Tag Archives: Management

Trenton Free Public Library adds Outposts to its 21st Century Library Service Model.

Over 4 years ago, having faced two and a half years of budget reductions totaling almost 50%, my Library was forced to close four of our five locations.
It was devastating to the Library and our Community.  While the Main Library is well situated in the center of our City, these four branches had provided a network of coverage throughout the community for nearly 80 years.  Now we were losing that…
Questions, fears, anger, hurt, and more swirled within our organization and as a barrage from the community.
How had we let this happen?
How  would we provide service now?
Would the Library Survive?
What about people who couldn’t get to the Main Library?
This was no subtle shift- no gradual scaling down of the operation- this was a massive closure of facilities all on one day- August 16, 2010.  Everyone felt the void in the fabric of the community.  And frankly it was necessary to take a period of time to lick wounds, heal the hurt and grieve before anyone (staff or patron) was ready to move forward.  But the beauty of all things is that the sun always rises and tomorrow is a new day.  So eventually the time came when everyone was open to the discussion of “What next?” and together we walked into the 21st Century Chapter of the Trenton Free Public Library.
We did not want to half-heartedly replace what we had lost or ‘make due’.  We wanted something innovative that met the particular needs of our City!  Our new service model needed to be economic, low impact on resources, satiate the desire of the community for services close to home, and attempt to repair the damage to the image of the library caused by the shattering of four of our five locations. To this end the library began to search for a new service model.
We knew that continuing to look back at the branches we had lost was a waste of our resources and energy best spent crafting an innovated 21st-century Service Model and began instead to at the loss of our branches as a an opportunity to begin the planning process with an open canvas. This fresh perspective allowed us to build a five-year strategic plan that addresses specifically the service to the entire community on site without physical locations.
Our new Service Model, stripped to its most simplistic version, include the implementation of the following components over a five-year period:
  • Outposts spread throughout the community (four at least)
  • A CyberMobile
  • A small physical location in a high traffic commercial area dedicated to On-The-Go Technology and Service
  • An emphasis upon Outreach and Embedded Librarianship
  • Become the Hub for all community information.

With this service model and idea in place, approved by the Library Board, and our City partners, we began to move forward.  First up Outposts!

What is an outpost you may ask yourself?

You may have heard them referred to as a satellite location, an unmanned branch, a vending machine, etc. None of these names resonated within our organization or our community; therefore, we termed them “Outposts”. An Outpost consists of three pieces of equipment and a commitment of partnership and out reach in that particular location. The equipment includes a lending machine (think vending machine but with books instead of potato chips and Snickers bars), a locker system for hold pickup, and a book drop.

After the appropriate RFP process, we purchased 2 Outposts from a lovely company called PIK,Inc using CDBG funds graciously given to the project by the City of Trenton.   We partnered with respected Community organizations (such as the YMCA) to place the Outposts in  high-use facilities within the community to maximize their potential and exposure.

These new Outposts, the first 2 of 4, provide our Library Card holders with instant access to between 250-500 books in the lending machine and the ENTIRE collection for pick up at the lockers within 24-48 hours.  Along with the book drop, these Outposts provide patrons with the ability to access the Libraries materials in their own neighborhoods!

This Outpost is not only the first of its kind in New Jersey but also the FIRST on the entire mid-Atlantic Seaboard. We are very proud!!


YMCA Ribbon

DSC_0094-s Crystal speaking

DSC_0100-s-Yvonne scans her Library Card2 DSC_0102-s-2-Yvonne removes her Book from the Lending Library

Up Next…………



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The 21st Century Library Director is a CEO

I have to play solitaire to go to sleep.

I didn’t use to. I would watch tv, read, dozing and drifting to quiet my mind. And eventually I would drift off.

But that doesn’t work anymore. My mind races. To-Do lists fill my head. Conversations rehashed or practiced. Strategies and plans. Budgets and contracts. They barrage my mind until I’m making notes into the wee hours. Sending emails. Making lists.

Why? What has changed?


My job.


I started as a librarian. Moved on to management. And then into administration. I always thought that jump from management to administration would simply be a natural progression of steadily increasing responsibility and challenges. But I simply had no idea. Being the Director (if you are in an autonomous agency and doing the job correctly) is to be the CEO of your library.

But they don’t teach you to be a CEO in library school. I also have an MBA. And surprise. They teach you a whole lot about money, marketing and business. But they don’t teach you to be a CEO in Business School either

So when you find yourself in the job and realize that none of your formal education has given you the tools necessary to do the job, what do you do? As any good librarian, I started researching.  I found hundreds of books, articles, and online resources on the subjects; because IN FACT they don’t teach you to be a CEO anywhere.


