Core Values – First Post Wednesday, Jun 18 2008 

In my May 16 post I promised to discuss the Library’s core values. As it is now mid June the time has come to deliver on that promise.

What is a value? The Free Dictionary defines a value as “a principle, standard, or quality considered worthwhile or desirable”. This is as good a definition as any. In reality, a value is something that is held in high regard or esteem by an institution or individual. Values drive anything that an institution or individual does whether they are stated or unstated.

In committing to a set of values the Williamsburg Regional Library is declaring the institutional basis for its programs and services.

The current Williamsburg Regional Library strategic plan lists seven core values. They are :

  • We value free and confidential access to information.
  • We value all residents in our community.
  • We value a literate community.
  • We value strength found in diversity.
  • We value our staff.
  • We value ethical, fiscally responsible stewardship of public resources.
  • We value working cooperatively with groups in our community.

In this post I will briefly discuss the first four of these values, leaving the last three for a later post.

We value free and confidential access to information – The Library’s mission statement indicates “free access to information is a foundation of democracy”. In fulfilling our mission statement the Library supports the right of residents to select the information appropriate for their individual needs. Access to this information is not restricted, except where required by law, and the library through its confidentiality policy and procedures ensures that this access will be remain private.

We value all residents in our community – The Library pledges to provide each individual with courteous, respectful, and friendly service. We value individuals input regarding all that we do. I enjoy receiving “Ask the Director” Comment Cards and have had many delightful (and to be honest, some not so delightful) discussions with individuals as a result. As we look into future revisions of our strategic plan this value may be clarified to define community to being the residents of our funding jurisdictions. As recent events have shown, the Library is not able to provide full service to non-residents of our funding jurisdictions.

We value a literate community – As our strategic plan indicates, “Literacy is important to the successful functioning of a democratic society”. It is also essential to the successful operation of a public library. Without literate users, libraries cease to exist. Through all our programs, services and collections the Library promotes lifelong literacy. One of my community services, as mentioned in an earlier post, is serving on the board of a local adult literacy provider. This service has given me an increased awareness of the value of literacy to both individuals and society at large.

We value strength found in diversity – Our community is a diverse community embracing many cultures, values, and lifestyles. The adult literacy provider mentioned above had as students in the past year individuals from 50 countries speaking 32 different languages. Each summer brings many international student workers to the library on a regular basis. Through personal interactions with the many members of our community we are enriched and become a stronger and more vital institution.

So long for now!

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Technology Friday, May 23 2008 

As an individual who remembers growing up in a home without running water and indoor plumbing technology has its distinct advantages.

However, in this day and age technology can become overwhelming. Before you get used to a new technology it becomes obsolete, outdated, or superseded by a “newer” or “better” version. Being human beings there is the desire to not be left behind or appear outdated.

In our strategic plan, the Library indicates that it will “use technology appropriately”. In our plan this is presented as a part of the “provide excellent collections” section of our strategic directions. However, it also applies to all of our strategic directions as technology plays an important role in all aspects of library service provision.

The question becomes what is the appropriate use of technology? This is a question without easy answers. It is a question that I wrestle with and will continue to do so until I am no longer here.

What I do know is that the Williamsburg Regional Library emphasizes personal service to our user community. Some technology such as automated phone systems do not fit into this concept. This is why we directly answer our phones during the service day and my direct phone line is listed in the phone directory. Sometimes this provides me with interesting conversations, but I enjoy them.

Technology such as self-check machines, enable busy individuals to quickly checkout materials from the library. WiFi in-house networks enable users to employ their own laptops within our building. Projectors and Internet connections enable groups to better use our meeting facilities. These are examples of technologies that enable users to quickly access information and services without staff assistance. In today’s fiscal climate, technology assists our staff in providing the individualized personal service for which we are known and respected.

