One of the sessions that I attended at ALA 2008 was called Stretching Existing Staff and it was excellent. The program consisted of four panelists talking about the ways in which their library addressed staff shortages.
Ruth Barefoot from the San Jose Public Library said that more staff doesn't always solve the problem. Customers want different things now - not the same things as 40 years ago. Ruth indicated that circulation tripled in 10 years but staff only increased by 17%. SJPL has a new service model:
- Customer First - this includes self directed services, simplified policies, merchandising most popular collections and basic customer service training for all staff, and hire appropriate staff
- Teach Customers - standardize the teachable moments (everyone provides the same service and is part of the basic customer service training), increase programming for all ages, ensure staff understand social behaviors (teens, latchkey, etc.)
- Reinvent Environments - balance of Dewey stacks and merchandising, consistent branding and signage, have one desk - more staff on the move and go to the customer, no chairs at service desk
- Enable staff - created new staff roles (aide, guide, etc.), updated key competencies, staff training for teachable moments, balanced basic assistance with expertise, everyone's a teacher, empower staff to fill customer needs, improved collaboration opportunities, and more quality time between customers and staff
SJPL focuses on direct customer service while minimizing back room duties.
Here's a link to her presentation slides.
More to come on the other panelists and programs.