Collaborate to Innovate: library assistants work with librarians to plan for a safer library

Hands

During the many months of lockdown, we always kept one eye on our return to work. At each virtual library get-together, we’d swap stories of our experiences in shops and supermarkets, things we’d read about other libraries, how we were supporting students, what we thought about coming back to college, how a covid-safe library service would look.

During these early discussions, a plan began to form. Firstly, how would we capture all the information and ideas that were sharing? We wanted to keep track of the guidance from government and our professional organisations such as CILIP and Libraries Connected. We took part in webinars, discussion lists and training sessions. We talked to lecturers, managers, and other librarians.

And secondly, how would we turn all the knowledge gained while sitting in front of our computers, into practical guidance for our return to work? Our first step was to set up a Padlet that everyone could access, add ideas or links, comment on other posts, link ideas together.

We then asked each of our library assistants, working closely with a ‘project sponsor’ – a member of the Library Management Team – to design and deliver a project focusing on a particular aspect of the return to work. Each library assistant identified an area of interest to them, produced a project initiation document which outlined their aims and what they hoped to deliver. They then researched independently, meeting regularly with their project sponsor to discuss their findings. Projects were: how to ensure staff safety at the information desk, setting up a ‘triage’ service and creating a guide to the ‘reference interview’, handling acquisitions, marketing our new click&collect service, and how to arrange the physical library.

Some of the library assistants have kindly offered to write for this blog about these projects and how they were able to plan from a distance. I’m sure many of their ideas will be useful to other library staff in similar situations.