Keeping Things Nice for Company

Eva —  October 31, 2013 — 1 Comment

On the heels of Matt’s “What Does Your Building Say?” post, I stopped in at a couple of libraries while traveling recently, and there was one library branch in particular that told me a particular story.

I could tell that this library was recently built/renovated, probably within the last ten years–the furniture was sleek, the light fixtures minimalist–but wear and tear were also evident. There were stains on carpeting, stains on upholstery, veneer peeling off of table edges, and cobwebs on lights throughout the library. While it wasn’t crowded at the time, I could see that the library had been well-used throughout the day–empty cups and used napkins on tables, receipts on the floor in a couple of spots, chairs askew, abandoned materials, scattered toys in the children’s area.

A mid-day photo of our early literacy area--not perfect, but reasonably contained.

A mid-day photo of our early literacy area–not perfect, but reasonably contained.

Seeing this kind of usage makes me feel good for libraries (we are not dead yet!) and also makes me cringe, because pride of place is one of my triggers as a library director. I saw a library that did not make upkeep a priority. I saw employees walking past chairs and not pushing them in, walking past toys and not straightening them, and walking past garbage and not throwing it away. As a visitor, my impression was that this library isn’t very concerned with how their community treats them, and that their community picks up on this, which feeds into a grimy spiral.

Our patrons are our guests. Company comes to visit us at our “house” every day, and we should always be ready for company. My staff will tell you that I really hammer this home; for my first couple of years here, I talked about cleanliness and pride of place at least twice a month with staff, and pretty much weekly with my managers. I am sure they all thought I was being ridiculous (and maybe some of them think I’m still ridiculous) but I am adamant that the patron who comes in at 8:00pm is just as deserving of a nice-looking library as the patron who came in at 9:00am. We (yes, this includes me) make patrons feel welcome throughout the day by keeping the library looking fresh–pushing in chairs, picking up abandoned materials, and throwing away trash.

We have an early literacy area and tidy it up several times throughout the day; while it never looks as perfect as it does at opening, we have experienced the added bonus of kids and families who see us picking up and will pitch in to help us put toys away, or will put toys away themselves.

We cut back on the frequency of window cleaning, carpet cleaning, and upholstery cleaning due to our budget reductions, but we still do them several times per year, because a) I don’t want our patrons to think we accept dirty windows, carpets, and upholstery, and b) it helps prolong the life of those items. If a spill or stain occurs in between scheduled cleanings, our cleaning crew will spot-treat it. Our Building Supervisor has a rotation he’s worked out to maintain the library on an ongoing basis–dinged corners, chipped paint, loose carpet, and outside the library, too–to keep the library looking nice.

Keeping the library neat and maintained for our patrons shows them that we care, and that we take pride in our work and in ourselves. I want our visitors to feel that warmth and pride in our personal interactions with them, and to feel it in the library’s surroundings. That’s the story I want libraries to tell.

Eva

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Eva Davis is the Director of the Canton Public Library in Canton, Michigan--not Canton, Ohio, or Canton, Massachusetts, or Canton, Mississippi. (It is an easy mistake to make.) Eva honed her supervisory and management skills working in customer service, research, and publishing before heading to graduate school at the University of Michigan School of Information. She became a librarian in 1998. She was an intern and then the teen services librarian at the Plymouth (MI) District Library before moving to the Ann Arbor (MI) District Library, where she was Head of the Youth Department at the Downtown library, Head of Youth Services for the system, Head of Branch Services, and finally Associate Director for Public Services. Eva has held her dream job as the Director of the award-winning Canton Public Library since 2008. She received the Michigan Library Association's Frances H. Pletz Award for Excellence in Teen Services in 2003, and is a graduate of both Leadership Ann Arbor and Leadership Canton, where she learned that she is moderately Affiliative according to MAFF, her color is "Green" on the Four Color Personality Test, and her Myers-Briggs Type is INTJ (although she has worked diligently and consistently on improving her Sensing, so she now leans ISTJ). Follow @CantonLibrary and @EvaDavisCPL on Twitter. (Photo credit: Susan Kennedy)

One response to Keeping Things Nice for Company

  1. 

    I would like to vote that we throw out the dead tree in the quiet room…. Any more takers?

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