So how do you learn to be a CEO?


After asking a great many professionals and doing a great deal of research I have come to the conclusion that the majority all learn the same way.  They get dropped in the deep end of the pool and either drown or swim.

And what does it mean to be the CEO of a Library? What does the job look like? How is it similar or different than being the CEO of other types of organizations?


So what do my days as the CEO of an urban public library look like…?

Many of my days take on a life of their own and a trajectory that on great days I shape, on good days I wrangle, and on bad days I just hang on and pray a little.

I simplify life. I tell people when they have done well or when they have failed. I refocus energies on the goal. I remind people of the path. I listen and summarize in the hopes that my synopsis might provide the clarity for others to reach a decision

Other times I complicate life. I explain what is missing and request more to be done. I explain why a project is not complete though it is presented as such. I add necessary details or new information that reshapes a project. I add new requirements I only now realize are necessary because of the progress made thus far.

In some people’s story I am the champion. In others the villain. And none, if any, know the whole story even when they believe it is their own. I take blame and give credit. I have broad shoulders and thick skin to withstand the barrage when it will shield the innocent and ensure the goals are accomplished.

I make sure that everyday I am exactly the kind of employee I want to have. I work harder, longer and better than I expect anyone else to do. I don’t ask anyone to do anything that I would refuse to do or have not done in the past. I model every attitude and every behavior I ask my staff to have. I hold myself to a higher standard than I would anyone else. I create the culture of my organization. I build my team. With that team, I define the vision and set the direction of my organization.

I never raise my voice.    I admit when I’m wrong. I ask for, listen to, and implement better ideas than my own. I try to surround myself with people who are smarter and better than me. This makes some staff love me.

I am decisive. I know my own mind and my vision for my organization. I believe we can be better. So I do not accept the present as good enough. I tell people when they are wrong and demand they do better. This makes some staff dislike me.

And at the end of the day if the organization is better I have succeeded. If it is worse I have failed.

And at the end of the day- I am responsible for everyone and everything.

Because that’s what being a CEO is. And that’s why they don’t teach it in any school or classroom. Because they can’t. It’s not a job or a profession. It’s not even a career.

It’s a way of life.

My job is to hop and juggle and prioritize. Like a circus performer, keeping all my plates spinning on their sticks. And just when they start to fall, give them a good spin in the right direction with all my focus and attention for a split second before I move to another set of plates and do the same. And repeat. And repeat. And repeat.

When does it stop? When does it get easier?



Why does it matter you may ask? Why do we need to understand that a Library Director is a CEO? Defining the position helps us identify the skills, education, and measures of success for the job.

How do we gauge the success of a Library Director?  How their staff feels, patron feedback, increased material circulation?  We know the CEO of a corporation is successful based on the companies bottom line and growth.  How do we determine the success of a Public Library and therefore its Director? In a Library there is no fiscal bottom line, instead we use numbers that are more fluid, testimonials of patrons, budget ups and downs, etc.  So how do Boards and Citizens evaluate the work of their Director? Do they? Shouldn’t they?

And if we are going to start using clear criteria to determine the success of our Library CEOs, are we providing them with the skills necessary to BE good at the job?  Or are we simply taking good Librarians and promoting them hoping they will also be good administrators?  We are overflowing with leadership programs in LibraryLand – but is growing leaders the same as training skilled CEO’s to lead our Libraries?

This year the 21st Century blog is going to spend time exploring the issue of Library Director as CEO.  This incudes:  training, tools, skills, challenges, measures, outcomes, and more.  I hope you’ll contribute to this important conversation.


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Friends Are Priceless!

February is Friends of the Library Month

Friends Make a Difference…

Friends help advocate for 21st Century Libraries.


Friends support life-long learning.


Friends are of all ages….


Friends Board

Friends provide valuable community service.

Friends support LLL

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Millennial Library Users Need … What?

Last August I found the MTV study – Young Millennials Will Keep Calm & Carry On – that surveyed Millennials in greater detail than ever before.

MTV set out to understand the younger end of the Millennial demo, 13-17 year olds, who will soon move into the “sweet spot” of MTV’s core target demographic of 18-24 year olds. This is a landmark generational study that builds on MTV’s long legacy of deeply understanding our audience, as part of an effort to constantly reinvent ourselves and stay at the bleeding edge of youth culture.

katniss2. The Hunger Game’s trailblazing survivalist Katniss Everdeen (the younger end of the generation, peeking into Gen Z). This second wave of Millennials, today’s tweens & teens, have known a very different youth. They came of age in an economic downturn, seeing college grads struggling with huge student loan debt and living through a cascade of social media-amplified tragedies like Hurricane Sandy and Sandy Hook. For them, life has always been a 24/7 social media show.

