Significant Change Requires Significant Thought

To the Editor:

As a 30-year Newtown resident with experience as a librarian and a business communication and marketing consultant, I am responding to the  Bee's article about the library focus group. It's true that change is inevitable for every organization, and staff and customers/clients often have difficulty with these changes. However, significant change should only occur when those making the final decisions weigh the ramifications of their actions.

A major library renovation definitely falls within these parameters. The information necessary for such a critical decision as moving the reference department from the third to first floor takes time to acquire. The positive and negative effects on staff and patrons, potential costs, and possible impact on the building's architectural design must be considered. The director and the board should develop  short- and long-term plans that include the “study” and “possible change” of a renovation.

Over the year, as the director becomes more acquainted with the patrons' service needs and how the staff functions within their specific roles, he and the board will better prepared to make difficult decisions. A similar process should have been followed for personnel changes. A newly hired CEO, director, or business owner should not make major personnel changes until understanding the organization and its staffing, which takes at least six months.

During this time, job descriptions are clarified, so employees know what's expected of them. At their evaluation, the employees and supervisors can discuss work performance and continuing employment. Similarly, the board should have formally reviewed the director. These members are responsible for the well being of the library. The Newtown community expects them to be committed to the continual betterment of this institution. In my library experience, the assistant directors were responsible for oversight of circulation, daily operations and, in some cases, library personnel; their forte was to ensure the organization ran smoothly and  patron's immediate needs were addressed. Directors kept their pulse on the community, were library spokespeople and supporters, developed new programs to enhance library use and raised funds – a critical area of need; they often spent considerable time with community groups and boards, schools, businesses and organizations to gain vital information for decision making.

I'm pleased that safety is a primary concern for the director and board and want available funds used for this purpose. Several incidents have  already provided enough information to know this is a serious issue. Although not a safety engineer, I believe no employee should be alone on any floor whenever the library is open, and emergency buttons must be placed throughout the building as well as at the main desks. Employees should leave together after dark. A working camera system and other security measures must be discussed.

When moving to Newtown, I admittedly went to other libraries for services. The renovations, technology and service changes over the years are commendable. They indeed made the library special. I hope that changes made in the future are as well thought out and productive.

Sharon L. Cohen

8 Eden Hill Road, Newtown                                        August 28, 2013

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