Thursday, May 7, 2009

Collection Development Leads to Staff Development

While the Oak Park Illinois Public Library's 2005 collection development project targeted a specific underserved library population, the lessons learned from their workshop can be used by any library. The important message is that a fully researched, implemented and evaluated collection development project can transform lives of staff AND patrons. The customer service philosophies and the impact can be effective to all library staffs.

First, there are barriers to library service that affect many populations. What are barriers? They are "anything that gets in the way of providing great customer serive at the library." (Lori Pullam.)  Secondly, we must welcome library users of all groups and make them feel comfortable even if they don't live in our community. Thirdly, we must reflect – users must see themselves in our library.  Last, we must service – library users must find what they were looking for.

The presenters of the workshop, Collection Development Leads to Staff Development, were Oak Park librarians Bleue Benton, Collection Development Manager and Sharon Grimm, Communications Coordinator of the Oak Park Public Library. They led us through the steps of their project, a $3000 LSTA grant focused on developing a collection for the transgendered. Their toolkit can be found on the library website.  It includes their extensive self-study report, publicity samples and a $200 Transgender bookshelf that is affordable for all libraries.

The 4.5 square mile community of Oak Park is located eight miles west of downtown Chicago and is nationally recognized for its commitment to diversity and its outstanding architecture. The Oak Park Public Library has Special Collections on a number of subjects that have a notable connection to Oak Park : Edgar Rice Burroughs, Ernest Hemingway, Carol Shields, Gilman Lane and Grant Manson. An additional collection, the Transgender Resource Collection was funded with the help of a grant provided by the Illinois State Library. This project has enabled the library to offer circulating materials that serve, welcome, and reflect transgender people.
 "As anticipated by our grant application, this project led us to look carefully at our existing practices, procedures, and policies for employing, serving, and welcoming transgender people." The Oak Park Public Library also sponsored programming, created publicity, and conducted staff awareness workshops with funds from its operating budget." From the Oak Park Public Library website.

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