Friday, January 1, 2016

A year ahead with big changes

This month I will be leaving my Outreach Services role at the Berwyn Public Library for a new role as Marketing & Financial Development Director at the Pav YMCA in Berwyn. I look forward to using the skills I developed in marketing and grant writing at the Berwyn Library in my new role at the YMCA. In terms of career advancement, it's a natural step forward.

For the last 4 months, I have been working in both organizations in order to make a smooth transition. After 6 years with the Library, a long transition period is just the right way to go--most of my personal identity has been with the Library and the programs we created. So from here, I have to begin thinking of myself in a new light.

I am ready for new challenges in my career and the Library simply doesn't have room for me to advance with the highly specialized experience I've developed. It also doesn't seem promising that the library would develop any new roles specializing in marketing or fundraising for the library as a whole.

The reason I began looking at marketing as a real need for the library is that I always wondered whether we would have even more impact in the community if more people knew what we were doing. Paid advertising has good reach and is really effective, but it was not a part of the Library's outreach strategy.

Likewise, I could not refrain from seeing the value of fundraising as it was the only way I could secure resources to develop adult learning programs. In all of the 6 years that I was in Outreach Services, I was never given a predictable part of the department's budget. I would always get what was left over, which I'd inevitably have to spend quickly and usually only instructional materials.

As a result, I had to do the best I could with the resources I could get. Luckily I was good at grant writing and I rarely missed an opportunity to network so I get the word out about what we were doing. In the end, I was still disappointed that sustainability was not on anyone else's mind.

This past December was my last month as an ESL teacher. Over the years, I realized how many organizations were already providing ESL instruction and it became obvious to me that it was a duplication of services for which Berwyn might not have a continued need. However, it was important to library leadership to see ESL instruction continue. I feel strongly that with a good referral system, we could have worked with the community keep people adequately served. In terms of ESL, that will be my suggestion for the future.

It may take some time for a new adult learning coordinator to be hired at the Library and I am relieved that the YMCA has volunteered to give our Citizenship and GED study groups a temporary home until that happens. Our learners are studying for exams and interviews that would be truly hampered by a break in program availability.

I'll still be serving as Board President at Literacy Volunteers of Western Cook County, and they are poised to support the groups with volunteer tutor recruitment and training. Partnerships mean a great deal to our local adult literacy initiative and I'm glad there are resources in place to help.

Our former Library director probably got more than she bargained for in terms of program development, and I often tested the limits of support that the Library as an organization could give our programs, but I think she was proud of everything we accomplished. In her last interview before moving on to a new role, she mentioned how excited she was that we had become an official GED testing center.

Overall, I have learned how important it is to have someone in the highest leadership role be an advocate for the work you do. As with any organization, changes in leadership can jeopardize services. It's very true for libraries and literacy too.