The Non-shushed Librarian – Our Executive Director Speaks!

Library Executive Director Shawn Shaffer’s Annual Report to the Library Board of Trustees

Library Executive Director Shawn ShafferAs I reviewed past annual reports I noticed Bob started his by acknowledging our beginnings.

This Library is a gift to the Winter Park community from the generations who have come before us:
— from the women who started it on Miss Lamson’s front porch,
— from those who gave dimes and nickels to build the first one-room building on Interlachen Avenue,
— from residents throughout the decades who have shown their support and appreciation by donating to ensure that Winter Park has a wonderful library today,
— and from the many staff, volunteers and members Board of Trustees who gave and give of their time, talents and treasure to assure a wonderful Library for tomorrow.

 I appreciate the vision of those who saw the need for a public lending library for the people of Winter Park, and those whose varying visions have propelled the library from the front porch to the horizon of the future where we stand today.

A significant chapter of the Winter Park Public Library’s history closed this year with Bob’s retirement. In his 25-year year tenure he brought technological innovations to the library, added a third floor and help build a sizable endowment. He left an important legacy and stepping stones on which I have been able to build.

When I came on board last May, it became evident that the economic downturn that started in 2007 had taken its toll on the WPPL. Out of necessity, so much of the organizational thinking and processes had focused on maintaining the status quo with the pared down staff and downsized resources. My goal has been to engender an organizational culture that is patron and community-focused, aiming to be as relevant, user-friendly and accessible to them as possible.

In 2013 we implemented the technology funded by the “Innovation 127” campaign, an effort started in 2012 and which was generously supported by the City of Winter Park over and above their usual funding for operations. The implementation of “Innovation 127” brought new RFID technology to the WPPL, allowing us to fully implement self-service circulation. The five new Self-Serve Stations empower patrons to avoid lengthy lines by checking out and renewing their own materials as well as paying fines with a credit card. Additionally, it honors many patrons’ desire for greater privacy with regard to their library accounts. To further support our Self-Serve goal, we made it possible for patrons with items on hold to retrieve their own items by moving the Hold Shelf to a patron-accessible area.

At the beginning of the year, about 14% of our circulation was Self-Serve; today it is over 50%. This has allowed us to consolidate circulation activity to one service point, ending circulation services on the second floor. This change has freed the Youth Services staff to spend their time helping children with homework, literacy skills and allowed them to be able to spend more time helping their enthusiastic and reluctant readers to find their next great read.

In response to patron feedback, we changed our circulation procedures to give them more time to enjoy their books, audiobooks and music and increased the number of items they can put on hold.

These changes in technology and service points led us to our next stepping stone, a shift in spaces.  Public Service Desks were altered to serve patrons better. A simple move of a desk on the second floor has made the desk much more visible allowing patrons to find staff to help them. The Reference Desk was moved to a corner where staff and patrons can better concentrate on receiving the information help they need. Collections were shifted for easier access and consolidated so that whenever possible, like items are all in one place, rather than require patrons go on a scavenger hunt. We made the third floor a quiet space for those who are studying, working on projects, etc. We moved public computers to a quiet room on the third floor for those who found the noise of the circulation desk, café and people coming and going too noisy for their work. When meeting rooms aren’t in use, we have offered those spaces for small groups or tutors who come to the Library to work.

After 10 years of operating the Library’s Lifelong Learning Institute, we are transitioning to a different programming model. The landscape of learning opportunities has changed greatly over the last decade and if imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, we are flattered indeed. Many community organizations have emulated our original model and now that those needs are being filled for the community, we are conducting surveys and focus groups to determine what the next generation of community-centric learning opportunities will look like.

Celebration, our annual donor event, was relocated to the Library this year. It was a perfect end to our first-ever compressed Annual Fund drive which ran February to April and exceeded the goal of $145,000. The compressed campaign was designed to avoid “ask fatigue” in donors as well as to avoid intruding on other Library fundraising effort throughout the year.

As staff reviewed the 2013-2014 budget, we decided to put greater effort into acquiring grant money or other targeted funds to fulfill needs and innovations the general operating budget could not support. To this end, we applied for and received a grant from the Winter Park Fund of the Central Florida Foundation that funded the purchase of 20 tablet computers, some of which will be used in our training efforts and others will be checked out to patrons for home use beginning in February 2014. Also starting in early 2014 will be a bicycle checkout program funded by a grant from the Healthy Central Florida initiative. Our year-end fundraisingeffort was gear toward replacing our broken and too-small drive-up bookdrop with a durable new model that will also prevent breakage of audio-visual materials by separating them from books.

Thanks to the hard work of volunteers, Board members and staff, we again enjoyed another successful Bash for Books fundraising and friend-raising event, which raised over $54,000 in support of the Library. It was also another banner year for the Friends of the Winter Park Public Library and their New Leaf Bookstore, which generated over $62,000 selling 100 percent donated books, music and movies by a devoted team of volunteers.

We gained a new neighbor this year when The Alfond Inn opened in August. In partnership with the New Leaf Bookstore, we stocked their library. They helped us host a very successful lunch for the Lamson League, and we are looking forward to an amazing Books and Cooks at “the neighbor’s house” in March of this year.

We worked with our other neighbor, RollinsCollege and forged a new reciprocal agreement for the benefit of both institutions. We began including Rollins, Maitland and OrangeCounty libraries in staff development and programs.

We had our first all Staff Development Day. The staff developed our first-ever customer service philosophy, which created goals for service to patrons and also for service to each other as staff members.

Most importantly this year, the Board of Trustees had a strategic planning retreat.  We took a day to evaluate what the library does, reflected on the Board’s role and developed a new mission, a new vision and strategic goals for the next three years.

The stepping stone from this planning session was a unanimous decision to pursue a new library building for the 21st century. The Board has taken this assignment seriously as has begun to visit other libraries, share information about new public libraries and strategically think about what Winter Park residents need for their public library of the future.

As we look ahead to 2014, many innovations are already on the horizon. In the next few weeks we will check out bicycles, iPads and Kindle Fires. Books and Cooks, Celebration and Bash for Books will be huge successes this year. I am looking forward to the Valedictorian luncheon where we honor our future leaders. In 2014, you will see us out in the community more — offering services to residents, telling our story and just being present so that all residents will know of the many services, programs and materials the Winter Park Public Library offers.

None of the present or future accomplishments would have been possible without our dedicated Board of Trustees and your time, talent and treasure. Thank you for choosing me to lead this library into the future. I hope you all feel it is your public library, because it is.

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