A Spoonful of Sugar (and a heck of a lot of data entry)…

This fall I finally got a program up and running that I’ve wanted to do for a while: Faculty Card registration/renewals at the school. Now, I know this isn’t revolutionary, but between feeling like the schools no longer welcomed us, and the fact that it’s tough for us to spare staff for outreach – well, I had to come at this idea in a different way.

I created two registration forms (one for brand new cards, and one for card renewals), put them in a big manila envelope with a letter of explanation on the outside, included a form for the principals to sign-off on the fact that every form was from an employee, and then our Children’s Librarian took them to each school whose principal agreed to my proposal. Only one out of the six principals said no, but he wanted to see what the other principals thought after the fact. We gave the school employees two weeks to fill out their appropriate forms and then we picked them back up.

Since this was the first time that we tried this, I wanted to handle all of the packets. Next year I’ll definitely have my team help me out. We had 91 school employees fill out forms! It was a much better response than I had anticipated. I was sort of glad that the biggest school had said “not now.”

It only took a few forms to realize that many teachers did not understand what was going on:

  • Some filled out the simple renewal form when they had never had an account with us before.
  • Some filled out both forms.
  • There were forms with incomplete information (such as no signature), etc.

It was nightmarish. I sent at least a dozen emails requesting clarification, or notifying faculty that they would need to come into our library to sign their forms and pick up their cards. And I felt terrible that what I thought would be an easy process obviously wasn’t easy enough.

I should note that something I’m glad that I did was make every single card expire on September 1st (a few weeks after this process took place). If, for any reason, I need to do this a week or two later next year, then this gives me some wiggle room. It’s also a clear indicator if a school employee participated in this program (vs. came into our library with a current paycheck stub – our normal system).

After I slogged through all of that data entry, I put together bowls full of candy with simple Stress Relief Courtesy of Gretna Public Library signs attached. I paperclipped the employee’s new card to a special brochure just for school employees, then put a small post-it with the teacher’s name on it, and then put them into envelopes for each school. I gave the school one small-sized Sharpie in case teachers wanted to sign their cards. Finally, I included a letter explaining to teachers who did not receive a card that they already had a card in our system (if they tried to sign up for a new account).

Whew!

Overall I think this was a success, however, there are some things that I will do differently next year if the schools would like us to do this again:

  • Different forms. I obviously need to make them bigger with a very brief description of what each form actually means. Maybe even with a brief “do you qualify for a better account with us?” explanation.
  • Create letter and/or email templates for certain situations. Mainly the emails would help me save time (I already did a lot of copy/pasting/editing this year). But I think that I should prep letters for individual school employees who already have accounts and what that means. That way they’d receive a somewhat personalized explanation of why they were not getting a shiny new card.
  • Make sure that my schedule is clear. This week was a heap of stress since I had promised my boss weeks beforehand that I would do very concentrated training with a newer employee the entire week after this program. So basically I needed to cram two weeks’ worth of my typical work into the week before this program and the training. I did a lot of deep breathing exercises over the span of three weeks (and I still had to do several days of catch-up afterwards).

I truly hope that all of the schools welcome us back to do an improved version of this program. Please let me know if you have any questions about any of this either in the comments or email me at hafuboti@gmail.com. I’ll respond as soon as I can!

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