September 28, 2012

Did you ever assume... part 6

I I feel like I keep talking about all the different things staff here at the library do, how our work is so much more than sitting or standing behind a desk and making computers go "beep."  The assumption for today is again related to that.  There is a misconception that when we are here before opening, after closing (or during closed work week), that we could just as well be open.  If staff can be here, inside the building, why can't the doors be unlocked?

If we're talking about the morning, there is a huge amount of preparation that goes into getting the library ready for opening.  Front-line staff, the people scheduled to staff the Information Desk and Circulation Desk for the morning, work for about 45 minutes to ready the library.  Reference turns on all the computers, the printer, the public photocopier, and all the slide frames we have at the service desks.  The tables and computer areas get dusted and wiped down.  We take care of any emails or phone messages that have come in during the night.  We balance the cash drawer against receipts and payments taken in the day before.

Circulation has even more tasks.  The book drops are emptied and we try to check in all the books and materials that were returned overnight.  Newspapers have to be stapled, labeled, and checked off on the inventory sheet.  Notices (for holds, overdues, or fines) are printed to be mailed; even the notices that are emailed don't go totally automatically: circulation staff have to tell the system to run through and send them.  Items on the hold shelf that haven't been picked up need to be taken off and returned to the general shelf.  We mark down from the door counters how many people were in the library yesterday.  We feed the fish. This is not even a comprehensive list.

So if you see us here in the morning, we can't just unlock the doors.  We need time to make the library ready for you.  As germ-free and dust-free as possible, organized, ready to help you pay your fines, with items on the proper shelves and ready to go.

both the fire truck and the barn got a fresh coat of
paint during the last IHWW.
What about other times when you may see staff inside the building but the doors are locked?  In-House Work Week (IHWW) springs to mind.  This is a week, usually in the spring, when the library is closed for a full seven days.  This allows us to take care of large projects we wouldn't be able to handle during the normal hustle and bustle.  The carpets are cleaned, and they take a few days to dry.  Any areas that need painting get taken care of.  Repairs to structures get handled.  And staff work on large projects, like inventorying the collection, moving and shifting large sections, dusting all the shelves, and more.  These are projects that we could not complete if we needed to stop every few minutes to help someone print, find a book, etc.  IHWW is not, as is popularly thought, when we all go on vacation.  Quite the opposite, this is one of the times we work the hardest.

There are other times, particularly Monday or Saturday mornings, when you may see staff in the building.  If you peek in, you may even see food.  Let me assure, we are not taking time off to have a bit of a party.  There are a surprising number of meetings that need to happen to keep things running smoothly: single-department meetings, multi-department meetings, and all-staff meetings.  Staff on the Information Desk have a monthly meeting, usually on a morning; staff from the Circulation department get together, usually on an evening after closing, monthly.  We've had a number of all-staff meetings this year, sometimes on a Saturday before the library opens, sometimes other times.  These meetings are important to keeping all staff informed; there is only so much that can be communicated via email.  On certain topics, such as the Library's Strategic Planning project-- a project that has taken much of 2012 and will spill over toward 2013-- we need to get all of the staff together to debate, float ideas, and react.  Since we are trying to capture as many staff as possible, these meetings can be at inconvenient times-- during the lunch hour, after the library closes for the evening, or on what would normally be a day off.  So we have a bit of a potluck.  Sharing food before a meeting gives us a chance to relax, fuels us so we can focus, and improves our camaraderie.  Sharing a meal together helps us work together as a team.

There may be a number of reasons why staff are in the building, but the simple act of being here does not necessarily mean we are ready to serve you.  If we are here, it does mean we are working on something that will help us serve you better.

We will be taking a short break from this series of posts next week to focus on Banned Books Week. Look for this series again beginning October 12th!

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