Scenario – Rivkah K. Sass, Omaha Public Library When the Data Tells You It's Time to Change: Tough Choices in Tough Times



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Scenario – Rivkah K. Sass, Omaha Public Library
When the Data Tells You It's Time to Change:

Tough Choices in Tough Times
Somewhere in America there is a public library with more than 125 years of history. Once revered in the community, its unique historical collections include a letter written and signed by Abraham Lincoln, more than 50 cuneiform tablets that span 3,000 years, thousands of photographs from the Trans-Mississippi Exposition, and even a photograph of General George Armstrong Custer with a letter written by his wife describing his mode of dress. Funded primarily through city general funds, the library has suffered a number of setbacks in recent years. Competing with a post-911 “homeland security” ethos and national standards for minimum staffing of police and fire, budget share is dwindling. Staff has been reduced by 20% in the previous five years, without creation of a staffing plan or an evaluation of what work should be done. Of 82 full-time positions 47 are classified as librarians. Only 33% of the community holds a library card. The new director is charged with keeping the doors opens, changing staffing patterns, improving processes, increasing community awareness and trying to revitalize the Library Foundation in order to increase private support for the Library. A consultant who visits the library six months after the library director begins work describes the work environment as a “culture of mean.” How does the library move forward despite its poor funding, irregular staffing patterns and seemingly insurmountable issues? How does the work begin to change the culture, the work processes and develop a shared vision for what the library should be? Knowing that funding is likely to get even worse, how does the Director frame what needs to change in order to stay afloat?


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