seen and acknowledged.
Shaking Hands – Profoundly effective. Same amount of Oxytocin as a 3 hour conversation.   Hands should be shaken parallel (not in a way that shows dominance or submission), handshake should be equal distance between both people, your left hand should be kept out of your pocket, you should shake 3 times, and you should squeeze the same pounds per square inch as checking a peach for ripeness (then buy the peach).  Leave the desk, come around to shake hands.
NON-VERBAL TOOLS – 2nd stage of conflict
Where to Stand – When talking with someone about compliance, remember Honor culture and let them save face by taking the conversation to a less public place.  Legitimacy issues if inconsistent.  More wiggle room if you keep the conversation private.
Body ‘language’ – Perception – Smile. We remember our words, but not our body. He showed a video without the sound of a staff member with a scowl and arms folding, who was saying “Hello, welcome to the library.” Side discussion about Resting Jerk Face – for homeless individuals, if resting jerk face projects contempt, this can lead to misunderstandings because of the non-verbal message it communicates. Change it if possible.
How to Stand – Stand with a 15% turn of the body – all conversation, not confrontation. Allows for tension to escape. / \ not | |. Make this a habit – do it with every conversation, so it becomes second nature.
Your Hands – Calm messaging with the hands – put them in pocket or behind back – in a neutral position.  If speaking with a paranoid person, make sure your hands can be seen or if you fear violence.  Don’t: Point, cross arms, make a fist, or put your hands on your hips.  These can be seen as aggressive.
When in Danger: Praying Ninja _/\_ – increases confidence or the Thinker or cross your heart X – pick one and make it habit.
Don’t Touch – Uninvited touch is a trigger and don’t touch stuff – use words. Wake up a sleeping patron with words.  PTSD – they may come awake swinging.  Knocking on the table could be seen as rude.  If you have to touch, keep furniture between you or touch the middle of the back, where they can’t swing at you.   Don’t crouch – you are putting your nose by their elbow.  If they are wearing earbuds, you may tap their knee to get their attention, but immediately apologize.  (Article on people sleeping/snoring) First instinct is to hit/punch. Ryan told about a time he forgot this and came up behind a homeless man at the shelter and touched him on the shoulder – the man came swinging around with his fist raised, but saw and recognized Ryan and just say, “Oh, Hi Ryan, how are you?”  Side discussion about sexual harassment and aggression – only give ONE warning and then hand the person off to a supervisor.  Convey calmly that there is a rule about not touching staff and move to the side away from the touch, so non-verbal cues reinforce the verbal.
Smile 🙂 Blood tests revealed that looking at a smiling baby shoots up the positive brain chemicals giving you the same buzz and copious amounts of chocolate. A smiling adult only gives you 10% of the baby buzz, but still the equivalent to 22 lbs of chocolate.  Smiling is ONLY a pre-conflict tool, if you smile during a conflict it looks like you are an everyday sadist.
Eye Contact – Avoid glaring or not looking a person in the eye at all. Ideally you should maintain 60-70% eye contact with 30-40% without contact to show respect.  When not maintaining eye contact, look at the floor.  6-7 seconds looking at the individual, then 3-4 seconds looking at the floor.
VERBAL TOOLS – 3rd stage of conflict
Talk Quieter – They will be louder, so you be quieter. 1 decibel lower is idea – Lead into quiet
Talk Calmer – Avoid sounding frantic and speak like a meditation video with pregnant pauses.
Listen – You earn pennies in your cup for just listening.  Active Listening – Repeat what you THINK you heard them say to help avoid miscommunication.  His example was with a patron who was banned and complained to him about it, he reiterated, “So, if I am hearing you right, you are upset that you were banned for 2 weeks?”  “No man, I was a jerk, I deserved that…but she was disrespectful to me!”  The issue was not technical (how long) but emotional (respect).  The complaint was about how they were made to feel and this was clarified by repeating back their statement.  Scripts: “Correct me if I’m wrong…”  “I think what I hear you saying is…” or “If I understand you…”
Be Sad – Show empathy and avoid being an everyday sadist – if you have to reprimand someone, don’t take pleasure in it. Be sad about it.  “It upsets me to enforce these rules, but…” “I’m really sorry I have to do this, but…” NO JOKES – it can be perceived as “they’re laughing at me.”  It is OK to apologize while enforcing the rules.  ODOR Example – common questions on the Web site (whole article on this topic).
Explain – don’t debate. Don’t dictate.  Good rules are not up for debate.  Saying “Because those are the rules!” is disrespectful, but give an explanation for the rule – “Because people are studying.” “Because we have ants.” “Because it disturbs other people using the library.” “Because it could trip up someone and hurt them.” (Article on Too Many Bags in the Library)
Explain. Blame the Rules. Just blame the organization, the boss, or the Board.  “It’s not me and you, it’s THEM” – that nebulous body of people up there who make all the rules.  Ryan routinely blames his Board.  Shift the blame to someone out of the room – even blame the boss if you are the boss.  One time, he blamed the State of Illinois.  “I don’t want to lose my job.”  Example from the Delusion’s Article:  “I’m not sure about that [delusion you think is real], but either way our Board of Directors insists that ALL books be put in the right section.  If books are in the wrong place, I get in trouble.”

CRISIS TOOLS – 4th stage of conflict
When to Call the Police – Ryan feels we should hold this “Nuclear” option for Dangerous situations and when a person has been asked to leave and they refuse. Don’t cry wolf – if you threaten to call the police, you must call the police. This is the “ultimate Fire tool” for punishment. Calling the police takes longer to resolve the problem than pleading for the person to just leave. It is disruptive when the Police arrive and can cause trauma and anxiety for other people in the library (undocumented, parolees, etc.). You garner more Respect if you are able to handle the crisis yourself (Honor culture folks are watching what you do).  If you have pleaded and they refuse, “Fine, call them if you want” – then they have given you NO choice.
Have a code name for the Police
How to do Backup – Get a colleague to call – don’t do it while standing next to the person near their peers – that’s everyday sadistic.  Have a strategy.  When you speak to the person (away from others standing at a 15 degree angle /\, have your backup standing 5-10 feet away to monitor and call 911 if asked.  The primary person should do the talking, the backup is moral support and crowd control.  In high-stakes conflict, the primary person should be the senior member of staff, while in low-stakes conflict the person who needs training and practice should be the primary.  The senior person can then coach.
How to break up a fight – Peacocking fight v. a real fight.  Peacocking fights are loud and slow – they need a reputation for violence to keep them safe, so in this type of fight they want you to break it up so they can save face.  a REAL fight is fash and quiet – you hear the crowd or breaking furniture, not the fighters.  Procedure: Clear the room, Call 911, Let them fight it out until the trained police arrive.
How to ask someone to leave:
1. Make sure you have pennies in your cut – it’s not personal, just the job.
2. Take a minute to listen – let them plead their case
3. Use baby steps – have them gather up their stuff for a quiet discussion near the door, then tell them they’ll have to leave, and finally tell them it’s for 2 weeks.
4. Make sure they know it’s not personal – “we are still cool”
5. Give them the hope for a Fresh Start – share information about appeal process (even if the appeal will be denied) and/or let them know that when they come back, all is forgiven and they start with a clean slate.

