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Collaborating to Demonstrate Value

Margaret Hazel, Louise Alcorn, Erik Bobilin

Margaret started by talking about her work with the City of Eugene as the Technology Manager for the City’s Library.  Their city’s budget goals and framework are based on three goals – getting to a sustainable budget, maintaining services to citizens, and not laying people off.  Brainstorming with the whole organization about what the City could do to work smarter.  Some ideas – stop serving food at city meetings, look for expertise in-house instead of contracting out, promote cooperation across departments and divisions.  The library intranet is City-facing.  It’s encouraged City staff to reach out to the library staff for information and help.  Their tag line is “What do you want to know today?”  They have links for library cards for employees, links to the library’s online resources and services, etc.  They did a dog and pony show for the different departments about how the library can help them with their work.  They discovered that departments had been paying for article access that the library could also provide to them for free (saving the other departments $ again).  Some of the research they’ve done for other departments – police funeral and mourning traditions, copyright permission info, commercial food waste programs, local aerial historical photos, search alerts for local mentions.  They’ve had 30 research questions of varying complexity come from the different departments over the last year.

Erik talked about his work at the Brooklyn Public Library.  Their budget went from great in 2007 to awful from 2008 on.  They focused in their budget discussions with the city on loss of programs, collections, etc.  They didn’t focus initially on how it would negatively affect other city departments’ abilities to do their jobs.  They hadn’t really taken an outcomes based approach before, and they had to think about how they were marketing themselves and offering meaningful experiences.  They worked on the diversity visa lottery in 2006 – a literacy program, computer basics classes, etc.  They did something called the Skills Training and Employment Project, part of WorkForce1—a mayoral initiative, kind of like a city-funded temp agency.  They started creating programs with FINRA, a group trying to help communities in Brooklyn that were hit by the recession really hard.  Lessons learned: own the content, and access is not enough anymore.  They’ve partnered with the city on additional jobs initiatives.  A big partnership is the MyLibraryNYC project – a partnership between the New York City Libraries (Queens, Brooklyn, & NYPL) and the Department of Education.  They’re going to have one unified interface to their catalogs now and allow for inter-library delivery of items between public and school libraries. Great stuff!  They’ve had much better budget discussions as a result of the additional partnerships they’ve had with the city.  Now they have tangible outcomes that connect library services with organizational values.

Louise closed off the panel by talking about a web design project for her city.  There were 13 city departments represented on the web committee, only one of whom had web experience (Louise, the librarian, of course).  She took the opportunity to project manage the entire web project, got everyone to agree on the design and color schemes, navigation, etc.  No shouting matches, no back room conniving, no back-stabbing.  Library staff were then perceived as a knowledge resource for future projects.  For example, she trained people on the city’s new help desk software system.

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