Saturday, July 13, 2013

How to keep programs going when a key player is down

Life keeps coming, thank goodness!  It's by far better than the alternative.  Yesterday I was talking with a friend who also happens to be a mom/wife/fast-talking piece of positivity/team worker/intent listener/creative thinker/tech savy/problem solver and not surprisingly a very dedicated Librarian serving children and teens. She is often the go-to person for me, even if only in my mind.  (hmmm, what would ____ do about this?)

Discovering that the roller coaster known as life has tossed her into a loop made us both stop, spend a second in the brain trust-think tank and jump into how to handle this. My personal roller coaster took me for a white knuckle, stomach wrenching ride recently.  It's nice to be on the other side of that and back to the world of "cleared to work"  Yay!

Being whisked away from your day-to-day responsibilities in a career you love is not easy. When that career is public service and defined more specifically as literacy involving children, teens and families you've hit the mother-load of worry.  Can "someone" (read: a person who loves children and being silly) take over story time?  Who (translation: that rare person who loves Teens) will cover that Teen Tech program we spent months planning?  Does the budget stretch?  Did we ever follow-up on that idea of an approved "sub" list for story time?  Whoa, this may help...

Put YOUR mask on first and then help others!

Honestly - it is very difficult to turn off the brain when you love what you do.  I hear this again and again from my library friends working in Childrens.  We are a dedicated lot.  Everywhere we go we find ideas that inspire what we do with kids. We walk around the world with that familiar facebook thumbs-up click, click, clicking everything we "Like".   Always processing, "if we just tweak it a little we can do that with two year olds!"  Heck, we're the group that gets excited over board books!  We get excited over free posters!  Book galleys = our secret code to happiness!

The problem presents itself - how do you handle the sudden absence of a key player in the library, specifically Children's Services?  And does anyone else share our passion for families and little ones?  Perhaps this is the disconnect or the key?  I recall many conference speakers, and yes including this gal, touting the value of keeping library management aware of all we do in Children's, meeting our community needs, commitment to closing the achievement gap, the professional tools and training of story time, our work to meet the goals of the library and so much more.  But the reality, when it hits, because it usually does, is that we're not usually prepared no matter how we've tried, or who we have notified.  Where do we get subs to keep programs going?  So the person who is on sick leave may just be feeling that they have let everyone,(read: EVERYONE), down, colleagues and community.

All things considered:  (a partial list!)
Experience tells us that if the story time and program structure collapses - the families loose trust.
Budgets are tight
Fund raising for emergency funding?
Create a voluntary share.  Do your best program at their library.  Is this allowed?
collaboration = good librarianship
staffing is stretched
"sub" list for story times
how do we pay the subs if we don't have $$$
is there a community impact?
should we develop a stash of prepared story times
anyone keeping the teens in order?  are they running amuck?
short term/long term projects

Some larger libraries have greater flexibility providing them the ability to handle the situation.  Moving children's staff from building to building helps maintain programs and staffing throughout.  Amen for that.  The further we can spread out the absence, allowing it to be absorbed in the grander scale,  the less painful it is for all.  What happens in your library?  what works?  what doesn't?  Any ideas?  Please leave comments.

There is discussion going on as I type, (real life conversation discussion!), to bring this to our Round Table meeting.  Here's your chance to contribute and I will report back if this subject goes to meeting.  I see that it is on our FF FB page again.

Thanks ~ jane

All photos from Google images


  1. Very interesting. We just went through this @ one of our locations as someone moved onto a different job. The other hard part is that @ large libraries it is hard to get people to move outside of their job description (as it can be regimented) and be willing to pick up slack at a different location. It all depends on your mix of people.

  2. Lisa, thanks for commenting. I agree that the "mix" makes all the difference. I would be most happy to volunteer to do a Family Program for a neighboring library to keep things going. We could sort of "bank" a program in a group of libraries making up the bank! does this make sense? ~ jane


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