As we look at the immediate future, what technology will the Library employ or participate in and what will it decide not to? I do not know. What I do know is that our staff will have many discussions as a part of the on-going decision process. What technology we end up deciding to employ or participate in will not satisfy all. This is the only guarantee in the whole process. However, our decisions will be driven by the firm conviction that technology is only a tool, not an end in and of itself. For it to be employed at or by the Williamsburg Regional Library any technology must prove that its use is fiscally responsible and will enable us to provide better personal service to the members of the community we love and serve.

So long for now!

Planning – Mission and Vision Friday, May 16 2008 

As mentioned in a previous post, there are several steps to planning. This post will consider the Library’s mission and vision.

A mission is defined by Webster’s New Ideal Dictionary as “a task or function assigned or undertaken”. Mission statements need to be concise (it is best that they be two sentences or less) and be able to convey the core purpose of the institution. This is no easy task. The Williamsburg Regional Library’s mission statement, ” Free access to information is a foundation of democracy. The Williamsburg Regional Library, a basic government service, provides that access through resources and programs that educate, enrich, entertain, and inform every member of our community.”, is a reaffirmation of the role that public libraries play in the provision of information to all citizens. It also highlights the importance of access to information as an essential part of citizen participation in a democratic society. This mission statement is the result of considerable discussion by library staff, board and community members at our planning sessions for the first strategic plan. It has stood the test of time.

The library’s mission statement also reminds us that that information comes in a variety of forms and is received through all our senses. Thus, a story-hour program, a community discussion opportunity, or a musical concert is as valuable a conduit of information as reading a book, viewing a DVD or looking at a newspaper or magazine. Sometimes this is forgotten and all of us suffer as a result.

A vision in the sense that the Williamsburg Regional Library uses the term is “a mental image produced by the imagination”. In other words, a vision is what collectively, our staff, board of trustees and community would like the Library to be. The library’s vision statement;”The Williamsburg Regional Library inspires people of all ages and backgrounds to expand their knowledge, pursue their dreams, and enjoy the rich cultural tapestry of our world. The Williamsburg Regional Library enriches the life of our community by encouraging and supporting interaction among all our residents.”, indicates that collectively we have a desire to inspire and enrich the lives of our citizens.

During the course of our strategic plan, the Williamsburg Regional Library is working to achieve this vision trough a set of strategic directions that are based upon community input, community demographics and our mission statement and core values. What are our core values? For this you will have to wait until a later post.

So long for now!

Planning Introduction Friday, May 2 2008 

Over the coming weeks I will be discussing library planning. This post is an introduction to planning at the Williamsburg Regional Library.

The Williamsburg Regional Library has, since 2000, gone through two strategic planning processes. The current plan adopted by the Board of Trustees at its November 30, 2005 meeting covers the years 2006 – 2010.

Planning is important to any organization. Without planning, programs and services are based upon what has always been done, the whim of the moment, what is desired by someone with power within the organization, or by the individual or group with the loudest voice, or any number of other reasons. There is no effective evaluation of either programs or services because there is no agreed upon basis for such an evaluation.

As an organization owing its existence to local governmental entities and supported by tax funding provided by the citizens it serves, the Williamsburg Regional Library has a fiduciary responsibility as well as an ethical obligation to provide programs and services based upon sound planning that reflects the needs and desires of the community it serves.

Planning involves many steps. Included are the gathering of information on the community being served, input from those being served (community residents) as well as those providing the service (library staff) and the development of statements which delineate the library’s purpose (mission) and role within the community.

All successful planning is based upon a set of assumptions. This set of assumptions serves as the core upon which the framework of the plan rests.

It is important that the institution have a vision that can be clearly enunciated. It also needs a set of values that can be used to measure any activity or service provided or proposed for provision.

Once the above items are in place, a successful plan will indicate where the institution is going during the time period of the plan. Some plans will be goal orientated with detailed specificity as to what is desired to be accomplished. The approach adopted by the Williamsburg Regional Library is to provide strategic directions for programs and services with underlying expectations as to how these directions will be accomplished.

So long for now!