Library Usage Will Go Up During a Recession – Management Are You Really Prepared?

I’ve seen many news articles and video lately about usage of libraries increasing during a recession. I’ve personally noticed my library seems busier.  While many have celebrated the increase of use and the public attention we so rightly deserve, we also need to consider the down side.  Our funding might be cut, the public is less likely to approve bonds or tax levies to increase services, in some cases staff may be laid off.  Libraries are masters of doing more with less and we are really going to need that skill now.

IMG_1667 The other side of recession is that is causes stress.  Patrons are likely to be less happy about paying their fines and, in general, be a little more on edge.  Staff are aware of the news and what is happening, even those who feel secure in their jobs, have family and friends who have been affected.

So why am I asking management if they are ready?  All of this stress means an increase in irritable, angry, demanding, stressed out patrons who are rubbing up against your irritable, angry, tired, stressed out staff.  See where I’m going with this?

The one thing you can do is try to decrease the stress level of your staff.  Happy library staff makes everything run just a little smoother (not to mention they are healthier and less likely to call in sick).  So given the hard times how can you do this? You probably don’t have the funds to hire a masseur to be on call in the break room. I found a great many articles on workplace morale, some things kept popping up :

  • make sure staff feel appreciated
  • encourage open communication
  • training (almost any it seems)
  • provide clear goals and expectations
  • encouraging a sense of team
  • empowering staff
  • be flexible with time and schedules.
  • And  there is always the fish books

These are great general principles for all workplaces.  Oddly enough I couldn’t find any article or recommendations that were specific to libraries.  I can think of a few library specifc ones and a few general ones:

  • ensure employees get break time away from a service desk
  • make sure they have a clean, comfortable place to take that break
  • make sure staff feel supported by management in customer issues
  • empower employees to waive fines or make other concessions that will smooth patron interactions
  • cross train staff so they are comfortable working all service desks and understand what each point of serivce does
  • pay attention – just being aware of employee attitudes will allow you to intervene to boost morale faster and more appropriately when/if need
  • be ready – have a plan, know how will you boost morale overall and on a case by case basis
  • take action – don’t wait to see the need before you put your plan into place

What suggests do you have?  If you’re a manager what steps have you taken with your staff? If you’re staff what things could management do to boost morale?

Further reading:

17 thoughts on “Library Usage Will Go Up During a Recession – Management Are You Really Prepared?

  1. Thank goodness for those Fish Books. Don’t forget Who Moved My Cheese.

    We are closing my library up and I am going to be learning the art of being a virtual librarian.

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    1. Get serious – Who moved my cheese should be retitled to “You should be happy you were only laid off and not forced into feudal serfdom.”

      The Fish books are much more pragmatic and a lot less about Oorah for the corporatocracy.

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  2. Great suggestions! Time away from the desk is especially important. Demonstrating you understand the situation and sitting side by side with them on issues. Put in some desk time. Listen to them, even if you don’t have a solution.

    I think most people want someone to acknowledge what they are doing and understand how it works. It seems so few people do that.

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  3. the economic recession made a lot of workers jobless. my best friend and me lost our jobs because of job cuts. i hope that our economy would recover soon

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  4. I think we are also seeing some signs of recovery from the Economic Recession. Of course, we have no idea of how long it will take to completely recover, but some say it’s going to be longer than for the other recessions in decades. I also scanned an article yesterday that said business owners need a new set of tactics to do well during recovery.

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