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While the Greensboro Public Library has a long history of being very intentional about regularly soliciting staff concerns (Sandy Neerman, the Library Director, carves out several hours each quarter to visit all branches and sections so that she can hear staff concerns), in 2010, we realized that we did not have an effective mechanism for non-management staff to actually be part of the decision-making process. This problem had become more acute as a result of several years of budget reductions and hiring freezes that had resulted in changes (i.e., expansion) in the duties of frontline staff. Some had come to feel that they had limited opportunity to help shape the decisions that were being made and that “things were being done to them” by the Leadership Team. Also, although the Greensboro Historical Museum has been part of the Greensboro Public Library department for over 10 years, we had not found a way to integrate museum staff with library staff, except at the level of top management.
In September 2010, we launched the Library Services Council. It includes at least one staff member from every pay grade/type of job. The primary goal of the Council is to increase staff participation in decision-making and to enhance communication between management and front-line staff. The group, which meets 6 times per year, is charged with regularly soliciting concerns and customer service innovations from their colleagues. The Council was selected by the Library Leadership Team (which includes the director of the historical museum) and by section managers.
The Library Leadership Team feels that the Library Council is effectively meeting its stated goals. It has already been an effective tool for making decisions that in the past would have been made with limited participation from frontline staff. Now, when we are struggling with a decision that will affect the entire library, the Leadership Team says “Let’s take this to the Library Council.” Council members report that staff shares problems and ideas that they want brought forward to the Council. We have asked the group to problem-solve two major topics and they have done so very efficiently. Also, because museum staff is part of the Council, we have seen a greater mutual understanding of the cultures and services of the two institutions.