It can be disconcerting to read about the state of the economy. There is lots of appropriate concern about what the current economic conditions will mean for libraries of all types. Happily for me, the other day I had a conversation with Connie Urquhart, Teen Services Coordinator at the Fresno County Public Library, that got me thinking about ways to turn the negative of budget cuts into a positive opportunity for trying new things at the library, making change happen, and demonstrating that teen librarians are aware of the importance of spending time and money wisely.
Connie and I were talking about taking risks in libraries and in work with teens. Connie mentioned that she’s noticed that the people she works with are actually more willing to try things out now that budgets are tight and the economy has taken a downturn. At first I didn’t get what she was saying. But then, as we kept talking, it became clear. Connie mentioned that as a way to save money colleagues are talking about new ways of accomplishing tasks. They are discovering that traditional ways of doing something aren’t as cost and time effective as new ways of going about the same tasks. And, those new ways often include using a technology solution to get something done.
Once Connie explained to me what she’s been noticing, I realized what an opportunity teen librarians have at this moment. It’s the perfect time to take a look at traditional ways of accomplishing various teen services tasks – from circulation to collection development to scheduling to program planning – and consider if there are opportunities for rethinking how those tasks are accomplished in order to take less time, less staff power, and less money. (I’m not suggesting that this is a way to get by with less staff, but that teen librarians need to find ways to use current staff in visibly effective and worthwhile ways. Thereby demonstrating the value of every staff member in the department.)
Maybe using a collaborative tool like Google Calendar for scheduling is less labor intensive than the traditional way of creating a staff calendar, and will provide staff more opportunities to work directly with teens. Maybe it’s possible to plan programs using Google Docs instead of meeting face-to-face – therefore saving time, travel, and money. Aren’t there many ways to move from the traditional to the technological while at the same time using your time, and your colleagues time, more effectively?
Consider using this time of a bad economy to evaluate what you do and how you do it. Can you present new ideas to the teens you serve and your administration as a way to solve some money problems your library might be facing? Would your doing this show those with whom you work that you are a problem-solver, a risk-taker (in the positive sense of the word), and budget conscious? Very possibly so. As a result, wouldn’t that help make teen services a highly respected part of the library or school?
Connie and I aren’t the only ones thinking this way. Administrators at three universities talked about the very same thing during a discussion on the Educause Now podcast. It’s worth listening to this podcast in order to get some more ideas about how a bad economy can provide a good opportunity for evaluating programs and services and learning how to take positive risk in the work place.