A new broom sweeps clean.
The following is from last night’s Note and File dept., as presented on the council agenda. No action was taken.
Consider it a warning to the public. As a continuing saga which it definitely will be, we’re just presenting this first part right now. Comment will follow in the months to come.
Oh, and they’re going to want a new $$$$ facility soon, which Burbank does NOT need at its “Central” branch. Get ready for that one as well…
In 2016 and 2017, Burbank Public Library will conduct two planning processes, which are designed to support each other and result in a clear, community-based vision for the future of the Library Services Department. First, the library will develop a long-term plan, matching community needs and desires with trends and opportunities to map out a focused set of activities for the next 3 years. The information gathered in that process will inform the second activity, a design concepts study for options for a new or renovated Central Library building for Burbank. As the initial phase in this work, Library staff members are conducting information-gathering efforts in the fall of 2016.
Public libraries are undergoing a period of great change. From their spread across the country in the early 1900s until the mid-1990s, libraries had a clear mission: provide access to reading material, answer informational questions, and organize children’s programming. Over the last 20 years, the combined implications of technology and increasing competition for public funds have shifted how libraries function, such that today’s public libraries can be found offering everything from workforce development services to makerspaces to mental health assistance. Libraries and library staffs have struggled to keep up with change during a time in which missions have broadened to the point that anything and everything is a possibility, straining staff focus as well as resources.
As with other libraries throughout the region and the country, Burbank Public Library has been experiencing this phenomenon but has not confronted it head-on. The Library has not operated with a strategic plan, engaged the community in a conversation about its future, or brought staff together to assess priorities. Recent leadership changes, a necessary modernization, and the chance to reopen conversation about the future of the Burbank Central Library provide an opportunity to launch a planning process, which will bring both staff and the community toward an understanding of what the
modern library should be.
Notice how we were just told what the “conversation” is going to be.
The Library’s planning process draws on numerous sources of information to construct a well-rounded picture of existing practices, the community, the larger sector, opportunities and priorities. Elements include:
1) Analysis of current library services and statistics, including a comparison to similar libraries in the region
2) Community conversations – a series of facilitated discussions with local residents about what they see as possibilities and barriers to achieving their aspirations, not necessarily related to the Library
3) A survey requesting input from users and non-users about the future of library services in Burbank
4) Research into relevant trends in the library sector and beyond
5) A staff planning day, which will bring the entire staff together for the first time for a facilitated conversation about how to move the department forward
6) Research into financial opportunities beyond the General Fund for supporting both Library
services and future building expenses
While libraries, cities and departments regularly conduct planning processes, there are two key elements of Burbank Public Library’s process that will improve chances for the identified changes to take hold and move the Library into a position of greater impact for the community. First, staff members are involved in many aspects from the onset. Second, the community and its needs are at the core of every decision. This turning outward toward the community represents a major shift in the
culture of Burbank Public Library, and this shift is the most essential component of bringing a 21st century library to Burbank and ensuring that services are meeting community needs and representing good stewardship of taxpayer dollars.
Here it gets wacky:
At the same time, the Library needs to reintroduce itself to the community as an institution that prioritizes this outward viewpoint. The major method for achieving this, while also reinforcing the culture shift, is the community conversations. Using methodology designed by the Maryland-based Harwood Institute for Public Innovation and the American Library Association, Burbank Public Library staff will conduct approximately eight conversations this fall at locations throughout the City. While all conversations will be open to the public, most are also targeted at specific populations in an effort to ensure a diversity of voices and perspectives. Groups being targeted include populations that have a key impact on decisions about Library services, including parents, seniors, teens, businesspeople, non-English speakers and people living in poverty or experiencing homelessness. The community conversations are not an attempt to gather comprehensive or statistically significant information but rather to bring in a variety of perspectives and determine where there is common ground about
It’s a library. There. Asked and answered.
Here it gets creepy:
By leading these conversations, staff members are gaining a deeper understanding of the mindset needed to operate the Library going into the future. In addition, they will develop facilitation and public speaking skills that will help further the Library’s goal of continuing with an outward-facing perspective. The set of staff assisting in this activity represent all library job classes and locations, resulting in a group of ambassadors for the new culture that will help it take hold throughout the ranks of employees.
The conversations are set up as a facilitated series of questions that people will consider on their own, in small groups and in large groups. The conversations are not meant to be political or lead to any particular solution. Over the course of the evening, each group will identify and prioritize a set of 2-3 issues that need to be solved in order for the community to realize its aspirations, contributing ideas for solutions. While the Library is facilitating, the conversation will not be directed toward the Library at all but will maintain a focus on the overall community. Where it is relevant for the Library to play a role in resolving identified issues or concerns, that feedback – in combination with information gathered from other sources – will shape the Library’s key priorities for the next few years. Where it is important public knowledge but may not be relevant for the Library, it will be shared with other City departments and community partners.
Staff will report back to Council with a complete overview of this aspect of the planning process. The Library’s long-term planning document will be presented to Council in draft form for additional input in early 2017. Identified service priorities will inform the work of architects assisting in developing design concepts as part of the second phase of this project, approved by Council in the 2016-17 budget.
Burbank Public Library staff will participate in a series of activities in fall 2016 to gather information from the community and other sources in order to focus its services going into the future. As a major component of this project, staff will facilitate community conversations to gather input about needs and goals that, while not necessarily directly related to the Library, will inform priorities. This work will also help shift the culture of the Library to be more responsive.
Just to the subliterates. Those elitist booklovers who think that libraries are primarily about books and reading can go screw themselves. That’s so 20th century!
The fix is in.