It’s the Little Things That Count
June 1, 2015
Anthony Glass, Melick Library, Eureka College
Melick Library at Eureka College is the only library serving a four-year liberal arts institution with an enrollment of 650 students, 45 faculty members, and a staff of 94 serving the college as a whole. Because we are part of a parent institution, there are several layers when we talk about “internal customer service”—the library staff, which includes student workers who are both employees and patrons, as well as the campus staff.
The library itself has a staff of two librarians (plus one vacancy currently suspended for budgetary reasons) and two non-professional staff members classified as salaried professionals. We also have 4.5 FTE student workers, which actually adds up to about 20 student workers, each working from 5 to 10 hours per week.
PERKS…AND UNDERSTANDING THE UNPREDICTABLE
Many of our student workers have duties comparable to what a paraprofessional might have at a larger institution. This is simple economic necessity; but one side effect is that many go on to work in libraries and even pursue MLS degrees. In many ways, our best students are little different from paid interns. They get valuable experience plus reasonably flexible scheduling. We have appreciation lunches for them, one before Christmas break and another just before graduation for our graduating seniors.
All of the permanent staff, including myself, are eligible for college benefits, including free tuition for college courses. Currently one staff member, an alumna, is working on her second bachelor’s degree. As one might imagine, pay at a small, tuition-driven institution is relatively low, but this and other college benefits sweeten the pot.
I maintain a reasonably flexible policy on work hours for staff members pursuing studies outside of work, or who have duties that involve unpredictable, last-minute assignments. The library’s audiovisual coordinator, in particular, serves the entire campus and is really only a library employee by tradition— many of our AV services are digital in nature, and that infrastructure is maintained by the college’s IT department. The AV coordinator is responsible not only for instructional support, but for campus events as well, many of which are outside of library hours, including weekends. It would be impossible for him to do all of this between the default staff hours of 8:00 to 5:00. So if he needs a morning off here and there, I allow some comp time to make up for the odd hours. I know he’s monitoring his e-mail and phone messages from home off-hours anyway, so there is no doubt in my mind that, whether he’s in the office or not, he’s minding the store.
“Flexibility and creating an atmosphere where everyone’s contribution or initiative counts for something have gone a long way toward keeping key staff from seeking greener pastures.”
RUNNING WITH IT
After several years on the job, the library’s access services coordinator decided she wanted to relocate her desk to the circulation area itself. This was a radical idea that had some considerable merit—it keeps her close to the action, and she doesn’t at all seem bothered by the frequent interruptions. Given that this was her own idea for how she could best do her job, it made sense for me to let her run with it and “come what may.” In all honesty, I still have some personal reservations about it, but here is an example where you take into account the employee’s own judgment, as well as their ownership of their position.
As long as the overall mission of the organization continues to be served, I see no reason to not let a staff member run with an idea, even if I can see potential pitfalls. These too have a way of working themselves out if the benefits outweigh the drawbacks. In this particular case, I can tolerate a slightly untidy desk if it means a stronger presence at a key service point.
Our “internalness” extends beyond the library to a certain extent; the librarians are part of a larger faculty body, and meet with other campus staff as a larger organization under their staff council. Staff are encouraged to “get out more” and attend regular staff meetings and other events. This includes consortial involvement with other institutions and organizations; mileage and some registration fees are paid for out of the library budget, although in recent years much of this has been conducted online.
As I think about these things, none of them really stand out as grand gestures, but unfortunately we’re not on a “grand gesture” budget or schedule. However, flexibility and creating an atmosphere where everyone’s contribution or initiative counts for something have, I believe, gone a long way toward keeping key staff from seeking greener pastures. If nothing else, we are living proof that money alone does not buy job satisfaction.