Public Libraries, Local Government, and Value – Cont’d

In my last post, I wrote abut how public libraries can align themselves with and create value for the local government ecosystem they are a part of – whether municipal, county, or regional in nature.

Here are a few of the ways we have been doing that at Chapel Hill Public Library:

Library account registration for all employees.  All 700+ employees of the Town of Chapel Hill are eligible for a library card, regardless of where they live (and many live outside our service population area).  We’ve made it easier than ever for them to get a card by including the application at HR’s weekly New Employee Orientation (NEO).  All new Town employees attend this orientation session and fill out their tax forms, health insurance apps, etc.  They can also fill out the library card application and then we process it and send them a card via interoffice mail.

Welcome to the Library video.  At that same orientation session – and to get them excited about filling out one more form – HR staff show a short video about the library.  The video was produced by our Marketing & Communications Manager and our Digital Media Lab Specialist and highlights all that we have to offer them – as regular users and Town employees.  It includes books and DVDs and such, as well as meeting room spaces, learning resources, and equipment checkout.

Regular column in the employee newsletter.  TownTalk is the town’s monthly newsletter for employees.  On of the Town Manager’s goals is to develop leaders across the organization and all levels.  To help meet this goal, the Library contributes a regular “Leaders are Readers” column that highlights relevant resources.  One month, there were a series of workshops offered to employees about making effective presentations, so the column outlined books and resources we have on that topic.  Some months it highlights books on a given theme – stress management, presidential leadership, or change management.

Open Data.  This one is much larger in scale and scope than the rest. A year or so ago, there was a growing interest in creating an Open Data portal for the Town, with a goal of increasing transparency and facilitating access to public information.  As a trusted community institution whose core values include making information available in a neutral, non-biased way, the library was a natural candidate to create and house such a platform.  We will launch the portal soon, and join the small-but-growing number of libraries that are managing similar projects for their communities.

All of these examples – whether large or small – show how a library can serve the internal ecosystem they exist within.  All of these examples show how a library can go beyond just promoting our stuff – these are ways that we can communicate our value, align ourselves with the larger organization’s goals, and contribute to the realization of those goals.

As a municipal library, it might be a little easier for us to execute these types of projects – we are a department of the Town of Chapel Hill and have close working relationships with other departments to begin with.  Even so, with that working for us, what I said in my previous post was true for all of these – they required proactive persistence, staff time and attention, and we got told “no thanks” sometimes before we got to “yes please!”

In a larger system or governmental organization, you might have more difficulty crossing departmental lines and breaking down silos, both of which are often required for initiatives like these.  I encourage you to stick with it, because as I mentioned in my previous post, the pay off is worth it.

How so?  As a result of efforts like these, CHPL is seen as a valuable resource that can help both Town employees and the Town itself achieve its goals, dreams, and aspirations.  We are bringing value to the host ecosystem and thriving within it as a result.

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