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Innovation Teams

Cleveland Public Library

Innovation Leader: Felton Thomas, Director, Cleveland Public Library, Felton.Thomas@cpl.org

Problem Statement

Cleveland Public Library’s Director, Mr. Felton Thomas, arrived at CPL from Las Vegas in January 2009. He realized that CPL, while an amazing public library with a good reputation and a 2009 Five Star rating from Library Journal, could be better prepared for the realities of the new century: sophisticated patrons and technology, declining revenue due to an epidemic foreclosure crisis in the city of Cleveland, increased demand, and a widespread premium put upon everything that is done fresher, leaner, newer, and purer. Rather than rest on its laurels, CPL needed to take the lead for the public and find ways to become even more relevant and vital to the community it serves. Since the last strategic plan expired in 2008, Director Thomas set about crafting a new plan with the help of his new employees.

Innovation

To initiate a new strategy and direction for CPL, Director Thomas created five Innovation Teams staffed by employees who were known as ‘out of the box’ thinkers, who had reputations for having a positive attitude about the library and a capacity to initiate and accept change, and/or who shared his core values of sacrifice, integrity, and respect. The five teams—Adult Services, Efficiencies, Main Library, Security, and Youth Services—were charged with the following:

  1. To gather service innovation recommendations relative to library services
  2. To explore and develop these recommendations and to prioritize them in terms of cost, impact, and immediacy
  3. To present recommendations, justifications, and implementation plans to Administration on May 12, 2009
  4. To implement the approved initiatives in three phases.

The recommendations were compiled into a Strategic Iniatives Draft available to all staff for review, comment, and further adjustment. By entrusting these teams to craft their recommendations from A to Z, Director Thomas recognized the value of CPL employees and their sincere desire for their library’s continued success. By allowing all staff input on the recommendations on a specifically designated employee blog, Director Thomas succeeded in generating a broader interested and vested coalition who looked at CPL with fresher eyes: Yes, we were good, even pretty good, but we could be great. Because of the creation of the teams, staff point of view taken into great consideration, administrators evaluation of and voting for desired outcomes, and the inclusion of many of the recommendations into the final working document, Director Thomas was able to get most of his employees ‘on the bus’ and driving towards elevated relevancy, responsibility, and respect within the city of Cleveland and its surrounding communities.

Progress

Director Thomas unveiled both a system-wide restructuring plan and public services iniative plan that contain many elements from the Strategic Iniatives Draft. The two-pronged implementation begins June 1st 2010 and is slated to be completed by the end of 2012.