In the wake of multiple controversies involving his staffing decisions, management style, weeding practices, and perceived levels of transparency and honesty, Berkeley Public Library (BPL) director Jeff Scott announced his resignation on Monday, August 31, after less than a year in the post.
A colleague once told me that librarians get into management like penguins falling off an ice floe. While it’s not the most flattering image, it felt a little too apt during my first year as an assistant director. Moving into leadership has been the single most formative experience of my career. It’s also been one of my most difficult professional challenges, and sometimes I still relate all too well to a flailing, flightless bird dropping into icy water.
The San Antonio Public Library (SAPL) and BiblioTech, the all-digital library operated by Bexar County and also located in San Antonio, have reached an agreement that will let the county reduce its payments to the city by hundreds of thousands of dollars annually, instead reinvesting that cash in digital content that will be accessible to users of both library systems. The compromise marks the resolution of a funding fight that stretches back to last year, when city officials complained that the county was not footing its fair share of the bill for library services.
Government services, such as public libraries, are often told to run their organizations “like a business.” However, when a start-up takes a risk and fails, it’s considered part of the business’s evolution. Whereas when a library takes a risk and fails, the entire program can be seen as wasteful. Can the director of a library afford to don the black mock turtleneck of a visionary entrepreneur like Steve Jobs and still stay employed?
Librarians have always taught patrons how to use the tools that serve their information needs. We had to explain card catalogs, vertical files, microfilm/fiche, photocopiers, and OPACs. The fundamental difference about the tech needs of the 21st century is the ever-changing variety of personal devices that patrons use to access our services. Some libraries are lucky enough to have dedicated staff with special training to serve these patrons directly, but most of the time it’s a library generalist fielding question after question about something new every day. How do frontline staffers with self-taught or very basic knowledge of technology stay savvy about the latest and hottest gadgets? How do we train nontechnical staff to troubleshoot effectively and train our patrons to use their own gadgets?
An inspirational level of collaboration has been undertaken between San Diego and Tijuana, Mexico. A memorandum of understanding (MOU) signed at the end of 2014 has set in motion deeper cross-cultural collaborations and opened opportunities to expand efforts already under way between these sister cities divided by one of the busiest international borders in the world.
The Best Small Library in America award was created in 2005 to honor libraries that meet the challenges of smaller budgets, space, technology, and collections and still find ways to bring expanded, innovative, and supportive services to their smaller communities. Funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, for the past decade the award has encouraged and showcased exemplary work in libraries serving populations under 25,000. Judging criteria include creativity in developing model services and programs, innovations in public access computing, demonstrated community support, and evidence of the library’s role as community center. This year LJ looks back to see how the award has influenced the winning libraries, their communities, and their futures.