Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Public Libraries SA Con Report - Day 1, afternoon session

Contiuing from the previous post on the same topic, more of my personal highlights and things-to-think-on from Public Libraries SA Conference 2013. I'll update it with links to the presentation files when they're made available and post to let you know it's happened. In the meantime I want to capture as much of this as I can while it's still relatively fresh in my mind.

Patti Manolis, CEO of Geelong Regional Library, was the first speaker for the afternoon. Her library is in an area going through rapid transformational change - they are planning ahead for this. Previously the library service was significantly underfunded according to national standards, now it is much improved. Their new library is designed to be the cultural centrepiece of the region. It will aim for about 1/3 collection space, 2/3 people space to help them engage with information and each other in a variety of ways - the new central library will have more space, not less. It will also have a café - these are part of every major cultural instituation. I think I'll have to schedule a trip when this library is completed. It looks amazing.
Patti explained that culture eats strategy for breakfast - strategy without a culture of change is difficult to enact - you must utilise champions and minimise the effects of blockers. Internal and external customer service and communication are critical. To do this a strong business case for return on investment to funding bodies is critical.
This talk had some thoughts on collection development too - thoughts I noted were that libraries are looking for bang for buck (especially as circulation and circulation per item are statistics used) so frequently focus on popularity vs. breadth and depth in the collection. Usage based funding and acquisitions can be limiting and don't show what your collection is missing.

Mandi Wicks, Director of Audio and Language Content, SBS spoke about cultural change at SBS Radio that allowed the delivery of a better service that matched the changed cultural mix of Australia today.
She observed that change is the only constant - and in deciding change and direction their charter was central. SBS Radio examined how their reason to exist connected with today's world, not just how they applied the charter in the past. Everything they did was examined relative to their purpose.
SBS Radio faced a massive increase in competition and had to make sure they served the community of now, not just the community they had always served in order to reflect modern Australia.
Being where the customer is is important - social media is a resource to find others in a community over a large area.
To sum up it is important to have a clear purpose and face your challenges, be audience driven or risk becoming irrelevant, to embrace technology and create links with those who have a common purpose and serve the same groups.
In this talk I began to get a lot of ideas on forming partnerships rather than attempting to be everything on a limited budget and also makes me want to pin up a statement of purpose somewhere I see it all the time - something to use as a frame of reference.

The final speaker of day one was Ross Duncan (second biography down) from the Sunshine Coast Libraries, his topic was 'How libraries change the world'. If you want to hear him speak you can listen to a radio interview with the ABC. His presentation, interestingly, had quite a few parallels with Mandi Wicks' presentation. I found some really useful practical approaches in this presentation.
Libraries cannot afford to be the next Kodak - who invented the digital camera but then failed to ride the 'digital wave' and were left behind to perish. Playing it safe is no longer an option - that just gives our compeititon the chance to overtake us.
Loans are not necessarily the statistic to show our relevance. Overall loans are down, but visits are not. We are in the business of customer service, not the business of circulation.
We have to work out what business we are in - keywords were education, inclusion, awareness, information and experience. We must also see how this lines up with the vision of our councils.
We should understand the population of our areas and how they compare to library membership. If there are large differences we need to know why. Our existing customers can be our champions to help us reach the rest of the community.
Partnerships are valuable - perhaps Apple would run workshops, or a local gardening centre, perhaps other community experts? There are mutual benefits in these partnerships and they help engage more of the community. In these partnerships and in working with organisations such as Centrelink to give them a stigma-free meeting place we move from being organisers to facilitators and are able to offer more to the community without increasing the load on staff. We can also assist other areas of council - we have high engagement so are an excellent way to share information and seek feedback. This makes us a powerful tool for council to deliver on objectives - and not just those which primarily concern the library.
Staff can be excellent change leaders, we must leverage the ideas of staff at all levels for the benefit of all.

I'll be back with day two soon!

No comments:

Post a Comment