August 15, 2017

Sliding Along | Insights and Outcomes

At Lead the Change workshops around the country, local library leaders help facilitate the presentation, adding their own perspectives on the concepts presented by program developer David Bendekovic. But they don’t usually bring their own visual aids. The Southern California workshop, held on May 15 at the Pasadena Public Library (PPL), was an exception. While Bendekovic spoke about a slide from his deck, showing a variety of spectra from a traditional to a newer library approach in areas such as collections, space design, and service philosophy, on which the library’s current stance could be positioned, PPL director Jan Sanders slipped out of the room.

Moments later, she returned carrying a version of the same slide—with a difference. Sanders had simplified the original graphic and printed it onto foam board after she’d first seen it at a Lead the Change session held at San Diego County Public Library on April 23, 2013. Following that event, she had asked all Pasadena library staff members to plot where they felt their library stood on each ­spectrum.

ALL SMILES At Pasadena Public Library, CA, Director Jan Sanders  (2d from l.) and her staff display a chart bearing spectra of library service transformation possibilities. Smiley stickers show where each staffer feels the library stands

ALL SMILES At Pasadena Public Library, CA, Director Jan Sanders (2d from l.) and her staff display a chart bearing spectra of library service transformation possibilities. Smiley stickers show where each staffer feels the library stands

A spectrum of choices

The results (pictured) were enlightening. “It validated some of the things that we had in mind,” Sanders told LJ, and “shows us that we’re moving toward the…thinking we’re trying to propel more quickly in some areas than others.” On the whole, she said, the exercise served as a confirmation that the library was on the right track—and that staff members get it. “They can see the changes they’re putting in place are impacting the organization as a whole,” she said. “With the exception of one area, everyone felt we were at least halfway there.” The library made particularly strong showings in continuing and purposeful change, purchasing access to digital content, and staff serving as enablers and teachers of skills. Only in shifting from customer-focused service to customer involvement did staff feel they were lagging behind, as the library hasn’t yet spent a lot of time focused on that issue. Still, Sanders said she views customer focus in itself as a positive, compared to a staff focus.

One area where the exercise drove change was the physical plant. After seeing that most responses on that topic clustered in the 60–80 percent range, the library “stepped up some of the renovation and redoing that we’re performing here at the central location,” Sanders said, condensing the stacks from four floors to three to make room for a teen area, Maker space, and meeting rooms.

Sanders values the exercise in part, she said, because it can “drive home the idea that [change] is not a one-shot deal.” Her staff took that message to heart, suggesting that the library should repeat the process annually to gauge ­progress.


Even more impressive, Sanders was able to extend the usefulness beyond the library. After discussing it with the city manager, Sanders made slight modifications to the wording of the chart to focus on the community as a whole rather than the library and took the exercise to the weekly meeting of the city’s executive leadership team, which also includes other departments such as police and public works. The other department heads found it interesting, Sanders said, and the city manager still keeps the results in his office. The exercise also reinforced the library’s reputation among city departments “as the major changemaker, that can make changes ­effectively.”

At May’s Northern California Lead the Change event, Yemila Alverez, community engagement manger, San Francisco Public Library, told attendees that she planned to extend the reach of the exercise a step further, asking community members to fill out the spectra to see what the community thinks about the job the library is doing.

This article was published in Library Journal's June 15, 2014 issue. Subscribe today and save up to 35% off the regular subscription rate.

Meredith Schwartz About Meredith Schwartz

Meredith Schwartz ( is Executive Editor of Library Journal.

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