It’s a challenging world to traverse, and like Katniss from the Hunger Games, they are navigating life by honing specialized, self-taught (often Internet-acquired) survival skills. They are also utilizing the advice of their pragmatic Gen X parents, who don’t say “the world is your oyster,” but rather “you have to create your own oyster.”

I used MTV’s assessment to make the point that libraries who ignore their younger users do so at their own peril.

As libraries try to figure out how to become relevant to their community, it is critical to understand the patrons/customers/ members/users who are growing up to be the ones who either support your library and become engaged with it, or ignore it as having nothing to offer them. When young people dislike something, it’s nearly impossible for parents to convince them that it is “good for them,” which means the parents may no longer support the library either because it can’t meet their family’s needs.

A recent assessment of Millennials’ purchasing habits claims that their changing interests and behaviors are having detrimental effects on retailers. This is another eye opening example of how libraries must understand their younger users or face the consequences of irrelevance to their community, just like clothing retailers are facing commercial irrelevance. Fast fashion retail eating into American prep’s sales

You won’t find any clothes with Abercrombie & Fitch or American Eagle logos in Morgan Klein or Stephanie Friedman’s closet anymore.

The twentysomethings prefer the fast fashion route these days – looking for trendy, less expensive clothes at retailers such as Bebe, H&M, and Forever 21.

“I feel Abercrombie is more preppy, and that’s not what I wear anymore,” said Klein, who worked at Abercrombie in her teens.

Friedman holds a similar view. “Everything says Abercrombie all over it, and I don’t really like it,” said Friedman. “If the logos weren’t all over a lot of things, I would probably give it a try again. I think some of the fits are nice and the materials.”

Wall Street is taking notice of teenagers and young adults shying away from brands that used to be a wardrobe staple. The so-called big “A” retailers, Abercrombie, Aéropostale and American Eagle, are slipping out of favor. These stocks are all down by double-digit percentages in the past six months, while the S&P 500 has risen 11.5 percent.

“All you have to do is spend five minutes at an Abercrombie & Fitch and then walk across to an H&M. One striking difference is that Abercrombie is still selling clothes from 1995, but tailored,” said Brian Sozzi, CEO and chief market strategist at Belus Capital Advisors. “H&M has a broader mix of very fashionable apparel at an unbeatable price.”

“The shorter product lead time, basically from design to seeing it on the sales floor, entices the teen each time they are in the mall and online,” Sozzi wrote in a research note on why traditional teen retailers are losing a war. “Kids nowadays don’t want to be boxed into one look like a robot, they want to mix, match and standout.”

H&M, which is part of a growing number of fast-fashion retailers, is adept at getting trends from the catwalk to the sales floor quickly, and at much cheaper prices. It’s a practice traditional chain stores find challenging to adopt, as they place their orders much earlier than fast-fashion stores. For example, many traditional retailers place their holiday orders in April and May, while fast-fashion retailers’ model allows them to order closer to the season.

This retail fashion report tells me two things. First, Millennials are going their own direction away from the “name brand” clothing purchasing trend of the past couple of decades. Retailers used to be able to hang their hat on the fact that young people were unalterably attracted to wearing THE name brand clothing items from head to toe. It made the retail fashion industry rich. Maybe not so much in the future.

Second, the “fast-fashion retailers’ model” has become the new game in town. In recent years in business operations we have seen the “just in time” production-to-market model become the norm. Being able to quickly respond to changing consumer habits has enabled some business to thrive, while those unable to respond wither. A company’s survival depends on its ability to change rapidly in response to its customers’ demands.

The 21st Century Library should be no less customer driven, and no less responsive to their customers’ needs and wants. Being in touch with library users’ interests and habits is more essential to a library’s relevance to its community than ever before.

Understanding the business of the library is paramount to understanding the library’s users and being able to provide them what they want from their library. Without the agility to adapt, libraries will suffer the same decline in business as retail business, because libraries are in the retail business – direct customer service.

