Los Angeles Public Library, California
In 2016, the Los Angeles Public Library created a fourth division, Engagement and Learning, to work alongside the three existing divisions: Branch Library Services, Central Library Services and Emerging Technologies and Collections. Its new, radical structure promotes increased communication within the library and improved cradle-to-grave services for the community.
LAPL recently created a strategic plan that positions the library to create opportunity, build community, and inspire innovation, focusing on community-centered services. However, our internal structure still reflected a traditional library-centered, collections-driven approach. Coordinating offices (children’s, young adult, adult and volunteer/literacy services) were handling system-wide programs, but there was no built-in way for communication to flow between them. This became especially problematic as we introduced new programs and initiatives that serve multiple ages.
We created a fourth division, Engagement and Learning, with departments that reflect how we interact with our communities, each with a central theme. Engagement and Outreach coordinates volunteers, friends, outreach and partnerships. Exploration and Creativity coordinates summer activities (reading, lunch), STEAM programs and cultural programming. Lifelong Learning handles our online high school, health initiatives, financial literacy, citizenship and more. Youth Services ensures that librarians are well-trained in all matters touching children, teens and their families.
Despite reorganization challenges, improvement in morale was immediate. Close relationships among department managers has increased communication and synergy, which has strengthened programs. The engagement and learning director works with library administration to champion division activities and execute innovations. Soon, we plan to change our programming approach by asking each branch to determine its community needs in order to select a customized suite of division-provided programs. This will improve services and increase staff buy-in.