Human-centered design, a highly creative approach to problem solving, is gaining popularity in libraries as they plan for what lies ahead. Also known as design thinking, it focuses on defining and then resolving concerns by paying attention to the needs, aspirations, and wishes of people—in the case of libraries, not only a library’s patrons but its staff, administration, and members of the community who may not be library customers…yet.
In a decision that could have reverberations for library employees across the country, the board of the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County (PLCHC) announced at its June 14 meeting that the library will not add a rider to its health plan that would cover gender confirmation surgery for Rachel Dovel, who has worked at the library for more than a decade. The seven-member board cited the rider’s additional costs, which would be passed on to the library and its employees.
“We needed to change the conversation about libraries,” says Gina Millsap, CEO of Kansas’s Topeka and Shawnee County Public Library (TSCPL), the 2016 Gale/LJ Library of the Year. Millsap refers to her ongoing work with the Aspen Institute, an international leadership development nonprofit that has turned a lens toward public libraries. In October 2014, Aspen sparked a conversation about the future of libraries with its release of a report titled “Rising to the Challenge: Re-Envisioning Public Libraries.” TSCPL served as a case study. “The report gave us a framework and concepts to take out to the community,” Millsap tells LJ. As libraries engaged with the report, it became clear that many wanted more hands-on guidance about how to take recommendations from Rising to the Challenge and turn them into practical, achievable goals. In response, Aspen developed a new toolkit featuring 12 chapters of “ACTivities” covering topics such as “The Library as Civic Resource,” “The Library as Literacy Champion,” and “Jobs and Economic Development” to help libraries dig into the work of transformation, released in January as the “Action Guide for Re-Envisioning Your Public Library.”
A $600,000 budget cut will force Connecticut’s Hartford Public Library (HPL) to eliminate 10 jobs and curtail Saturday hours at most branches, but swift intervention by Mayor Luke Bronin prevented an even steeper reduction that would have left the system with no choice but to close three of its 10 branches.
Directors and library leaders from around Ohio and Pennsylvania met for a half-day workshop to share best practices and discuss ideas for impacting literacy and education throughout their communities. The interactive workshop was sponsored and attended by EnvisionWare and featured presentations by The Public Library of Youngstown & Mahoning County, Akron-Summit County Public Library and Stark County District Library.
The safety of staff and patrons is a top priority for all libraries, with managers striving to maintain a welcoming and secure environment for all who wish to make use of the space. Library systems nationwide enact security policies tailored to their respective communities and resources. Although these vary from library to library, librarians must strike a balance between offering a broad open door policy for all community members and ensuring a safe, secure environment for staff and patrons.
For a primer on managing disruptive patrons, knowing when to get law enforcement involved, and how to form the relationships that make that call easier, we spoke to Steve Albrecht. A retired police officer and security consultant, Albrecht is the author of Library Security: Better Communication, Safer Facilities (ALA Editions). (For more from Albrecht, see Playing It Safe: Author Steve Albrecht Tackles Security Measures for Libraries.)