Chapter 4: Solving Library Staffing Problems

You can also use people counting systems to solve library staffing needs and challenges. With this advanced technology, your library can determine when new roles are necessary to accommodate new technologies or programs and keep your library running smoothly. You can also optimize your staff scheduling to ensure you can serve your patrons effectively, even during peak hours.

Staffing in a Library

Modern libraries face unique staffing needs and challenges that differ from yesterday’s libraries. Today’s libraries have rapidly evolved from a physical space that only provides on-site resources and services to facilities that also offer virtual and electronic resources.

The current number of staff members may not be enough to accomplish all the tasks and responsibilities in your facility, so you may need to opt for outsourcing, insourcing or co-sourcing to reach your goals.

  • Outsourcing: When you outsource, you contract the work out to someone not on staff at your library.
  • Insourcing: With insourcing, outside consultants work with your library staff directly.
  • Co-sourcing: Co-sourcing combines both external and internal resources and expertise.

Library staff may need to take on new responsibilities regarding electronic resources while standard tasks like phone calls and binding persist. They may have difficulty handling both old and new responsibilities. Similarly, modern libraries may struggle to enhance knowledge and skill or to plan for the future.

New Roles

As libraries evolve with new technologies and services, new roles are necessary for library staff to keep everything running smoothly. Libraries of yesterday were accustomed to stability, but today’s libraries are experiencing a rapid rate of change correlating with technological advances. With the prevalence of electronic resources comes the potential for issues with licensing, and librarians may need to ensure an electronic product license agreement is appropriate for anticipated patron use patterns.

Similarly, catalogers are entering new roles to enhance patrons’ access to electronic resources. Catalogers must now process books and multi-format items, and they need to make informed decisions about linking to electronic journals. A cataloger creates records to accommodate several means of accessing a single resource, and patrons want records that include direct links to an item’s electronic version.

Reference librarians are now serving patrons at service points within the library and supporting remote-access patrons. Perhaps remote-access patrons need special support, and reference staff members are dealing with an influx of questions via email. Virtual services can be more time-consuming and complex than traditional services in the library, and reference librarians are now filling the new role as educators on information literacy.

Since many libraries now use websites to provide electronic patron services, input from library staff may also be necessary to create a well-designed, user-friendly interface. They will need to maintain and update the library’s website continually to keep up with URL changes and broken links. As a result, your library needs to determine how to apply your limited staff resources to most effectively operate your facility.

Who, When and Where

The data from people counting systems can let your library know who you should be staffing when and where they are most needed. Identifying slow and peak traffic hours can help inform how you can most effectively schedule your staff. You want to avoid being understaffed during a busy time, and during slow periods, you can optimize your labor costs by minimizing how many team members are on shift.

If patrons have to wait too long for assistance, this can sour their experience, and they may decide not to return. People counters at your library’s entrances can give you an idea of when you may need additional staff. You can also identify which entries experience more foot traffic and place your staff accordingly. Patrons want staff to be visible and readily available to address concerns or answer questions.

Optimizing staffing ensures your library provides quality service and increases the likelihood of patrons’ return visits. Here are some examples of how you may want to optimize your staffing schedule:

  • Put more desk staff on shift during peak hours.
  • Adjust schedules when more staff are needed in children’s areas.
  • Recruit new hires if you need more staff to run technology-based services, such as computers or makerspaces.