[Read: Multidisciplinary – A New 21st Century Librarianship Skill

21st Century Libraries and Librarians Look Like: Innovation

The 21st Century Library is More: Business-like]


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Five Answers to Successful Strategic Planning

One of the hardest parts of doing strategic planning is just getting started. Where to begin? What approach should we use to pursue strategic planning for my library? Do I just tell the staff; “Next Monday we will have a managers meeting to begin our next strategic plan.” BOOM There it is. We’ve started! Sure. Go ahead and do that – IF YOU WANT TO ENSURE FAILURE.

If you stop to consider what all is in involved in conducting strategic planning, you’ll realize that it may not be the most complicated process, but it does take some deliberate organization and preparation. Expecting your staff to know what needs to be done to pursue a new strategic plan is expecting a lot, unless you have a highly motivated, highly collaborative, visionary and experienced staff. Those dozen or so libraries that meet this description have no worries. For the rest of us, we need to think about what we’re getting into BEFORE we open that can of worms.

Strategic Planning does not just “happen” as a normal part of staff activity. Not that it shouldn’t, we just never have embraced that approach to doing it. And another reason we don’t do strategic planning well is because we don’t start off well prepared. There are a few fundamental questions we should answer before we simply begin.

These questions need well thought out answers in order to begin effectively with high expectations for success. The sequence in which you answer these questions is also important because the answers at each step will influence the answers to subsequent questions.

1. Why do we want a new strategic plan?
That may seem like a nonsense question to begin with, but you might be surprised at some of the reasons why libraries develop a new strategic plan. Sometimes it’s as simple as a mandate, either from the library’s jurisdiction, or the board, or some other regulatory agency, like the state library, or to get funding from a grant. If this is your reason for doing a new strategic plan, save yourself and your staff a lot of time and headaches and just do it yourself. Use your own best judgment about who your library is and why you exist and create a reasonable mission, vision, goals and objectives and get back to work. Put it back on the shelf where it’s always been until next time you need a current plan.

If you want a new strategic plan because the library wants to be better, wants to be more, and wants to be relevant to its community, then you want to make significant changes in your library operation and organization. You MUST recognize that going into this process. You are talking about change from a business as usual, status quo posture to a 21st Century Library – something not yet envisioned by most libraries. If you – the library director and person responsible to make this strategic planning process result in a successful strategic plan – want to instigate major change, you must be prepared to face obstacles.

2. What are the obstacles to achieving a successful strategic plan?
There is not a single worthwhile effort that does not have to overcome some obstacles. Creating a successful strategic plan is no different, so it is important to consider what those obstacles are before you begin. Each of your potential obstacles should be addressed extremely realistically. This is not the point at which you can afford to whitewash anything.

How much support or resistance can you expect to get from your own staff? It depends on your organization’s culture and whether the staff experience is very positive or very negative toward strategic planning. How much support or resistance can you expect to get from outside stakeholders? This depends on whether or not the stakeholders have been included in past strategic planning, or might welcome being included now. How much change do you want to accomplish with this new strategic plan? Depending on the past experiences, and whether strategic planning for change is something new for your library, you may be considering something radically new for your organization. In this case you can certainly expect more obstacles. More changes = More obstacles. When you determine what likely obstacles you face, you can better answer the next question.

3. Who needs to be involved?
Why is this issue important? Because, you want to ensure that the people working on this project actually accomplish something. You can choose to begin with everyone, or you can begin with a few select individuals. What you want is a core group of people – from where ever, either internally or stakeholders from outside the library organization – who will understand what you are trying to accomplish and work toward that result. You cannot accomplish anything with people who only want to talk and not do, or only want a venue for their agenda instead of doing the work, or who get bogged down in making everyone feel like a valued participant. Getting the correct group of people involved from the beginning will ensure you actually accomplish your planning process.

It is entirely likely that this beginning group may change over time and as the process progresses. That is as it should be. Your intent in getting the planning process started is to begin with as much potential for success as possible.

4. How well do I intend to resource this strategic planning process?
As we all know, any project or effort that is not well resourced is not likely to achieve as much as it otherwise could, or more likely to fail completely. Assuming that you are attempting major changes, the rule of thumb is that the more change there is the more resources will be required – whether fiscal or personnel – you must commit adequate resources to be successful.

As the director, how much of your own time and energy do you intend to devote to making sure the strategic planning process is on track and moving toward a successful conclusion? How much of your library’s resources do you intend to divert to this project? How much political capital might you need to spend? How much training might be required? Do you need the services of an outside consultant?

This is a major resource consideration because many library directors and boards believe that strategic planning is best done internally. But, that assumes several factors exist about your organization – from top level leaders to bottom level employees, including stakeholders. First, that everyone fully understands the planning process, and knows their part in it. Second, it assumes that leaders are familiar with a proven strategic planning process, and have the time necessary for shepherding the process to a successful conclusion. Consultants are expensive, but consider your staff capabilities before you decide which process to use.