Appendix: Your Personal Phrases

PLA 2018: Ditching Dewey

Ditching Dewey: How to Make Searching Your Collecting Engaging, Not Enraging. | Saturday, March 24, 2018, 10:45 AM with Cumberland (RI) Public Library
Handouts: Download 1   Download 2   Download 3   Download 4   Download 5   Download 6   #takebackthestacks

(Something that’s been on my To Do list, in our Strategic Plan, and in the budget since 2017…so here’s hoping this will be sufficiently motivating.  Related reading: The Dewey Dilemma from LJ, Five Steps to Ditching Dewey, Ditching Dewey: Choosing Genre Categories)

Melissa – worked at B&N before becoming a reference librarian. Danielle a research assistant with bookstore/media/movie/blockbuster store experience and inventory control and logistics background.

The Browse Method – can be used on any ILS in any consortium.  Color coding and plain English.

Benefits: Markham Public Library did a C3 classification system and did before/after research: Shelving productivity up 475% and Item retrieval time reduced 346%. Circulation rose exponentially.   Collection Maintenance benefits – Like with like, horrifying to see gaps and obvious weeds.  Customizable to each environment.  Pull out those items your community uses more often – cookbooks, travel books, etc.  Get more non-users back in the door. Happy Patrons and low cost. Spine labels, overlays, and staff time.  $2,800 for 21,000 titles – not free, but affordable.


Lack of comfort with Dewey – what does this mean? Why are they in so many different places? I don’t get how this works, I’m just going to go buy it on Amazon! Antiquated system (1876 for closed stacks) = LJ survey from 2009 – patrons have a trouble understanding the online catalog because call numbers don’t make any sense to them.  Dewey wasn’t meant for patron use! How can we be 21st century libraries with an out-of-date foundation that was never meant for patron use?

Kudos to these innovators: Maricopa Library – BISAC at all 19 | Rangeview Library District | Darien | Nyack | Groveland | Markham

Created a worst case scenario, based on research.  For example, kept the Dewey number in the record but hidden (in case it needed to come back).

Keep call numbers – Finder numbers – same place on the shelf, every time. Took 52 subjects divided into 9 main categories and are color coded by spine overlay.

IMG_3006The major categories – 0000 to 9999. Numbers do not repeat. Room for growth. Find books in 3 ways: Numerical cal number. Clearly identified categories, color coded and in plain English.

Works with any ILS – work with System to make global changes and make macros to help save time in creating new call numbers. End panels with vinyl letters – easier to shift end-caps. Extras to make it better – main out of pocket cost is labels. Demco tinted label protectors. Lighter colors are more usable. Personnel time – so logistics and only touch items once. How do you make this happen – Key buy-in from Director, department heads, and staff. Selling points: easier for everyone, including us. Not overnight…long-term project. Time to adjust, customizable, get input on how to implement (categories). Not at Tech Services project, because they didn’t have to do it!  Work with those involved.  Board buy-in – be realistic with hours it will take, but remember the end game. Community buy-in – communicate and keep them in the loop. They want the library to be user friendly and to come in and NOT feel dumb.  Used passive programs to test theories.  What should we call this?  Ask them to help and get their interest in the process. (vote, see samples). Questions asked: Self-help v. self-improvement.  Arts, transportation, architecture, and true crime – where would you look for these books (vote with a slip). Architecture was a hot mess, but the rest were ‘spot on.’

Physical work to change the collection: Weed until it hurts and then weed a little more. Weeded books are crying because their work is done!


  1. Pre-label your book – speed through the process. Use staff to the best of their abilities and interests to help with the process. Use Worksheets – simplified process: According to layout sheet, where do you think the book goes?  Ex: Art > Painting > Watercolor and the 4-digit number or True Crime > 8002 People & Places > Law Enforcement (tertiary line: racial profiling) Keeps books together
  2. Staging Process – Start with a section, so staff can see the final product. Keep it moving, not sitting dead in the office. House & Home > 2601 > Cleaning.  2008 Arch HisPres instead of 720.97 and 724.23 and 693.1 and 694.1 and 728 – Historic Preservation books now all together!
  3. Patrons don’t care how you organize it, just as long as it is consistent within the library.  Flow of the library.  You may want to use a test area to work out the details of the process (or beta test with LP or DVD collection).  Pulled out graphic novel collection. Food network stars together or apart? Yes, put star chefs face out!  Ask patrons.  Go through the stacks and decide which books stay put and which will be moved with new friends and neighbors.
  4. IMG_3007Moving Time – Print the labels, put them on the spine, team up, check and double check. Person 1 put it in catalog and print. 2nd person checks accuracy and set aside questions to discuss. Dewey can go in 099 or 092 (hide one, use the other). Where will OUR patron LOOK for this? Final decision… colored label color and then put them back out.

Free to any library (after June 1). Details on web site – cumberlandlibrary.org/browse-method

Adaptable to children’s collection – but not there yet. Remember “A library is a living organism”

Q&A – Can you move full collections, maybe out of order? Try to get the books shifted first – and then label. Ask pages – what do you think of this and the arrangement?

Ingram can pre-process at a cost, but can add a note when you order about the call number.







PLA 2018: Ideas and Slides

This has been an uncommonly inspirational and informative conference – and it’s not over yet. Guess I missed a very moving talk by Steve Pemberton: “Believe in your dreams, rise above obstacles, create opportunities for others, and most of all, persevere.”  Glad I can watch it later…privately…with tissues.  So often, we never know the impact we make – the lives we touch – the good we do.  Serving the public – from birth to death – is really an amazing path to choose for ones life’s work.


Some missed programs:

Community as Collaborator

Participatory experiences in the library – those that put the user in charge of their learning – are an exciting way to create meaningful connections for the community. Learn strategies to facilitate and scale programs and spaces for your patrons no matter your library’s size by leveraging trends to inspire your community to take ownership of library experiences.

Eliminating Fines and Fees on Children’s Materials to Create a Win-Win for Your Library and Community

Librarians have long debated the philosophy and financial role of charging fines and fees for late, lost, and damaged materials. This is still a critical topic as fines and fees pose a significant barrier to library use, especially for low-income families. In this interactive session, explore research on the benefits of eliminating fines and fees and engage with colleagues on this topic, including how to overcome challenges to achieving increased library access.


Hire for Fit: Best Practices for Hiring to Your Culture

Does your library have a unique culture that attracts a certain kind of talent? Want to increase your success at hiring and keeping stars for your team? Want to know what rules to break, what data points to track, what question to always ask and what to do with red flags and green flags? Want to compare questions and techniques with libraries with 3 very different cultures? Join us!


PLA 2018: Great Expectations

Great Expectations – Customer Service and the Future of Libraries

Positive memorable experiences – Customer experience is key.

Comply with customer or follow policy without exception – need organizational definition.  Need a definition and then develop tools and training needed to provide that service. Goal: We will provide library internal and external customers with an exceptional, personalized and consistent service experience.  Vetted by staff and incorporated their ideas and experiences.

GET HANDOUT and Review recorded webinar

https://mcldaz.org/custom/about/greatexpectations/ < web site

Front line staff see it as a playbook – expectations | Supervisor – tool to help encourage underperforming staff (observable, trainable and coachable – behaviors we want them to model) | Director – Common language and framework for both internal and external customers

Customer service behaviors 101 – nothing new, but does the organization provide it consistently throughout the library?

