Monday, March 12, 2012

The Anythink Libraries / Pam Sandlian-Smith

 What a rich keynote – so inspiring!  Pam Sandlian-Smith described herself as an introvert – but what a visionary and powerhouse.  She’s accomplished a lot in her library district – Adams County, Colorado.  In the past 5 years she headed up the efforts in her district to create 4 new libraries and renovate 3 old ones.

 She cited some great quotes (which I love and collect!): 

“Sometimes a person needs a story more than food to stay alive.” Barry Lopez

When you are growing up, there are two institutional places that affect you most powerfully -- the church, which belongs to God, and the public library, which belongs to you. The public library is a great equalizer."  Keith Richards, Rolling Stones Guitarist

Pam described the process she and her staffs used to re-envision their libraries and to bring their vision into reality.  Library staffs were asked what old conventions have been re: libraries, including a place to house books & periodicals, facts, research and SSSSSSHhhhh,   Descriptions for a new vision included: outdoor, elegant, dynamic, progressive, innovative.  Their new mission revolved around the ideas of “being disruptive” and “we open doors for curious minds.”

She shared a great graphic of the new library model”


To help people get the information they need and to become more productive….she describes some of the collaborative processes they went through regarding the pieces of a whole library programs:

SPACES:  Library is heart and hearth of community.  When you walk in, it should be welcoming and like a second home.  Some of her libraries have fireplaces, rocking chairs, porches.  Instead of huge circulation desks, they have “perches” an tried to eliminate barriers between staff and patron.  She mentioned hoping patrons would think “I’d love to live in the library.”  It made me think of my trips to libraries in Europe and Egypt and how beautiful they are – I wanted to spend lots of time there. 
3 Criteria for their new libraries included:  Bookstore-like, Fireplaces and LEED certification or sustainability in some ways

CULTURE:  Pam and her staff read “Why People Shop” to try to get everyone thinking about how to give patrons “delightful experiences throughout the library.”  This is something I’ve been thinking about in my school library – creating a school library culture that is collaborative, joyful.    Pam articulated an idea that resonated so strongly with me:  That libraries exist to “help people find that kernel to fuel their soul.”  That’s what we do as school librarians for our students and staffs….at least TRY to!

STAFF:  You are not just an employee – you are part WIZARD, part GENIUS, part EXPLORER.  I loved her 13 competencies for library staff that was collaboratively created:  A library employee should be customer-focused, cooperative, collaborative, understanding, self-starter, flexible (embracing change), effective communicator, problem solver, responsible, risk taker, emotionally mature, innovator and a leader!

I loved her 3 levels of staff, and the fact that all of her staff had to reapply for their jobs under these new job descriptions:
1)   WRANGLER (Shelvers and pages):  part product placement, part inventory control, & part display technician
2)   CONCIERGE (Front desk) part customer service, part tech assistance, part product promotion
3)   GUIDES (Librarians) part customer education, part reference advocate, part event planner
Even though this is public library stuff, it can directly be applied to school libraries, too, as can the Danny Meyer quote, “Hospitality exists when you believe the other person is on your side.”  Pam drew a comparison between RESTAURANTS and LIBRARIES – and later likened her library’s changes to the difference between grocery stores and kitchens (kitchens being a place where things are created and done as opposed to just getting through the store as fast as you can.)

I also loved the branding and tshirts she displayed in her photos (“SHHH is a four letter word!”), and the fact that they have done away with Dewey.  A few years ago I “Bookstore-ized our school library fiction section,  Now I want to go back and put signage all over my nonfiction collection!

I loved her nitty gritty details, but I mostly loved her “big  picture” vision of libraries and it gave me some language to use in my own school library world when librarians and school libraries are marginalized.  She stated:  “We have to rethink what we’re all about – we ARE the most democratic of institutions – we MUST survive.”

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