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Notes from the Executive Director – June 2018

The right consultant at the right time at the right price. Whenever we look for outside advice or consultation, isn’t that what we always want? Whether it’s a strategic planning process, a staff in-service, or a meeting that needs outside facilitation, finding just the right person to do the work can be tricky.

When MCLS began using the Harwood framework, we were looking to connect in deeper and more authentic ways with the libraries in Indiana and Michigan. Throughout community conversations, conference presentations, and other meetings, we heard many great ideas. One that came up over and over was that librarians would welcome an opportunity to consult with us when they needed advice or an outside voice. The topics ranged from Harwood-style community engagement techniques to strategic planning to customer service to meeting facilitation. We had done a little informal consulting over the years but had never launched a formal service. That changed in 2017. After developing a business plan and setting service goals, we quietly began with strategic planning projects for two small public libraries, one each in Indiana and Michigan. These pilot projects helped us fine-tune our procedures, shore up our knowledge, and lay the foundation for a more formal launch.

Both initial efforts were successful. We received positive evaluations and learned a lot about our processes. Word of mouth began to spread, and before long we had more requests, not only for strategic planning but also for staff in-service days, Board meeting facilitation, and workshops. Here’s a short list of just a few of our projects during the past year:

  • Branch District Library – Strategic Plan
  • Syracuse-Turkey Creek Township Public Library – Strategic Plan
  • Newaygo County Libraries Annual Meeting – Community Engagement presentation
  • Johnson County Public Library staff – Community Engagement & Customer Service in-services
  • Western Michigan University Libraries staff – Customer Service in-service
  • Elk Rapids Public Library Board – Community Engagement training

We bring a perspective not often found among other consultants: we know libraries. You won’t need to educate us about the basics of library service. Not only do we understand the basics, we see firsthand every day the challenges you face and the new expectations that come from a rapidly changing environment. Our experienced staff has the capacity to lead you to the right solution for your situation. We have no cookie cutter. Every job is a new one for us, and we work hard to make sure you get exactly what you need to move ahead.

Our new consulting service is one manifestation of our turning outward, engaging with you, and taking action on what we hear. We’ve been talking about turning outward for several years now, and we’ve sought your input through community conversations and roundtables, surveys, and individual conversations. That was the easy part. It’s harder and riskier to take action, putting human and financial resources on the line. But it’s critical if we’re going to remain a vital part of the Indiana and Michigan library communities. We need to not only talk the talk but also walk the walk.

So, we began by turning outward and asking about aspirations. We listened and then took action. We think our consulting services provide libraries with the opportunity to engage with an organization that understands the environment, that has staff who live libraries every day, and that is passionate about the good that libraries can do.

If you want to learn more about how MCLS consulting services can help your library, contact us through our website or call us at (800) 530-9019 ext 407.