Great Expectations are aspirational – challenge to find something to improve upon

Great Expectations: (sample of her 3 hour class)

  • Make everyone feel welcome – inclusion, accessibility, easiest to grasp, set tone for entire customer journey.  Project a friendly and approachable demeanor with body language and non-verbal cues.Lean in, open body language, etc. Scan the area around you periodically. If you don’t do this “I’m too busy, don’t bother me.” Can’t have good external without good internal. Treat all customers fairly – Libraries are for everyone – reflect community and world at large. Give every customer the same enthusiasm – genuine and sincere. Be consistent from one customer to the next. Does everyone feel welcome, even the grumpy ones?
  • Anticipate customer needs – helping to create a seamless experience by eliminating barriers. Say WOW that was easy. Reduce customer effort whenever possible – anticipate questions and go over things in advance. Do a quick account review to see if card is close to renewal or any fines or holds, upcoming due dates – inform them. Proactively look for unique customer service opportunities – Self-check – pull person out of line and check in books. Anticipate the next logical step in the customer’s journey.
  • Radiate confidence – Earns customer trust. Training gaps, but staff are more knowledgeable than they think they are!  Ability to FIND the answers, even if you don’t know the answer itself. Confidently share knowledge and expertise – Example overdrive – jump in and help. “Use your professional judgement.”  Keep up to date on knowledge of tools, products, services, and collection – New interfaces need training – new events, new items, changes to be aware of and have a grasp of what is happening around them. Staff needs = new training strategies.
  • Inspire curiosity – Introduce customers to their next favorite thing. Creative cleverness in displays. Positively suggest resources customer may not be familiar with – Customer gets their notion of products and services from the staff member who first introduces them to it. eBooks – become proficient so you can excite the customer about the new options and formats. Empower the customer with knowledge – teach and explain, walk them through, show them where to find the info they need. Readalikes – show customer Fan Fiction or novelist.  End each session with “If you didn’t get all that, don’t worry..I’ll help you every time.” Humans are information seekers and we want to figure things out. Inspire customer brains.
  • Creatively solve problems – Pursue the reconciliation of the relationship, not just the resolution of the issue. Look for offsetting consideration for the disappointment. Make an exception, split the fines, Be flexible but consistent in approach to resolving problems. H.E.A.T. – Tool for staff from Disney. Need a method. Hear them Out (listen). Empathize. Apologize and Thank them for their time and patience. need to recover from a service failure.
  • Own the moment – When customers aren’t interacting with us, they’re working through our phone system, our building, our branding. Example: Page puts a book back incorrectly.  Customer journey from parking lot and everything they do in the library or online. All of our roles throughout the journey. Complete every task with the customer’s experience in mind. Staff behind the scenes.  Take each opportunity to make a positive experience. Your 15th card is the patron’s very first – especially with kids. Transform transactions to interactions with the patrons.
  • Personalize the experience – Get an emotional response in the customer that makes them fiercely loyal.  Very Individual Person (VIP). Gauge customer reactions and respond accordingly. Visual cues – looking for signage or us. Recognize repeat customers with friendly acknowledgment – Repeat customers – use professional judgment to decide level of interaction and level of service. Be mindful – consistent customer service.
  • Act with integrity – Reliable and accurate information. Privacy! Confidentiality! New to staff who don’t know libraries. Use appropriate resources to give accurate information – know digital collection!  Power Library. Know the source. Consumer Reports for example. Respect the privacy of customers as well as coworkers.  “Mr. Peters and Fifty Shades of Embarrassment” If they lower their voice or give you note, respond in kind and gauge that by being in the moment. Walk them to the shelves to speak with them quietly. Circle back or let them know where you are so they don’t have to talk to another staffer.
Focus on the behavior you want – demonstrate the expectations.  Come back with notes and photographs to identify the expectation and behavior.
Keep it staff informed with real-life examples
Keep both internal and external focus
Conduct follow up meetings – Managers, work with staff to identify what is working and what is more difficult – training gaps
Good customer service is the result of intentional over time.
Implementation Process
New habit, needed feedback and follow up meetings. Developing a shared vocabulary. Could talk about failures and successes that could be replicated.
Cute graphics and puns helped
“Roll” model awards on the spot awards
Ongoing efforts – recruitments and staff training adjusts to fit audience. Working on peer recognition plan.
Supervisor tool kit under development with committee input. Lots of communication.

PLA 2018: Coach Your Team to Greatness!

Friday, March 22 at 2 pm | Maggie Snow and Stacey Hendren from Anoka County Library

50% of employees who leave, site their manager as the reason they quit.   How comfortable is an employee going to their manager with any type of question – gauge of job satisfaction.

With coaching, you can actively engage your employees and move forward.

County transitioned to a coaching model.

Handouts: Work Outcomes (.doc) |

Effectiveness & Success – people want to feel valued and know they are making a difference in their job. Coaching fosters great harmony between management and staff. Regular coaching brings focus back to goals. Gets to heart of things before they escalate.  (Wow – wish I could have worked in a system with supervisor training and mentoring opportunities – down-side of going directly from library school into a Director position).

Blah-blah about the history of the process. Created new work outcome statements based on a mass of post-its about what everyone does – helped with staff buy-in. Boiled down to categories and found some that apply to everyone from janitor to Director. Expectations of everyone in every position. Bottom up – people who do the job said what they do.  Coaching training provided for all supervisors. 

Coaching: Collaborative initiative where supervisors guides and prompts forward movement. Inquiry and open-ended question asking that encourages people to reflect and take self-guided action. Engage employees, accelerate growth in high achievers. (Lisa Gates Linda.com training) Actively engaged employees show passion for work. Coaching supports all types. Allows supervisor to identify needs and skill level of staff. Skill v. Challenge. Flow is complete emersion and peak performance. Otherwise, you are anxious or bored. Bored folks look elsewhere. Anxious people are unhappy. Communication and open-ended questions get staff into the flow channel.

corrective and positive feedback – Corrective address and identify situations quickly and describe behavior and shared responsibility for behavior. Expectations – where not being met.  Express continued trust and support of person. Describe specific behavior and the results and impact. Discuss the importance – value, making a difference and express gratitude. Private or public? Frequency – individual supervisor meetings. Prepare for discussion, have examples and action items. Train and share skills and be confidential. Mentoring along with supervising and keep boundaries between the relationship. 

How often do you discuss goals and performance with those you supervise?  Monthly? Weekly? annual? 

How to Coach: 

Set goals at the annual review. meaningful goals that align with interests, strengths and goals.  Annual meeting means the goals are forgotten about. Coaching method delves deeper – why is learning about ebooks important? How are you going to do that? What are you going to do with that knowledge? Measure? know impact? 

Coaching a reminder and check-in on goals (quarterly). If you haven’t had the time, supervisor can help make the time or help them with skills or coaching/teaching. Grow method – goal, realities, options, will – realistic goal? applicable? options – how refine? will – is this something you really want to learn or care about and want to do? Will unlocks actions, accountabilities and roadblocks. What is causing you to struggle with this goal?  “Because I hate it and don’t know why I wrote it down.”

SMART goal – Specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, timely goals. 

Develop a schedule – meet once a month or 5 minute check in – How are you doing, what are you challenges, do you need support from me. Quarterly meet in the office for an hour – no rules for how much or how often, as long as it’s more than once a year. 

