Putting it in Writing

Have you worked in a library system where procedures and best practices weren’t written down? Have you worked in an environment where the organizational and institutional knowledge was in different employees’ heads, but nowhere on paper?

Putting things (procedures, best practices, responses to common questions, etc.) in writing is an important step to becoming a transparent and accountable organization. In an ideal situation, you will be part of a workforce that understands how a library functions, knows where supplies are, displays exemplary behavior, produces high quality programs and events. What happens when a person is hired — and there’s no training plan or written documentation to help them become acclimated to how the library operates? What happens when expectations aren’t in writing, and you need to correct poor choices and behavioral issues? What about retirement and having a succession plan?

In Youth Services, do you have a storytime outline or template that you use to train new storytime planners and presenters? Do you have anything in writing about how (and when) to book performers or special guests? Having documentation specifically for how things are done in your library is very useful for you as a manager, and your employees (both current and prospective). It is a great way to allow staff members to contribute and improve the day-to-day tasks in the library, as well as allow some input for how the library operations might be improved.

In certain situations, you might not be able to create policies without the approval of your stakeholders (library board and/or City Council), but you can instead focus on creating best practices and start putting in writing what has worked (and not worked so well) in your library. If the idea of writing a large document is overwhelming, start with small things and go slowly. Producing documentation doesn’t have to be done overnight, and there’s no reason to try to do it all by yourself. There are writers in your library — use the existing expertise that you have in your staff.

Documentation and putting things in writing helps take you and your library to the next step. What have you put in writing already?

Our guest blogger today is Claudia M. Wayland, the Youth Services Supervisor at the Lewisville Public Library in Lewisville, Texas, who wrote this piece as a member of the Managing Children’s Services Committee

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2 Responses to Putting it in Writing

  1. Abby Johnson says:

    This is excellent advice and something I’m going to start working on. We have piecemeal documentation for procedures, but it will definitely be helpful to get it all in one place and fill in the gaps. When I started as Children’s Services Manager at my library five years ago, things were a complete mess and very little useful stuff was documented!

  2. Julie says:

    The other thing to remember is that policies and procedures are not “write it once and done” they need to be reviewed on a regular basis or they quickly become out of date. After an extensive rewrite of out dated material we’ve added reviews to our regular department heads meetings. The idea is that we will update things as they happen but if something slips through the cracks (like the new procedure for deleting library cards which I’ve just remembered needs to be changed in the circ manual) when the policy or procedures comes up for review we’ll catch it.

    Staff also need to be reminded to reread them whenever anything is edited. This is especially tough when many staff members have been here many, many years and think they already know what to do.

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