As many public libraries across the country have worked to overcome unprecedented challenges the last several years, Middleton Public Library Director Jocelyne Sansing has found innovative ways for staff to stay connected and engage with the surrounding community.
When Sansing started as the library’s director in 2016, it was undergoing a Library Needs Assessment and Feasibility Study to determine its best path forward for decades to come. Using the results of the study as a guide, Sansing made updating the building and maximizing its physical space a priority.
The “Next Chapter” campaign addressed many of the needs the study had presented, helping the library increase public square footage, create new spaces, and improve customer experiences. The project reached its fundraising goal after 19 months in February 2021, raising $200,000 from over 450 individual donors, allowing the library to move toward completing these necessary improvements.
But it didn’t stop there. Under Sansing’s leadership, the library took a deeper look at how it provided services both inside and outside the library through outreach. She researched ways the library could optimize its staff, create better paths for employment advancement, and improve customer experience.
“I’m a big picture, big vision person,” Sansing said. “I take the feedback from staff and the public, and craft it in a way that is not only meeting the needs currently, but is also sustainable well into the future.”
By restructuring job descriptions, revamping the organization chart, and consolidating differing points of service, library staff have expertise in a variety of areas and can support operations in a more efficient and effective manner.
“We really wanted to break down silos,” Sansing said. “Instead of having a solitary circulation desk, part-time staff have been trained on things like readers’ advisory, basic reference, computer and copy support, room reservations, and registering people for programs. This has led to higher job satisfaction for staff, as we have been able to tap into, leverage, and compensate individuals’ skills and interests.”
Though a global pandemic disrupted the way resources and services were delivered to community members, Sansing and library staff stepped up and addressed the difficult circumstances immediately.
“We were able to very quickly restructure the way we deliver materials to patrons by focusing heavily on our digital content and Wisconsin’s Digital Library,” she said. “Curbside pickup helped us maximize our staffing schedules. We moved the majority of our programming online and spent the next several months tweaking and understanding what people wanted, and how they accessed things.”
By live streaming story time on the library’s Facebook and moving discussions and book clubs to a virtual format, the library stayed connected with the community and found new ways to engage with them – some which continue to this day.
With the summer months upon us, the library’s programming is in full swing once again. This year, its summer reading program has taken a different approach, encouraging all ages to take part in setting their own individual reading goals. Sansing said the addition of a Dungeons & Dragons group has also been very popular, and as people re-gather in person, the demand for services like study room reservations, remains high.
“We have an average of two to three programs running a day,” she said. “We are focused on intergenerational and all ages programming that appeals to everybody and maximizes staff time and budgets.
Because of the efforts of Sansing and library staff, Middleton Public Library has reinvented itself and has successfully grown its relationship with the community.