Prepare with corrective and positive feedback. Prepare open ended questions. “What has been the best part of your week?”  

Coach – coaching worksheets with topics for discussion (handouts section). Look back at job description. Get updates on training quarterly to make sure training is appropriate and helpful. Updates on progress – Know what folks are working on and help create projects and give support. 

Discussion of ideas and challenges.  Updates on teamwork to get broader perspective as supervisor. Follow-up after coaching session. Supervisor notes throughout the quarter for each staff member. 

Talking individually with staff and supporting their development. Provide support and feedback necessary to keep staff actively engaged. 

Differences in who is supervised – Start with a self-reflection. How do you communicate and like to be communicated to? Talk along same channels. Director supervises upper level management – touch base and get out the way. 

Continuous Improvement – Learn from each other. Take 5 minutes to write down a paragraph of what you talked about (performance review done!) Library system talks about communications and communication plan. Douglas county presented on a communication plan. (PLA 2 years ago). Email sent out on Thursdays. Sharepoint, etc. Staff know who we will communicate with them and cuts down on gossip. Follow the chain of command to find the correct answer. preferred method of communication – in person or email? Make it known and use it. Community development program – facilitation training from university extension service. Rewarding – helps with coaching, teams, community conversations.  Public services team – 10 minutes for training at meeting and supervisor training through county (cohorts). 

Coaching methods improved leadership skills and improved communication and gained personal satisfaction and self-knowledge. 

Staff need to operate effectively and with integrity and coaching helps make that happen. 

Talk about what the staff member is passionate about – ex. art degree. Assist with displays, give ideas for design. Actively engaged by using her passion throughout the building. 

Bite-size management training – example? Opioid training on what it is, what’s going on in the county, and possibilities for library and then discussion. Sexual harassment in libraries – questions sent prior to the training! 

How have you changed appraisal process? Just added. Still once a year form completed and given to HR. Just more documentation and meetings. Work outcome statements included in document. 

ON PLA web site – handouts available.

  • How do you go from complaints to constructive?  Script out what you want to talk about and stop them and get back to the script. That happened, how can we make it better and what did you learn?  Get back to the open ended questions from the form to redirect the discussion. Acknowledge the problem what is our shared responsibility. (Growth mindset session – look into that).
  • Resources to help? Linda.com training, coaching and developing training. strategic thinking and emotional intelligent. Drive by Daniel Pink. Leaders eat last by Sinek, Simon. 
  •  How do you coach managers? Open ended questions can go from the employee to the manager!  Push the manager to give you what you need as the employee. Have a conversation with managers about job descriptions. Coach managers on this process. This is what we are going to do, here is the training, and create this as an expectation of the managers. Why – I’ll provide training to make it happen. 
  • Diverse community coaching – Communication piece. Focus on the individual and their strengths and issues. 
  • What do you with the data from the sessions? Communication piece again, how does the supervisor prefer to be contacted – are you burying your request in their inbox because they hate email? Believe the person you are working with is not out to get you. Not intentional – how do they best respond and want you to communicate with them.  How you best want me to follow up with you? 
  • Challenge others to pay attention to community and libraries. What are you going to learn to drive our library forward!  Become an expert on something. Personal and professional goals. Do strategic thinking about what you want to do – personal, branch, system goals.  Brand new v. journeyman.  Different experience level = different flow = different coaching.  What can you teach or mentor to others, as a journeyman? Turn expertise into a benefit to the rest of staff. 
  • How do you pull back-end staff into this process and strategic plan. Increase access to information, ideas, and stories – Web site, new products, usability, MLA, metadata, RDA, align organization to new techniques.  Sit on committees statewide. 
  • confidence needed as a new managers – fake it till you make it. Build a strong relationship with your supervisor – always complain up, vent up. Find an accountability partner to bounce ideas off of. Confidentiality with and talk with them about the issue. When performance is lacking, the rest of the staff all know it and look to you to do something about it. Deal with it directly, so staff trusts you and maintain your integrity. Script it out, read through it, and stick with the script. Roll playing for hard conversations. Acknowledge that you don’t know it all. 
  • maggie.snow@co.anoka.mn,us (call)
  • Stacey Hendren – stacey.hendren@co.anoka.mn.us (email)

PLA 2018: Beyond the turnstile…

Beyond the turnstile…

IMLS Research project – better ways to assess efforts, especially for people who prefer to talk. Program evaluation…
National stats gathered about library programs:
# of programs, # of programs for youth, # of library users who attend programs
Q 1. Describe a program or service (1) designed to meet the information needs of library users who prefer to talk when interacting with information and (2) involves your library working with partner.
Free Library of Philadelphia – ESL, interpersonal, in branch with greatest linguistic diversity.  Walked the street to gather interest.  Volunteer instruction while walking the business district – recommendation. 12 participants with 6 languages in the class!  Would hang out after class and formed a bond. 12 week class, then graduated to community college (followed instructor).
Find a cooperative partner willing to give 50/50 effort. Clear roles and responsibilities. Cross pollinate ideas, but also benefits business nonprofits in the neighborhood. Easier to work with ‘small fish.’
Outcomes: Wanted to expand class to evening and expand reach into another zip code. Process – teacher gave entrance assessment & exit to see improvement.  (Project Outcome)  Assessment?  Staff assessed comfort level of participants – brought children in, got to know others in community, employment on corridor, etc. Polling place, tell stories to staff of how they were empowered. “reach back into the community by connecting others with library.”
Seattle – 2018 Literacy collection outreach project. Don’t want to check out materials b/c of fear of fines, so purchased 500 items that were handed out at programs for home use. Somalia family safety task force as partner. Powerful director of the organization – expanded from computer classes to discussions and increasing literacy skills and dynamic partner helps spread the word. Took materials to computer classes and to local events. Required patience and grace to work with nontraditional organization (non-white). Cultural differences. Evals: Outcomes based eval. Determine outcomes built with cooperative organization. Some of the libraries outcomes had to come off the table to work with the group.  Assessment? What is the change in the lives of the people participating? Computer language classes were women only and they felt more confident in basic communication outside community. Talk with teachers as needed. Could talk more confidently with kids about schoolwork in English. Some felt ready to pursue work outside their community!  Airport, for example. Word of mouth and requests for new partnerships.
Cleveland – Collect in 45 languages at the library, but users felt uncomfortable. Who to ask, not sure what to do.  Videos in spanish/arabic, etc. More accessible – quick hits of information (library card, programs, etc.) Legal clinics asked about, so will make more videos to address need. Legal Aid Clinic partners – throwing money at a project was their an ROI? Did we really help our community? Took a slower approach. 1 clinic to start. 10-14 lawyers came to library (paid) and had people waiting outside the door. Mortgage/rental law issues. Built it. 5th year of program. 30 clients – 2.5 hours a piece. Successful for city and library.  Assessment? Neighborhoods keep score!  Other places were contacting outreach department to request the program. Lines waiting outside show value! Outcome measures: continued growth.
Best practices for serving populations in the margins. IMLS grant study. Assessment models used bubbled to the surface:
Interactions and relationships
Changes in lives
Other branches contacting us?
Numbers sometime still work
1. It takes a village – Partnering with other organizations – Are people bringing friends? Furthering education in area (community college)?
@. Safety-net model – Focus on objectives and leveraging resources.  Show how library helps others in community to hold the safety net. “Since we started, have you noticed change in your clientele?” Example: Legal aid saw smarter clientele attending library events
#. Changing the Conversation – If library needs to be held accountable for larger phenomena. Program on teen sex abuse – research showed a need and even though 0 attended first event, all brochures placed around library disappeared. Excited to offer program again. More reference inquiries about topic?
How did you follow-up with participants?
Christina – 6-month follow up and she’d go see them and ask how program impacted the person in the business district. Personal connection.
What outcomes? Did you use Project Outcome? No, designed out outcomes.

