Full Spectrum Programming

29 01 2008

Yesterday, I met with my faculty adviser to talk about how my project was going, and brainstorm a few more project ideas. In collaboration with my two contacts at APL, I had a long laundry list of adult programs that the library might hold, and my FA added a few more to that list. I mentioned my frustration with how isolated each of these programs felt… I’ve been taking so many nonprofit classes that the mere idea of one-shot programs versus longterm systemic change oriented offerings gets my back up in a bad way. My FA said that the ad-hoc programming model of APL was probably a result of its (adult programming) recent addition to the library’s offerings. She said that we should consider co-authoring an article for Texas Library Journal on the strategic benefits of community partnership at the library. I’m interested, but I’m putting that off until summer! Another thing I’ll be putting off until summer was her suggestion that perhaps I could write myself a job, via grant, or co-funded position between the City and the iSchool, to set up a framework for meaningful collaboration between the APL and the iSchool (students and professors). Now that’s right up my alley! Again, that’s going to wait until summer!

Today I met with my favorite funding-research librarian at the Hogg Regional Foundation Library to discuss the relative “fundability” of my long list of possible programs. She is an absolutely brilliant woman. She helped me see how many of the “isolated” programs in that list were really very complimentary, and could be grouped together to provide a full array of programs targeted at a specific issue. She grouped them into three areas: Cultural Awareness and Diversity Education, Social Justice Issues, and the Arts. An example of this would be a book of the year, and a whole array of programming surrounding that. But not just any book, a book that addressed a social justice or cultural issue. For example, the Library could announce that the citywide reading program would feature the book, the Kite Runner. Then the library would offer a whole compliment of programming to go with that: Arabic language classes, classes on Arabic culture, art, music, and dance, classes on Arabic foods, history, film, and so on… maybe even tying in with the Zilker Kite Festival!

She also showed me how intertwined each of the main issues are, which is great from a fundability standpoint. I’m getting very excited about where this project is headed!

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Strategic Initiative Toolbox

18 01 2008

That’s the tentative title of my Capstone Project, the professional development project most MSIS’s at UT do these days instead of a thesis (although if I was doing a thesis, it would be titled either Librarians as Leaders or perhaps one on Fulfilling the Information Needs of Homeless Patrons).

The premise of this capstone is that the Austin Public Library (where I’m working on my capstone) would greatly benefit from increased strategic placement within the bureaucracy of the City of Austin, from a budgetary and other resource perspective. Simultaneously, adult programming at APL could be strengthened (although they have a wide variety of youth programs), and might be better supported if programs had a defined set of outcome/output/impact measures that could better demonstrate value to the library’s various constituents. Finally, as far as I can tell, APL has few community partners, and could be better positioned with regard to this aspect of planning.

For my capstone, I will be helping the Austin Public Library develop adult programming which addresses each of these challenges. The program begins by diagramming the City of Austin’s strategic plan, and then brainstorming program ideas that would help the city fulfill its goals. A total of three promising programs will be selected, and for each I will create a toolkit for funding, finding community partners, setting up, running, and evaluating the success of that program (if I have extra time, I may do a marketing plan for each, although APL has its own marketing department).

From mid-December to mid-January, I’ve been creating a Gantt chart for the project, diagramming City of Austin (CoA) goals and initiatives, doing a lit review of relevant materials published on the topic, and brainstorming ideas for possible programs. Next week, the ball really gets rolling: I have a meeting with my field supervisor at APL, to brainstorm further program initiatives, and finally, a similar session with my faculty adviser. Then I will create a diagram for each program, illustrating how well (or poorly) that program is connected to the stated goals/needs of the CoA. Then I’ll do an initial “fundability” review with a funding librarian at our Regional Foundation Library, ranking the programs in order of “most fundable” to “least fundable.” I’ll then turn this list over to my field supervisor, and let her pick the top three programs she thinks the APL would be interested in pursuing. Then comes all the fun stuff! Funding research, community partners who can make the program happen, volunteer candidates and management, management/ administration of the program (policies, best practices, history of similar programs), and finally, tools to evaluate the effectiveness and ultimate worth of the program, along with guidelines for modification based on feedback from the programs.

I’m very excited about the whole thing! More coming soon…





A brand new me

18 01 2008

This last semester was an intensely challenging one for me, and one that ultimately changed the way I relate to the world, particularly the library world. I took a Nonprofit Strategy and Entrepreneurship class, a course in Research Methods, and a phenomenal course called Leadership for Community Change. I did a lot of soul searching and learned a great deal about myself and how I interact with the world and my field, and what part I want to play in all that. The semester also armed me with an abundance of tools for strategically positioning libraries (and librarians) for success.

I also continued volunteered at Reading for the Blind & Dyslexic (first as a “director” and now as a “reader”) for two hours a week, and, as part of my class project for NP Strategy, did an extensive review of their volunteer practices, and developed a series of improvements to those practices which might help them increase their production studio’s efficiency. I also started volunteering as a reference intern at the Austin Public Library… every single day I work there, I am more convinced that I’m in the right place. I’m particularly interested in working for a large urban public library system in adult services, and APL is a great introduction to that world (both the good and the bad). On top of all that, I was also the student liaison to Stepping Up: Library Leaders for the 21st Century, and held two information sessions for applicants to the program and I was Co-Director and Webmaster of the “blanket” student organization for the School of Information (SASI). It was all worth it, and I even got myself selected for the 2007 edition of Who’s Who Among Students in American Colleges and Universities (toot that horn!)

Out of this fall semester grew my professional experience project (“Capstone”). I decided to plunge headfirst into administrative work, particularly with regards to strategic positioning of libraries. I’m interested in adult programming, so I decided to look at the City of Austin’s strategic planning documents, chart out their goals, and then develop programs for the library which would help the city achieve those goals. In this way, the library will be better able to demonstrate the value they provide to the community (in particular when it comes time for funding dollars to be distributed). Once we’ve narrowed the scope to the top three programs, I’ll create a toolkit for each program: resource needs, funding sources, volunteer management, potential community partners, and evaluation and measures of success. I’m calling it (tentatively) the Strategic Initiatives Toolbox.

And that capstone is what I’d like to talk about today… I’m going to make a small shift on this blog (not too difficult because I’ve been absent for so long that I’ve indubitably alienated any readership I had) and spend the remainder of the spring documenting my progress on my capstone project, in addition to the work I’m doing in my other two classes: Collection Management, and Nonprofit Audiences (a class offered by the School of Advertising).

I’m working on a recap of the work I’ve done this past month, but I’ll be shooting for one update a week (more often when I’m in the thick of things) describing the challenges I’ve experienced, as well as the successes. Like the title says, my experiences last semester have irrevocably changed the way I perceive the library world and the challenges it faces (on a number of fronts). Not all of these are related to my capstone, but I have a feeling you’ll be hearing plenty of them in the weeks and months to come.