April has rapidly been passing by and I wanted to write one final reflection on the PLA Conference. One of the things that I heard at the conference was the need to have library staff perform story times and the basic duties of a children’s librarian. Apparently library managers are finding that not enough people are ready, willing, and able to handle those duties. Some libraries have having their staff wear multiple hats with one of them being a children’s librarian. I would imagine that the babies in bloom and other story times are very popular in most branches so the need to have staff that can perform those duties is important. I believe that these story times are important because they are examples of popular programming. You cannot digitize a program like story time so those programs will probably form the foundation of successful public libraries in the future. In one conference I was in there was discussion about a librarian who did not perform story times, but at least supported the story time by creating a bag full of story time materials such as puppets, felt birds, song sheets, etc.
One of the issues that was presented at the PLA conference was what the leaders in the field are doing to fight budget problems. Linda Mielke (director of the Chautauqua-Cattaraugus Library System and the James Prendergast Library Association. Jamestown, New York) noted that it best to keep the library’s stats up, keep the circulations up, keep the programming up, keep the doors open, and to buy the materials that people want. Closing the library doors means that circulation stats and other statistics will go down. In 2011, closing on Wednesday nights and Sundays meant a 36% drop in circulation in her library’s system. Mielke believes that a diminishing business in the form of circulation/ door counts makes it more difficult to point to the library as a vital resource that needs an increase in funding.
Jose Aponte (director of the San Diego County library) discussed the role of the air game (dealing with those external to the library system) and the ground game (dealing with those within the library system). The air game involved telling stories to convey what a library is to grab the attention of politicians. Usually the stories are inspirational examples of how the library is making a positive direct impact on the lives of those who use the library’s services within the community. In addition it is also wise (in the context of the air game) if the library director participates in a leadership role within the community (outside of just being a library director). For example, Aponte noted that he is on the board of the Greater San Diego Arts Task Force.
The library director must also be skilled in the vocabulary and operations of government leaders. In order to keep up to date Aponte reads magazines like American City/County government in addition to Library Journal.
Within the library system the ground game takes place. Some simple practices to increase staff morale were noted. For example, Aponte noted that he informs the staff about the library’s budget and tries to make sure everyone stays together on the same page as to what is happening with the budget. Also, he makes an effort to visit two libraries a month and to say hello to all members of the staff. In addition it is important to smile as appearances do matter. Aponte also makes sure that the library is hosting programs that are vital to the community. For example, 17% of the library’s programs are focused on health care. This is important as health care is an issue that is a concern to all segments of society. In addition there is a housing opportunities clinic in which attorneys come once a month to the library to offer mortgage counseling. According to Aponte, people build libraries and libraries build communities.