PLA 2018: Strategic Planning for Culture Change and a Dynamic Future

Auburn Public Library and Plano Public Library | March 22, 4 pm

Auburn, Alabama – Auburn University, 62,000, 20th fastest growing city in USA, top retirement destination, too.

  • $1.9 million budget, 22 FTE, municipal library , advisory board, stable funding
  • Strategic process goals: be intentional, engage employees at every level, and have a living, breathing document
  • Key Questions of the process:
  • Why are we here? Aspiration statement – big picture developed by leadership and board.
  • What do we believe?
    • Guiding Principles: Guideposts to help with decision making – questions to ask. Our community is at the heart of everything we do (don’t plan in a vacuum) and be responsive to the community – yes and maybe to patron requests. We work as a team – Every person at every level contributes to success of organization. People always come first (not that they are always right) – think about people not books or facilities. We don’t circulate the Gutenburg Bible…we can replace books, not people and relationships.
    • Policies and procedures are designed to make the library easier, not harder, to use.
  • Who Are We? We all fill different roles, including the Library.  Service Roles: collection, community connector, literacy and learning leader, place, and technology resource. A way to talk about ourselves and what we do, and to explain what we do to Board and City government.
  • What do Our Patrons Need? Service Priorities: Accessibility and Openness, Literacy and Education, and Community Engagement (partnerships)
  • Their strategic plan fits on 1 page – these 4 questions and all the answers.
  • The Process: Teams, Vision for excellence, Initiatives and activities, Lots of sharpies and post-its.
  • Program of Work – Enhanced To Do list for the year – Initiatives and activities to focus on for each fiscal year – priorities for the year. Owners listed,  and a timeline for each initiative. Priorities for follow through.
  • Never stop planning because planning never stops. Service Roles set for longer term, Service Priorities set for intermediate term and Program of Work for the upcoming year. It’s part of the budget process to update the POW – used to organize statistics, annual reports, and Director’s update – organized around the POW.
  • Results – great communication impact inside and outside. Used to explain the library to new assistant city manager (their boss). Accountability, day-to-day balanced with big picture, and integrates with other plans (department plans, professional development plan, and city department plans).
  • Chris Warren – @cswarrent321. cwarren@aubrunalabama.org

Libby Holzmann (libbyh@plano.gov) Plano Public Library System Director – Groove is in the Heart!

  • 277,000 population, Toyota moved to town, 5 locations, $12 mill budget, 179 staff
  • One Library, Five Branches – same and awesome – goal.
  • New director – started the process by listening to the staff and make it a collaborative process. Hear concerns, questions, ideas – themes popped up.
    • Didn’t understand why, where we are going, don’t know people outside the building.  Now join us with this project
  • Leadership Team (LEAD team) – Us v. They – anyone with manager or supervisor in the title told they were leaders and brought onto this team.
    • iOpt – online 24-question survey to see how people process information.  Needed to understand how everyone works and combat fear.
    • Questions for culture check – strengths/weaknesses of library? What are your responsibilities? What would it take to improve your skills? What are 3 key initiatives you would like to see for your library?
    • Conversation about “us” (what we believe about where we are going together as a team) | Changing “Our” direction | Creating consensus/clarity (Get 20 people on the same page)
  • Team Building taken to staff – asked to answer the same questions. Work as a team to gather info and get it back to LEAD team. Processed answers and found themes:
    • Place | Programs | Community | Development
    • Designated “champion” teams for each initiative
    • Champion teams created goals and actions, including “on boarding” new staff orientation
  • Staff Development Day – staff input
    • Director visited all libraries
    • Champions and supervisors leaded conversations in small groups – cross pollinating and made people uncomfortable – discussions. Staff can ask what the goals and objectives mean – personal understanding.
  • Training a huge component
    • Defined cross-training opportunities
    • Hands-on learning sessions
    • Cross-stem meetings
    • Ongoing & Frequent
    • Food is good
  • Tools: Visual org charts (asset mapping and picture in email) | Intranet | Outside Facilitator | Champions (communication) – authority to deliver | Training (frequent) | Reinforcing the Plan
  • Journey for everyone and bring them along with you. What do you Need from us?
  • Staff can now answer WHY they do what they do.
  • Next steps: measuring the outcomes | Sharing status and progress | Engaging the community
  • Momentum and pulling together | Next year invited to have a table #morethanbooks at community event (pull a fire truck)

Q & A

  • Team building consultant rather than a strategic planning consultant
  • Role of the trustee? Governing Board would have a much deeper involvement – mission and visioning. Staff, front-line involvement impactful (be able to tell the boss they have a bad idea). Director relies on staff to have the good ideas. Trustees speak for the needs of the community and constituents
  • How do you find boundaries – can’t be all things to all people. The plan – who are we, what are we trying to be for our community. Can say “Great idea, let’s connect you with these folks who do this” Mission creep. (Zoolander example). Understand your community. This is what our community needs us to do, not ‘this is what the library can do.’  Awesome at 5, rather than mediocre at 50.
  • We want all the things, but can’t afford all the things.  Asset mapping – using assets strategically to complete projects with existing staff. Using skills and abilities. Do that within your community – find everyone and asset map to the community. Partnerships.
  • How did you engage the community – external input? Auburn: greatest shortfall – didn’t seek as much as seeking for new plan. Surveys and focus groups and using outside resources from other existing plans, including citizen survey.  Plano: Asking the community at outreach – survey on the fly and take notes.
  • Where did capital/building planning fit into this process?  Auburn – parks and rec master plan included capital planning. “Library as place” service goal.
  • Leadership training helped give staff the skills they needed to self-guide through the process
  • Middle-management influence?  People with influence make the case to admin.  Storytelling and influence to get the Director to listen and be on board.

HV Library of the Future

We have David B. coming tomorrow to lead us (Board, staff, Friends, and a few patrons) in a discussion of our strategic vision and what we would like in our dream building.  In preparation, I’ve done some very light research, but it’s still been inspiring.

The Demco Interiors blog is a gold mind.

Starting with Designing for Community: 10 Essential Library Spaces The Margaret Sullivan Studio designs based on placemaking principles:

  • The strategic goals of the institution
  • The library’s brand attributes
  • The community’s needs, goals and aspirations
  • The desired learning outcomes for patrons

So, what would our placemaking principles look like? Well our goals and brand are to be a great, traditional library with exceptional customer service, ample study spaces, an up-to-date collection, and serving as the community hub.  During the day, we are a ‘study hall’ with substantial oak tables and library bureau chairs that are almost always full of teen and adult students, students and tutors, or small groups collaborating on projects. In the mornings, we have programs that bring in families or seniors for storytime and yoga.  At night, it’s quieter unless there’s a program that brings in families.

