Experienced global library and
information industry leader
• Advocacy and Influence
• Strategic planning & marketing
• Product development
• Technology & training and marketing
4. Start at the Beginning: Basic Philosophy
◦ Staff and User safety is the first priority
◦ Understand that you are NOT returning to the old NORMAL. That is nostalgia
◦ You are creating a new Normal and this is a great opportunity.
◦ Reframe what User behaviours are changing
◦ Know what value your library delivers and the strategic impacts of your efforts
◦ Know your personal and organizational values
6. That said . . . Think Strategically!
Have a positive
There is not one goal
in this environment
You need to consider
at least three
You need to bake in
You need to build
Build a better NEW
7. THE BIG QUESTION
WHAT IS IT THAT IS IMPOSSIBLE TO TODAY,
THAT IF WE COULD, WOULD
FUNDAMENTALLY IMPROVE OUR LIBRARY’S
8. What helped Support our Success at FOPL with
our Pandemic Responses?
Invest in long-term relationships
Invest in partnerships and alliances
Invest in professional government relations counsel
9. A Little History
◦ The Pandemic become clear in Canada in Feb/March 2020
◦ The Provincial government ordered everything but essential services closed on March
◦ The Federal government closed the borders and much of our economy
◦ On June 8, 2020 public libraries were permitted to offer curb-side pick-up (mostly by
appointment for holds)
◦ On June 12, 2020 some regions (non-large urban) were permitted to open with tight
◦ It has now been 100 Days today of physical lock-down – not digital
10. What we did right . . . 1
◦ FOPL served as a resource for quality information such as:
◦ Materials quarantine research from CDC, IMLS, OCLC, NEEDC, etc.
◦ Re-opening Checklists from around the word
◦ HR policies and legal interpretations of Board roles, rights to refuse work, etc.
◦ Synthesized a variety of rules, policies, research, and government proclamations into Advisories
and Recommendations for all public libraries
◦ Scanned and shared directions and policies from allied sectors like k-12 schools, colleges and
universities, businesses, retail, architecture/interior planning, etc.as well as an international
11. What we did right . . . 2
◦ Built sharing and collaboration mechanisms
◦ Shared information on Zoom, Slack, webinar and other tools to support collaboration and work-
◦ FOPL’s OpenMediaDesk served as a resource for quality information and experiences for our
libraries to share with their communities:
◦ 5-8 templated Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Website, video posts per day
◦ Focused on our cardholder challenges such as keeping kids entertained, learn-from-home schooling, finding
cultural experiences like museum and gallery tours,
◦ Also focused on social challenges in our communities that increased due to quarantine such as sharing helpline
information for health, mental health, suicide hotlines, teen hotlines, support groups, and anything that dealt with
loneliness or social isolation and its potential consequences.
◦ Hosted or participated in many recorded webinars and teleconference conversations in alliance with our
partner associations and agencies.
12. What we did right . . . 3
◦ Focused on government relations
◦ Tracked municipal decision-making and intervened when necessary to support local
Boards and CEO’s
◦ Set up a weekly (sometimes more often) teleconferences with the political & policy-
making Cabinet offices of 6 Ministries as well as those senior civil servants who have a
mandate to work with public libraries.
◦ Maintained regular conversations with our allied associations and agencies for public
libraries as well as the culture, entertainment, tourism, municipal government, college
and university sectors.
◦ Hosted or participated in alliance with our partner associations and agencies many
recorded webinars and teleconference conversations.
14. So we mined our investment and we were at the
table on all major decisions
◦ Many of my Public Library CEO’s were key members of their municipalities ERT:
Emergency Response Teams from the beginning.
◦ Every new COVID-19 announcement was alerted to us in advance (although
sometimes very short notice) so we could prepare to advise our sector.
◦ We had the ability share with the key decision makers our advice,
recommendations, concerns, issues and incidents. We were thrilled that they
15. We are still in the middle of this.
◦ Some of our communities are in Phase 2 and some remain in Phase 1. Phase 3
and 4 await a strong decrease in the flattened COVID-19 new cases/deaths
curve, or the end of the pandemic.
◦ Our scenarios must include slowly phased re-opening, or the potential for a
second wave, or a major re-emergence that causes another economic
◦ This means that strategic thinking needs to follow several paths to be ’ready’
16. So what can I say about re-opening in a
◦ Don’t until you’re ready! Ready means:
◦ All policies and procedures are in place.
◦ All staff have been trained and re-boarded.
◦ All backroom and public spaces align and encourage safe behaviours.
◦ All communications and signage are ready and look professional and build trust
◦ All PPE is available.
◦ Cleaning protocols are implemented.
17. So what can I say about re-opening in a
◦ When you have a model of how users have changed (It only takes 90 days to change a habit)
build your services from the user in.
◦ For example:
◦ If your college or university is moving significant numbers of the classes online (with the possible
exception of labs), how will you ensure library resources and services, and information literacy and
research training are present? How strong are your relationships with faculty and e-learning
developers? Reach out.
◦ For the huge change in the usage of digital resources, for all types of libraries, do you need to
review your collection development format balance? Do you need to invest in generic e-learning
creation for core library resources or through licensing large popular or academic e-learning
collections? (e.g. Gale Courses, Khan Academy, LinkedIn Learning/Lynda.com, etc.) How will you
move your library in-person programs online – synchronously or asynchronously.
◦ How has the pandemic changed the way your users are communicated to and communicate with
18. So what can I say about re-opening in a
◦ Set Priorities:
◦ Can we be more flexible with Work-From-Home: Your co-workers are safer reducing
the number of times they go out or take public transit. Can we tip the balance from
managing within office hours/shifts to managing for results?
◦ Can we invest in certain technology tools that enhance our services while giving us
greater flexibility for WFH, flexible scheduling, etc.
◦ What are the capacity limits of our physical spaces? For example we’re limited to only
10 person gatherings at any one time, trying to remain under an hour duration, and we
expect that occupancy of library public spaces will be 3-5 people per 1000 sq. ft or 93
20. Culture Trumps Strategy Every Time
◦ The challenge of maintain a positive, impactful, and dare we say it, happy staff
◦ In Ontario, we often use the SLACK tool to build formal and informal teams and
for institution wide conversations.
◦ When meetings move to Zoom, and the water cooler conversation is
problematic, and the quick coffee or tea or hallway chat declines in
prevalence, it behooves us to find solutions.
◦ The business of culture shaping is up to you and everyone!
22. Keeping Up
◦ Stephen’s Lighthouse
◦ I filter the most important news and research
that affects libraries of all types. All posts are
also communicated through Twitter via @sabram
◦ FOPL.ca: http://www.fopl.ca
◦ I assemble news that is vital to decision-makers
in Ontario public libraries. All posts are also
communicated through Twitter via @FOPLnews
◦ Recommendation: Set up a Feedly RSS feed of
your favourite blogs.
Stephen Abram, MLS
CEO, Lighthouse Consulting, Inc.
CEO, Federation of Ontario Public Libraries