My library held a staff in-service recently. It was very successful, so I thought I would share a few do’s and don’ts of planning an in-service.
Our in-service planning committee consisted of one person from each department. I led the committee, plus there was a Page, a Clerk, a Librarian, a Reference Assistant, and the Public Relations and Marketing person. I highly recommend having people from various departments on the committee. It creates a more holistic, “bigger picture” program that is relevant to everyone. What I don’t recommend is long meetings. We put our program together in four one-hour meetings. Have an agenda and then send a follow-up email after every meeting that reminds everyone of what was decided.
We were asked by the Director to include one team building exercise. After talking it over, the committee members all agreed that we didn’t want to make anyone do anything silly or embarrassing that would single them out or require them to touch anyone (I’ll admit, that one is my hang-up). We decided to play trivia. We created teams that included people from various departments. Our library is a three-story building, so there are a lot of people we rarely see and never get to work with. Trivia teams were encouraged to come up with a team name. Some of them even dressed alike. We got to have fun in a non-threatening, team environment with people we didn’t necessarily know well ahead of time. The questions came from a trivia question-a-day calendar from a few years ago that one committee member had, so they covered pop culture categories.
My next suggestion is to give everyone on staff an opportunity to weigh in on what learning opportunities are offered on in-service day. We asked for suggestions, and the most-requested topic was emergency procedures. They wanted to do a fire drill and talk about all kinds of emergency situations like tornadoes, medical emergencies, active shooter scenarios, etc. We had a city police officer, an EMT, and a fire chief come to give a quick talk. Then they watched us go through our fire drill procedure and do a mock evacuation as if we were open for business. After the all-clear from them, we came back together as a group and the fire department critiqued how we did. It was very valuable, since we learned a few things about our PA system, our new security panels, and our signage.
The rest of the day was filled with department-specific meetings and project-specific updates. That’s not as exciting, but very relevant to everyone and a good opportunity for departments to train or share information with everyone in their department at once. Even our regular monthly meetings don’t catch as many staff members as this staff in-service day did, so take advantage!
I can’t leave out the most important tip of the day: have food and make it good. That sounds really easy and obvious, but as it turns out there are a lot of ways of doing this and you will never make everyone happy. We provided a nice breakfast spread with a variety of bakery items and fruit and beverages. Then we provided boxed lunches with three sandwich options or two salad options. My advice is to acknowledge dietary restrictions, of course, but limit the number of choices. Make it clear what is included, and what substitutions can and cannot be made. The reality is that you’re providing lunch (you’re welcome), you’re giving enough options to satisfy diverse lifestyles and restrictions, and if anyone just can’t make it work they are welcome to provide their own lunch. If they just can’t remove the cheese or abide the white bread the sandwich comes on, that’s not necessarily on you. Do the best you can to accommodate health risk, but don’t get too caught up in personal taste. At some point, it is what it is and you have to move on to bigger problems.
Ultimately, a staff in-service is a paid-time work day that is meant to be interesting and informative. If you can build in some fun, that’s great too!