I managed to escape the two feet of snow in Littleton, CO to make it to PLA yesterday and was treated to a rare (I’m told) sunny day and even a peek at Mt. Hood (click on the pic to see it in the center).
And Spring has arrived here!
I started off today with an incredibly inspiring session – You Say You Want a Revolution – from the folks at Rangeview Library District. Since their talk isn’t online and there are just a couple of handouts (search on revolution) at the PLA website, I’ve tried to jot down as much as I could (as the audience and I hung on every word).
Rangeview was one of the worst funded libraries in CO – in fact after several failed mil levies, they had to change their campaign to Save our Libraries! At this point they realized they needed a non traditional leader, so did a nationwide search. Pam Sandlian-Smith felt the role of the leader was to set the bar high – shoot for the moon. With Google as our competition she felt libraries needed a better reason for people to use us than “we’ve got databases.” They realized the library needed to provide an experience. So, they created a structure, culture and language to support this new type of library.
Using Picasso’s quote that “Anything you can imagine is real” they set their minds free. They involved all employees in task forces which meant everyone was helping create the change, so everyone owned the changes. They managed to publish their Anythink ™ Guide to Merchandising (which involves lots of fluffing – or “prettying up”) within five weeks. They created a new word, Fluffenrovin, to describe what they did.
They even had a staff appreciation task force, which created fun events outside of work to promote teamwork like a trivia night, group hikes and an annual bowling night.
They talked to Richotet Ideas, a marketing company, about what they wanted. Richochet was amazed that a library had some of the most aggressive ideas they’d ever heard of about how to create a brand and they helped Rangeview stop thinking about publishing information about their materials, programs and services and started them thinking about persuasion – how do you make residents realize the emotional benefits the library could provide for them – how do you connect with people on a different level (e.g. why do people in midlife crisis want a Porsche? – it’s not because the car is so important to them; it’s because of the way it’ll make them feel – sexy, desirable, envied… Or, you don’t buy a Harley to own a motorcycle but rather to show your rebellious side). It’s all about what promise a product makes to you. (At this point they asked people to shout out conventions in the library that could be challenged – quiet, Dewey, fines, the Reference Desk were a few of the responses.)
Richochet helped them see how they could disrupt people’s long held ideas about libraries by turning accepted practice on its head. The library found disruption is a way of unearthing new opportunities and started to believe that a company can transform its future by the sheer power of an idea. The way they did this was to stop the passive thinking endemic in the library and start thinking competitively. They challenged the norms. “Evolutionary ideas are the small steps that have the potential of becoming huge steps.”
The last step was to give staff a flag to march behind so they came up with their manifesto – “You are not just an employee…[you are] part wizard, part genius, part explorer…” Wouldn’t this inspire you?
They decided to try to make everything in their organization customer-centric so they looked at all processes, services… and asked – how does this serve our customers? For example, they decided to give kids a fresh start, so at the launch of the Summer Reading Program they wiped out their fines. This eventually became Fine Free Rangeview.
Getting rid of the number based system for subject areas and using real words – law, health… with their Word Think system was the next step. It let people find things they didn’t even know they were interested in; within three months it almost doubled their non fiction circulation!
They did away with Reference Desks. They have service points, but staff continually rove through the collection letting people know they are there to help. This may not elicit questions immediately, but five minutes later, a teenage boy will ask if they can help him find something on tattoos.
Next they started real interactive programs. Instead of having someone talk on the history of chocolate, they’d teach them how to make truffles – so now people actually learned skills from their programs. They’d bring in a graphic artist who taught teens to create their own Manga. They changed the SRP and started my Summer: read think do – which they hoped would evolve into people having an experience. Yes, customers are encouraged to read a book, see a movie, listen to a CD, but then they want people to go out and experience something with that knowledge.
They make it up in the morning, roll it out in the afternoon and the next day tweak the heck out of it.
The next thing they did was ask all staff to reapply to the three types of positions they now had – Wrangler (material handler), Concierge (customer service) and Guide (create programs…) – after assuring people no one would become unemployed (they just wanted people in the position that best suited their talents).
They also decided to have fireplaces at all locations and they put treehouses in! And they became LEED Silver certified (solar, geothermal energy, recycled materials…). So Anythink Brighton is the first carbon neutral library in the country. How on earth did they do all this?! Jaws were dropping all over the room.
The next step was their logo. Staff laughed when they saw this –
but then decided it grabbed them – it looks like a brain – or maybe the pathways of the mind – or an idea – or a doodle… They created amazing marketing posters for the library; to promote their history collection they used the slogan “Any Bullet, Any Sacrifice, Any War, Any Why” which instead of pleading with people to “just ask us a question” – subliminally encouraged them to do do. They created t-shirts with slogans like “Shhh is a four letter word” and “I’m not busy, I just walk fast” and the public responded by coming in droves.