Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Consolidatng library systems-Mpls Library Board Meeting

The Minneapolis Library Board is meeting at a smallish community library that is very busy--Nokomis--on the south side of town. (Note that the pictures in this post are of the new Central library, not of the small Nokomis Community Library )

Most of the meeting--all of the committees--tended to focus on issues around the pending consolidation of the Minneapolis system into the Hennepin County Library System.

The consolidation is now on a fast track with a long tail. Depending on how we resolve the money issue created by the Governor's veto of consolidation funding (a Republican Governor who talks about making government more efficient and effective but refuses to pay the up-front costs of doing it.) we may have the legal consolidation by January 1, 2008. This would include:

  • Transfer all staff
  • Transfer of physical property
  • Transfer of personal property

Working to consolidate the operating systems, cultures, collections, websites, computer systems and other systems will start after the official consolidation when all the staff can work together. One very good sign--There seems to be an understanding that merging the cultures of the two organizations will take around five years.

One issue for the consolidation is the Minneapolis system's "Blueprint for Service." This is a new approach to providing library service. The staff has spent over two years implementing this major change in service. Three of the most visible parts are:

  • Instead of librarians sitting behind reference desks, they are expected to be out greeting and helping patrons--the reference desks are shrunk in size and changed to standing height counters with no back--help is expected to be provided on a "shoulder-to-shoulder" basis.
  • Many books and other items (Cd's, DVDs) are displayed like you would see in a book store--on display shelves.
  • Staff gets much of the back office work done before the doors open so they can devote their time to the patrons.

This system has been fully implemented in two community libraries that were just re-opened after extensive remodeling and in the new central library. According to staff, we have seen a huge increase (75% in some cases) increase in circulation with the same level of staffing. Board members expressed a concern that this improvement could be lost in the consolidation.

Keeping the gains we have made in improved service will be a challenge.

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