As a bedroom community, Lower Moreland Township is fighting to cultivate a small-town vibe with plans like the Bethayers Streetscape that would redevelop our one cute shopping area along Huntingdon Pike. We are located at the apex of the Pike – could we position ourselves to be more walker-friendly?  This community also fully supports our school district and it is the main reason new residents move to the area, so we are building a stronger relationship with the District through the school librarians.  We are also a very diverse district with Russian, Chinese, Malayalam, Hebrew, Ukranian, Korean, and Arabic all spoken at home.  How do we serve those kids and their families?

Other of the article’s Top 10 ideas I’d like to incorporate into our plans:

  • Welcome space – rework our lower entrance (mud room) and make it easier for patrons to navigate up to the library from downstairs.  I think we are OK from the front entrance, just need to declutter and blow up our huge circ desk.
  • Vibrant Cafe – yep, we need something other than the vending machines downstairs….that’s not on carpet.  Abington Free Library downsized Reference to create space for book-themed vending machines and a new seating area.
  • Browsing Bookstore – expand and better merchandise our new books.
  • Living Room – we have that covered in spades!  2 couches, multiple comfy chairs, bistro tables…
  • Messy Space – a maker/art/creative space
  • Community Meeting Room – check! We have a great one. Could use a kitchen…
  • Quiet Room – YES PLEASE
  • Business Incubator – We would need to ask around and gather more information about this – I’m not sure it’s a need that we have.
  • Pop-Up – maybe on a small scale? little free library? outreach?
  • Community Garden – YES PLEASE – I think this would be so cool and we have the green space around the building to make it happen (if we stay in this location).

Top 5 Library Design Trends (demco interiors blog)


  1. Light and Airy – We have this and just need to upgrade the windows to eliminate the “cold and drafty” in winter or “leaky and moldy” after a heavy rain.
  2. Unfixed flexible space – OK, so they explain why this trend is so popular (just go to a newly remodeled Free Library branch to see it in action).  Modular furniture can be reconfigured quickly, designed for BYOD with powered tables and cafe areas, mobile service points can be used at peak times with wifi connected devices, and low mobile shelving that staff and patrons can see over (helps with way finding).
  3. Power Everywhere – there are interesting low-profile access floor systems you can install during a renovation or raised access floor systems in new construction to address power needs throughout the building.
  4. Collaboration and Study Spaces – Partitions allow you to sub-divide a room for maximum flexibility – Topeka and Abington both have this option.
  5. Furniture Trends – flip-top tables (Kim had these in Bonner), collaboration stations (Abington and Upper Moreland both have one), high-back lounge seating (for noise and privacy? No! So they can be pulled together to create a discussion space), and study pods (good, old fashioned study carrels never go out of style)

Library Design Showcase – 2017 and 2016 – pretty pictures…


2016 Library Building Award Winners


Hey look, there’s Lawrence Public, my old local library!  Brad and his staff have done amazing things with that space, including the recording studio, quiet reading spaces around the perimeter, and the water-bottle refilling station.

8 Technologies to Implement


  • Library Mobile App – Apps are trending over mobile Web sites.  Can we have a MCLINC App that pulls info in from library Web sites (like events)?
  • Augmented Reality
  • Self-service printing and scanning
  • Robots – Have this one!

The Future of Public Libraries: Emerging Trends


  • Makerspaces – there are examples links provided to 5 different libraries across the globe
  • Digital Creation Labs – Chicago Public’s is probably the most famous, but Fayetteville Free Library in NY has a green screen and Stokie Public Library has age-appropriate labs
  • Flexible Design and Seating – Comfy chairs and bright colors
  • Multi-use Spaces and Services – kitchens, gardens, performance spaces, cinema space, the Library of Things (sewing machine anyone?)
  • Emerging Technologies – 3D printers, makerspaces, and Brooklyn PL has an Espresso Book Machine to self-publish and bind books!

2017 Year in Review

2017 Year in Review

In January, after the Mummer’s Parade, I moved into a beautiful old carriage house on 3 acres of basically a suburban botanical garden in Lower Moreland. Being 6 minutes from work has been fantastic. I also started as the President of MCLINC in January and went to Circ, MAC, Network, Board, and Database committee meetings and attended Liz Vibber’s Board Chair Book Camp on Jan. 25. We gave a modified MCLINC dog and pony show at Indian Valley on January 26, but they declined joining at this time. Pam and I tackled revising our Service Policy and Code of conduct. Bruno was hired and Nika gave her notice, as did Glynnis.  It looks like I also started work on “Operation Clean Carpet.”  Off to a busy start.  You’ll notice a MCLINC theme for the year – being President took a lot more time, miles, and energy than I anticipated.

Pam had a great year – starting with the purchase of 3 Dash and Dot robots from the Friends and quickly followed by the Local Business Breakfast on Feb. 10.  We had the first of four Art Nouveau lectures Feb. 19.  Another Plan!  I sent a draft Emergency Preparedness Plan to Rich, our Deputy Emergency Manager,  for review in February (with follow-up Active Shooter training scheduled for 1/4/2018 by staff demand). Mila enjoyed spending winter watching birds and squirrels out the windows of the carriage house.

March – We partnered with Sushiman for a dining event on March 1 and the Matter of Balance classes with the Montgomery County Health Department started March 8 – a lead from the 2016 Senior Expo. Operation Clean Carpet happened March 10 and I hung out back here while they steam cleaned.  We also had a bumpy Polaris Upgrade March 7-9.  Youth Services Librarian interviews, a couple of audits, and the Friends Spring Tea ended the month.  The Township helped us out with building maintenance this year with new elevator locks and back-up battery, plus Meridian Security set up the community room to be alarmed, if needed. I had to put on my President cap during an unhappy phone call about the recent upgrade with Polaris on March 21, so hopefully the next migration/upgrade will go better. Glynnis expanded the Spring Egg Hunt, moving it to the hill next to the High School and utilized our teen volunteers to fill all 8,000 eggs. We hired Linda Jones in March and had to re-post for Glynnis’ position. Vanessa and Glynnis ended the Teen Reading Lounge by hosting Alex London, with a professional photographer from PHC to boot.

April – More Art Nouveau lectures, 300+ Spring Egg Hunt, and Glynnis’ going away party April 29. Parking woes – Police ticketed 10 students and we also had kids trespass through the community room DURING a program to go play basketball, so I called the fuzz and scared some middle-schoolers straight! Also started a discussion of our need for fire lanes. Pam organized another very successful Volunteer Tea – she’s so good with people. I’ll stick to writing policies and hanging out with my cat. Pam and Marilyn put on Family Hour of code April 22, kicking off our new robotics programs.  I took a mental health day and drove up to New Hope to walk among the wildflowers (it was a bit early, but still fun).

