I've just finished my first day of training and orientation at [my new library]. I have a lot to report on! Much of this may be of interest only to library workers, especially my union buddies.
I took notes all day, and I'm getting it all down here -- in no order, with no attempt to weave it together. All questions are FAQs I've been getting since announcing my move.
1. Who had this position before you and why did they leave?
It is a newly created position; I am the first person to hold the job. The position is part of a larger strategy to bring more robust library services to the North Island, to put them on par with the rest of the Island.
2. My position, the "Customer Services Librarian II", is the equivalent of the senior librarian position I recently left. However, there are only a handful of CSLIIs in the system. I will have an opportunity to attend a special CSLII meeting.
3. Will the manager be in the branch with you?
I will mostly work on my own. I will report in to a manager, but he will work out of Campbell River, 2.5 hours away. The manager is also new to the North Island and has not yet been able to visit all five branches.
4. I have the opportunity to make this position what I want as I go along. Not only am I the first CSL II in this area, there has never been a CSL at all -- meaning no librarian.
5. What are you going to do for two full weeks of training?
Today I was given a schedule for my first three days, which are taking place in Nanaimo. I spent the day at the North Nanaimo branch, a beautiful, huge facility that opened in 2015; it previously housed only the administration and back-office functions.
Today I met with senior staff representing HR, payroll, finances, health/safety, and IT. A full hour with each. This is so amazing. I'm more accustomed to being thrown in with no or minimal training. This system is also way more efficient. I can't begin to describe how much time is wasted trying to track down the appropriate person for an issue.
I also had a tour of this branch, and I met the union steward for my union. (There are two unions.)
The COO/Deputy Exec Director and the head of all the branches (both new this year) took me out to lunch.
Tomorrow I will be at the Nanaimo Harbourfront branch, right near the hotel.
6. I was given a laptop and a cell phone. There are eight hours of online training to complete, and I can do it in bits as I find time over the next two weeks.
7. As professional staff, I am allowed to modify my hours as needed. For example, one of my branches is on a different island. If I need to work different hours because of the ferry schedule, I can do that.
8. I will be responsible for approving payroll for my branch. Many of my responsibilities are managerial responsibilities in my former library system.
9. VIRL has 39 branches -- on the Vancouver Island, Haida Gwaii, the Queen Charlotte islands, and in two mainland locations. They have been building or renovating branches since 2010. By 2020, all branches will either be renovated, rebuilt, or newly created. Previous to this, the entire system was falling apart or communities were simply not served.
10. With a few exceptions, the entire collection is floating! Customers must be adept at using the catalogue and placing holds to get what they want. There is a lot of staff instruction available for customers.
11. There is a YNF collection! I first saw a youth nonfiction collection in Vancouver Public Library and absolutely loved the idea. I developed a proposal and pitched it to the Mississauga Library. They rejected it, of course, but I love that VIRL has this.
The youth collection also includes "Playaways" -- digital audiobooks with a rechargeable battery. They are very popular.
12. How long does it take for a hold to come in? "It depends."
Drivers do not go to all branches on all days. Many branches get weekly deliveries. The North Island is served by private courier service. (I don't know if this is a good or bad thing for union members. I will find out.)
13. Books are sent by mail -- delivered by float plane -- to customers in remote locations. These are sent weekly. Loans are six weeks with no fines.
14. Next year children's materials will all be fine-free. !!!!
15. On December 12, there is an all-librarians meeting in Nanaimo -- CSLs, CSLIIs, and managers. It's perfect timing for me, as I'll still be in training. I will be in Campbell River on that day, but they will pay for my travel to attend.
16. Today I felt and appreciated how much I've learned in the last five and a half years as a working librarian. I was very comfortable with the information and asked a lot of good questions. I didn't feel like I was faking it. That is huge.
17. Yesterday I had a horrific getting-lost experience, and so was a bit anxious about driving to the branch and back to the hotel. Both drives went smoothly, and I even did the last bit by feel.
18. Almost all the front-line (CUPE) staff are part-time... but they are looking to turn many of those part-time jobs into full-time jobs. The employer and senior management see full-time jobs as a win-win-win -- better for staff, for the library, and for customers. I was agog. When I said, "That's exactly the opposite of current trends," she said, "We don't want to be part of that. We want staff to be more engaged in their jobs, better supported, and more accountable. We want people to want to work here." !!!!!
19. Their intranet is friggin amazing. When I remarked on that, the person working with me -- also from Ontario -- said her former library's intranet was also a mess. (Almost everyone I've met so far is originally from Ontario.)
20. The COO/deputy director said, "We have all the same problems on the Island as everywhere else -- homelessness, addiction, social isolation. But here, no one has talked about it until very recently, so many people think the problems themselves are new." In her observation, these changes have given rise to a conservative backlash. The catalyst for this discussion: an overdose death in a branch.
21. The provincial government here is a "fragile coalition" of NDP and Green. One NDP MLA stepped down to become mayor of Nanaimo. This means a byelection could shift the balance of power. Scary!
22. There is a room in the admin offices called "hotel". Guests can park their stuff, login to a computer, and take breaks there.
23. For one of today's meetings, I was sitting next to someone who was walking me through some processes on her computer. The desk and monitor were too high for me, so my neck was straining the whole time. Her screen backgrounds were the default white, and the room had harsh flourescent lighting -- all of which give me headaches. I was becoming very uncomfortable. This made me think about accessibility for interviews and training. I repeatedly tried to adjust myself, but was unwilling to straight-up say I need help.
24. Until very recently, there was very little (understatement) understanding of or attention to health and safety. That is all changing now. Violence prevention, mental health first aid, ergonomics, and working alone (including travel) policies, procedures, training, and standards are all being assessed or implemented.
25. I will be coming in to my branches as the new senior supervisor -- the new boss. Typically, some people will like this and feel relieved and happy, and others will be threatened and see me as encroaching on their turf. I will enjoy the challenge.