5. What strategic planning process format should we use?
There are many planning processes to choose from. Should we use a very analytical approach and assess everything from Mission to SWOT to operating environment to marketing plan thoroughly using scientific analysis? Should we take a “customer centered” approach where we view all operations and programs from the customer’s perspective? (Remember when that approach to everything was popular about five years ago?) Should we use a highly detailed and elaborate process to ensure as many aspects as possible get included?


Should we use a process that is compatible with our staff, expertise and experience? Undoubtedly, the answer to this question is YES! Regardless of what format that may be, like the one in the illustration below, you need to know where your strategic planning process is taking you, and it needs to be one that you can effectively implement and that everyone understands.


The key to success for any project is to begin properly. Strategic Planning is important enough to warrant an excellent beginning. Give your next Strategic Plan the best chance for success and consider these five fundamental questions before you begin.

[For more information about Strategic Planning visit: KD Matthews Consulting. ]


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Complete These Statements …

The 21st Century Library is…
The 21st Century Librarian does…
This is not a quiz. It is not rhetorical. We all need to share our ideas and understanding about our future. Isn’t that why you’re reading this Blog? Because you care about the future of your profession. Please contribute to the conversation.


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The Highly Successful 21st Century Library Director

I recently had a conversation with my good friend urban library director back east. We have known each other quite a while, and I have enjoyed her accomplishments and admired her success. I asked her what she thought was the major factor to being a successful library director. Is there one major trait or characteristic she has that she considers the essential factor to success? Her reply was inspiring.

There are two things I think are fundamental to my success and anyone leading a library (or any service organization like this).

1) This organization and job are my number one priority. I consider it my job to know more, do more and care more than anyone else in the organization. I am the Library Director 24/7 – because the Library exists 24/7. The facility is always here and whether I work on a particular day or not – we are still open and serving the public.

I am invested 150%. If I’m not at work – I’m thinking about work. I am always solving problems, considering angles for approaching challenges, developing strategies and planning ahead. I am never off-clock because the library never stops existing. I never shirk from that responsibility and the buck ALWAYS stops on my desk. Anyone who either feels they are “not always on the clock” or doesn’t accept that, and that at the end of the day EVERYTHING is their responsibility, is not going to be very successful.

As a “Library Director” you are ALWAYS the Library Director. I never show up at an event and have someone in the community say “Oh, it’s (her name).” They always say “Oh, it’s the Library Director.” You are no longer a private person. You will ALWAYS represent the Library. And, if you do not like that or don’t want that – then this isn’t the job for you. I know that anywhere I go in town or anything I do can (even if it does not – it CAN) reflect on the Library. My DUTY is to make sure that I always present the Library and myself in the best possible light so as not to besmirch the Library’s reputation, or jeopardize our funding, etc.

2) The needs and mission of the organization ALWAYS come first. It isn’t about me and it isn’t about the staff. I am responsible to see that this organization functions at the highest possible level of efficiency, responsibility, accountability and integrity. My job is to always meet that expectation and see to it that everyone else gets as close as possible.

It isn’t about the staff. I’m not here – the library isn’t here – to give them a job. They are here to serve the public and the taxpayer. I see staff as a resource to be managed – not a group of people to take care of. I do acknowledge it is useful to have a second in command that is more touchy-feely on a daily basis, as long as they never interfere with getting the job done – whether that is staff accountability or layoffs.

Her reply didn’t surprise me, because I know how she operates and she has shared many stories and issues in her career, but it was inspiring to read it so well articulated. Because her reply reinforces (as I suspected it would) the leadership ideas that I put forth almost a year ago. My December 2012 post, Top Ten Traits of Great Library Leaders, listed these 10 traits in ascending order.

10. Great Leaders Do Not Do It Alone

9. Great Leaders Express Gratitude

8. Great Leaders Understand Motivation

7. Great Leaders Delegate and Empower

6. Great Leaders Are Learners

5. Great Leaders Are Problem Solvers

4. Great Leaders Are Decision Makers

3. Great Leaders Take Responsibility

2. Great Leaders Are Visionary

1. Great Leaders Have High Character

Library leaders should be striving to be “great” leaders. It’s what the profession needs to flourish in the ambiguous future and regain the library’s relevance in the community. It is what’s needed for survival, and it is a privilege to know my urban library director friend who epitomizes these traits.


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