May – CAPS students shifted, re-labled, and such. We met another strategic goal by partnering with LMPD and inviting Officer Huttick to speak in June.  With a very active committee and help from professionals, we updated the employee handbook for MCLINC.  Vanessa moved the Teen Advisory Board forward in 2017, another strategic initiative.  As always in May, we prepared for Summer Reading – Build a Better World.  The flowers finally arrived…

June/July – I had an epiphany: we have been under-counting our door count since taking on the Community room as part of the library, so we will add the event attendance for events held upstairs to the door count for the annual report and then move the door counter in January. Terri started July 5, along with Allison and Samuel. I also went to ALA in Chicago to learn stuff and hear interesting people talk about librarianship. We moved Mah Jongg and Canasta from 11:30 to 12:30 and it caused a bit of friction, but enabled us to rent and/or use the Community Room in the morning on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays.  The Dash and Dot robots debuted at Summer Reading, paid for by the Friends.  Took another mini-break to take my Mom and Aunt Sharon to Longwood Gardens and Cape May.  Also went on some loverly walks along the Wissahickon and in my landlady’s garden:

August – I presented a draft budget to the Board. Linda Yerkees, the HS librarian retired and we learned that the new school liaisons would be all three of the District’s librarians, on rotation. The Board had a good discussion of Library Fundraising at their meeting and of the five ideas presented, the Fun Run happened!  I secured 5 sponsors (that was my big contribution to the cause) so all donations (over $700) were profit.  (No Bull Training and Karl rock – I hope we can do it again next year. )  Speaking of fundraisers, the Aug. 19 Books and Brews fundraiser at Naked Brewing Co. had good Board participation and a fun mix of Friends, patrons, staff, and newcomers. As you can see, I was having fun.

September – Circulation went down, but I think that was due in part to inflated in house uses numbers from 2016. Excluding in house circ showed a .7% increase. We asked the Friends to support a subscription to hoopla streaming service (and signed the contract in December).  Our new District Consultant – Karen – started. I went to Kansas to meet my new Great Nephew. The Board worked to schedule Victor Brooks, but we had to postpone to 2018. With donations down from last year, cash flow was a real struggle in 2017, so we had to ask the township for tax fund distributions more often. I have to get creative with fundraising and grant writing…or cut costs. The Board and I worked on a Board member job description and reviewed and revised the Bylaws in November. We started a new chair yoga class with Pura Vida, a local health store and another positive partnership with local businesses, like No Bull Training for the Fun Run. Vanessa starred in a Summer Reading TV ad created and edited by Ellen Z, the Pine Road librarian.

October – I presented our Budget – no major changes – and the Annual Appeal went out Oct. 16 to support general expenses.  We talked about ethics and the Library Bill of rights at the to Board meeting. Finally went to the Foundation Center on Oct. 24 to find family foundations we can apply to…if I get around to filling out the applications. Might recruit some of these writers I have on staff to help with this long-overdue project. We started discussing the Classroom Card idea floated by Ms. Curzi, HS librarian. We had no heat in the Community Room on a Monday and it lead to a mini-mutiny on Halloween. Not fun. The Township kindly replaced a ballast in the stairwell after it started burning and we evacuated the building. MCLINC and the County decided to add Ebsco Discovery Service, so that had to be configured and added to our Web site for testing in December. Pam secured Be Well Cafe to the list of Fun Run sponsors ($100). Movie Night Under the Stars went well and Terri has done a great job tackling the “must have” programs: Write and Illustrate Your Own Book in November, Movie Night in October, and she’ll plan the Spring Egg Hunt in 2018. J and I took a second trip to NYC (we went in April) and saw this “Reading Room” in Bryant Park behind the NYPL.

November – I Continued My Education! I went to the Directors’ Summit in Philly with several Montgomery County librarians.  It was inspiring and great to talk candidly with other Directors and Karen, from the District. I followed up with a webinar about Transforming Libraries and turning outward.  A bit of synchronicity – I think we can use the Transforming Libraries process with our next strategic plan, to help restart the LM Business Association, and to see how the library could/should/would work as an economic development and community building engine. Feeling a bit excited about things just in time for 2018. The Nov. 11 Fun Run on the Pennypack Trail was a hit – well attended, very cold, but with a good atmosphere. I also met with our Superintendent, Dr. Feeley, and it initiated an autism awareness talk at January staff in service and our inclusion (hopefully) in Pine Road Elementary’s diversity event in March. Continued work on the Bylaws classroom card idea. Pam joined me at the District meeting to talk mental health and waxed dreamily (via email) about focusing 2018 programs on music and science and strengthen partnerships with the school district. (But have I actually planned any programs yet? Um, no.) However, I did schedule a special Jan. 25 Board meeting with a “What to expect when you’re renovating” presentation with David Belanger.

December – Finalized the hoopla deal, added Ebsco to the Online Resources page for testing, and attended a great workshop on collection challenges sponsored by SEPLA on Dec. 1 with Linda. At the December staff meeting, we reviewed the Request for Reconsideration policy and practices. The Friends decided to buy us 4 more Dot robots after two of the Execs volunteered for new Learn to Code club and saw the robots in action with the kids. I also freaked out about money, I mean, updated the budget for Board and discussed cash flow contingency plans with my wonderful Treasurer, Judy.  Also organized the Jan. 4 staff in-service with our guest speakers from the School District and Township.  We’ll also have some tech training and a little design charrette the day after I get back from my year-end vacation to Seattle.

Highlight of the Year: Spending time with these folks in Chicago…

Plus +

  • Collaborations with businesses and school librarians and being approached as a partner to help reboot the LM Business Association.
    • Pam led the way with the Business Breakfast, then Summer Reading raffle tickets at participating businesses, and finally with the Fun Run and partnerships with Pura Vida for Chair Yoga and Tea Talk in Dec.
    • I worked with the school librarians to organize the classroom card and pitched the idea to Dr. Feeley who agreed to add the library as a stop for their inter-building mail courier.
    • Shared the Turning Outward concept with anyone who would listen, including the Township manager
    • Other examples: Officer Huttick’s talk during Summer reading, Rich’s help with Emergency plan, and Township’s help with the building and grounds.
  • Delegating:
    • Marilyn and Pam to explore coding and start Learn to Code club with adult volunteers
    • Meg to organize Adult book clubs, Saturday storytimes, and LEGO club
    • Vanessa to run with her TAB group and assisting with Terri’s training and orientation
    • Meg and Blessy to represent the library at a Back to School night
  • Moved forward with Policies: Code of conduct (late 2016), Service policy, Emergency preparedness policy, and revised Bylaws.
  • MCLINC President – Active with calls, meetings, fretting, and the MAIUG in NJ, but moved forward with:
    • Hiring a great new Network Manager
    • Upgrading to Polaris 5.2 while simultaneously migrating to the Cloud
    • Managing an unexpected personnel issue and vacancy
    • Presenting to Indian Valley
    • Updating the Employee handbook and implementing the new Fiscal policy
    • Contracting with Liz Vibber to restart strategic planning process with Sukrit as Chair
    • We set several Goals at the start of the year and worked towards reaching them
  • Adult programming overview: Four Aspects of Art Nouveau, Matter of Balance Class, Socrates Cafe, Movies, and Yoga. Civil War talk with Union League (follow up tour for Friends Dec. 11). The Friends After Meeting programs did well – Pennypack talk, Art House Confidential (Renew Theaters), Pearl S. Buck in 2018. Computer classes with Jonathan were well received, but he would like better attendance in 2018. We might consider having Zumba class again in 2018 – it was a real hit that we missed this year. Added Monday Night Yoga and chair yoga in Fall, but Chair yoga attendance fell and was canceled. Pam’s art class and essential oils classes do consistently well. I did NOT focus greatly on programming in 2017 and the decrease in attendance shows it, I’m afraid.
  • Fundraising Overview: 2016 Appeal and summer appeal went to architect and we made over $15,000 towards the $30,000 goal by October, when we started the 2017 Appeal. Small fundraisers included: Sushiman, LulaRoe, Naked Brewing, Summer Appeal, and the Fun Run. Postponed Victor Brooks, but Pam and her committee are planning a BINGO event for April 14. The Fun Run was great and worth repeating.
  • Staff – we had 5 new staff members join us (Bruno, Linda, Terri, Allison, and Sam) and three who left (Bruno, Glynnis, and Nika). The transition from Glynnis to Terri is progressing. I look forward to working with Terri to flesh out her vision for Youth Services. We continue to have several librarians and/or librarians-in-training at the desk.  Linda is going to Library school, Allison is a recent MLS graduate, and Kathleen is working PT at an academic library. Kathy and Monica, as mini-MAC, have Sundays well in hand and Sunil, Karen, Meg, Jonathan, and Marilyn keep us running smoothly.


  • Adult programming – I think 2017 would have benefited from more of a vision, so am trying to focus on quality over quantity in 2018 and be thoughtful and plan with intention. 2018 Events Master List DRAFT.  Ideas: Ben Franklin, Hillbillies concert, School musicians, School art show, Learn To Code club expansion, family speakers on coding, etc.
  • Staff development – I think I’m not alone with this.  How can I make sure staff know what I need them to know?  What the new polices are and where to find them, extreme customer service, readers advisory, and working sensitively with patrons. We did have staff meetings consistently and I think that helped, but it’s hard to get everyone here at the same time. The  Jan. 4 Staff Day should help.
  • MCLINC – I feel I could have been a better coach as President, but I think we still accomplished a lot as an organization. There’s room for improvement and I think the Strategic planning process will bring to light (bright, glaring light) what we want and need in the future.
  • Focus – wait, what was I just doing?

Library Space Planning with A. Cohen

LLAMA webinar – Library Space Planning – Using Knowlege Management Principles for Success With Alexander Cohen. Over 10,000 library projects worked on by the consulting firm.

Share knowledge and build communities – Knowledge Managing Concepts

1. Develop Social Capital – What is a learning organization? How do we encourage continuous improvement and supporting Antifragile Management (no more annual performance reviews).

How do we measure communities of practice?  Look at libraries from a behavioral aspect.  Look at modes of learning: touch point (service desk), reflective (quiet space), presentation (learning lab), collaborative (cafe or computers), social (cafe, bookstore, maker space, art space).  What are the physical, communication, and human interactions/needs in those spaces.  How do we communicate in a 2-D and 3-D environments?   Uses of the spaces based on these modes of learning.

Service Desk as a touch point: How does it flow, What are the attributes of the community and how does the service desk reflect those?  Self-service v. Human interactions

Another way to measure project attributes for the touch points is to look at see/hear/touch.  For example, at the reflective space, how important is sight, hearing or touch?  You probably don’t want human staff, want little sound, but maximum sight in quiet reflective space.

Use emotional intelligence methods for planning and operating services. A flexible service desk is a touch point that is physical and highly visible.  Example, a student-staffed service desk at the entrance of an academic library so there is a peer-to-peer exchange upon entering the space.

User Space Needs – how much space do users need?

Social space – a person’s behavioral bubble, or personal space, may be larger and have different needs than in a reflective space or a collaborative space. How do you measure library services – and how do you design for those service needs.  Justify the space for the users needing it. Pendulum swinging back to 1-2 person use of the space away from 8-16 person collaborative spaces.

Library as incubator – how does it fit this model? Great flexibility with wheeled furniture. Students create hives within the space as needed.  Expand to include technology like augmented reality, music recording, broadcasting, and 3D printing.

Library Planning Approaches

  1. Dialogue and tour with the users – see what they see, hear what they hear.
  2. Needs Assessment: Space
  3. Needs Assessment: Service (future needs)
  4. Summary of Findings as a pre-planning tool and money generator

Methodology for Change:

  • Discover: What is? What are the best parts of the existing library we want to maintain?  Make sure they are retained
  • Dream: What might Be
  • Design: What should be
  • Deliver: What will be

Focus on the desires of the user community – stay focused on what the community truly wants.  Keep the process transparent.

An accurate, insightful list of program attributes is as important as a clear vision.  Creative Tension and Emotional Tension oppose each other.  Work with communities to understand where the vision and reality match or there are gaps.

Need clear goals, objectives, and vision for the community based on studying the user needs and wants. This helps keep the project vision from being diminished.

Corners as collaborative space, edges for reflective space, and central flexible central space.  Example has pivoting walls that can create large, small, changing spaces.

Design Modes – ‘breakthrough for today’

Touchpoints are service desks. They can be expensive and a barrier to service. Or it can be inexpensive and flexible. Important part – must have a human for it to work best 😉  Service desk is key to library service – customer service, technology sharing, interactive space full of disruption.  The desk should be open, near the entrance, safety conscious.  The human touch of this space – how do humans fit in it comfortably.

Example: Ask Us, touchscreen interactive environment next to an interactive space for staff/patron interactions

Interactive map!  How cool would that be. Space age touch point. Search technology on book ends – also space age touch point. Launch pad iBeacon transponder sends information if opted in by the patron. Student art show ap as an example.

Reflective Space – scholarly space, comfortable, light, big tables, nooks for reading and study.  Volumetric physical space – open, semi-enclosed and enclosed, quiet seating.  Communication/hearing: is it tech space, has wifi, includes augmented reality.  Human touch in reflective mode you have seat size for the behavioral bubble, lighting and power controls.  How to break you library down into pieces and these elements that are important for the environment.

Presence of books on the shelf helps give the feel of reflective space. Mobile reflective space – bar space to perch. Take photos of your library to analyze what you see.  If everyone has headphones does that mean the library is too loud?

Living edge idea – run seating perpendicular to the wall with quiet environment with natural light. Personal zone, dividers or book walls to break up the space.

Collaborative space should be flexible, writable walls for example. More pronounced in academic library settings.  Include technology, headphones, light, open space.  Conference rooms that foster parallel play.  Know that ideal number is 4-7 max and then the space morphs into presentation space. Virtual tech to aid collaborative space – webinars, conference calls, telepresence, etc.

Social Space = new need for libraries. Started with Applestore/Starbucks phenomenon.  Flowing environment without noise control.  Includes eating areas, near entrance, semi-enclosed or open, security, cleaning, flexible AV, odor control, Flexible human space, behavior bubble and ‘personal space’, cafe style. Cafe needs a garbage strategy to be successful. Browsing is still a social activity, but need hang out space and open study environments. Genius techie bar at the library. Barista as a touch point at the library. Coffee and check out your books ;-O  Gaming spaces.

Presentation space – open to expand? Small group or large and flexible space. Bring in privacy screens or large video wall. Maker space and present new ideas. Ideabox with windows as a live presentation.  Screens and dividers with stacking chairs – flexible.

What benchmarks do we apply to understand our library service?  Door count, tech use, program attendance, active patrons, e-resource use

Writable walls in staircase as a way to communicate.

Phase plan overview pre-plan…  <end notes>

My Township Manager called, so I had to mute my webinar.  I’ll get the archive and see what the Q&A said.