VLGA Connect: Episode 209, Leanne Williams, MYLI Community Library

VLGA Connect: Episode 209, Leanne Williams, MYLI Community Library

[Music] well hi everyone welcome to another edition of vlga connect in conversation today with leanne williams the ceo of west gippsland regional libraries and miley hello leanne how are you good thanks chris how are you very well thank you thank you for agreeing to speak with us on the program um i deliberately mentioned both of your ceo hats and there’s a bit of a story there for uh the transition that’s happening generally with uh with libraries in victoria can we perhaps um just sort of set the scene the new local government act came in last year and there’s a requirement although not as quickly as you’ve moved for councils to change the way they run libraries isn’t there yeah correct so the local government act is removing library corporations um and how they’re formed under section 196 so the new act gives library corporations 10 years to make that transition and essentially allow the councils and those boards to determine how best they want to deliver their library services in the future um our board took a deliberate um decision to to implement that early rather than wait uh i guess we had been in discussions around the change for the last few years because it is quite a complex process um but the benefits for us were around providing continuity to our organization and setting us up for the future and allowing us to embark on on the journey that we’re on earlier and the benefits that that provides i was going to ask that question obviously this is something you’d been thinking about doing because i wouldn’t have thought you could you know it wouldn’t have been humanly possible to get it up and running as quickly as you had since march of last year am i right uh well we have had discussions but there has certainly been a power of work conducted in the last six to nine months uh which has been consumed a lot of my time it’s been really interesting uh experience uh but it is a it is a complex role because for us we split it into four components there was the legal component there was the risk component there’s the accounting component and also for us we chose to change our name so the naming component as well so just explain for us what you’ve done um and why it’s so different yes so our transition our board and all three of our member councils have adopted to transition from a library corporation to a not-for-profit and what that means is we will become a not-for-profit and a charity and all of the governance that comes along with that and so as part of that transition there are benefits in terms of that long-term sustainability uh for delivering a specialized library service not just to our current region but we have plans to to grow the service um beyond our current region and you’ve you’ve gone with this 24 7 model which i know has attracted a lot of attention tell us how that particular approach to miley and the future came about yes our 24 7 library uh we did a pilot down in foster and we’re about to implement a number of uh more 24 7 libraries one in merber north one in puwong and and our board made the decision that all of our libraries will become 24 7 as um as the opportunities arise so what our 24 7 library is it’s just like a 24 7 gym so um members can apply to get a swipe card and to be able to come and use the library 24 7. so does have strict controls and uh but it does operate very similar to a 24 7 gym and uh it’s been really really well received from our community and as a result of that we got a lot of media attention across australia and we do get enquiries from over in new zealand and all across australia i guess is um councils and services try to i guess understand what the future of libraries is going to look like how people want to use the service uh and and how they can run run it efficiently so what does that mean for the way you staff and resource your library compared to the old model well that’s a really good question because obviously the concern was raised under a 24 7 model what does that mean for staff and one of the fastest growing areas in our library services is our programs so and we were getting requests from the community to increase the hours and it just wasn’t a viable option so what we’ve been able to do is adjust our opening hours um as well as complement that with the 24 7 service and what that means is our staff also now can invest more in our program area which like i said continues to grow and it’s maybe one thing that a lot of the community and more broadly people don’t understand around what a modern library service is it’s not just a room with books it’s absolutely more around how people come together to connect uh and particularly in a covered recovery it’s really going to be very important and we um we focus on those life skills and i guess one of the advantages of miley and what we sort of do a little bit differently is that we’re equally focusing not just on a library service as four walls um and books within that space we are doing 24 7 uh library services we are doing online programs and we’ve developed a whole suite of online videos and it’s very much in that life skills area and uh and as our future generations use um services differently they’re going to have that expectation around um online and digital footprint and we can we can’t just think of the service in the physical sense even though it is really important i’m thinking of your gym analogy i get it with a with a swipe card i can go to the gym at two in the morning if if i’m so inclined and do a workout what is the likelihood that people are going to want to access their gym at two and three o’clock in the morning and if they are what for yes so we know obviously we have systems to support the 24 7. so we know people are not using it at that time but it’s very much about creating opportunities and flexibility for our members and and that’s what they tell us they want they want that convenience factor and they don’t want to be dictated to by hours that um often replicate business hours which makes the service inaccessible for them anyway so if you’re working full-time or say you’re a mum that works full-time you’re not going to be able to get to the library during the opening hours so what this does is it offers people to be able to come at times usually before work after work weekends and what we also know is a lot of people might use it as an opportunity to come and work from the library a bit like a co-working space and they’re doing that either before or after the library closes and also the 24 7 library featured in victoria’s infrastructure 30-year strategy and we provide a really important i guess service to help digital access within regional communities libraries play a really important role in that and and in an area where um internet connectivity can be a challenge the library helps fill that gap i guess so if you’re a shift worker you might want to swap a book or you might want to do some research if you’re studying etc so that flexibility i think is a really exciting thing which seems like it’s uh it’s striking a chord with people so you did mention that you’ve had some interest from around australia and from from new zealand what are people getting in touch and looking for from you is it how to replicate this model or is it more about the experience that you’re finding with it what are those conversations like yeah they probably cover off on all of those points that you made i think there’s probably a lot of curiosity because we were the first to do it in victoria and then whilst there’s sort of been other reiterations of it much more on a manual level we’ve certainly taken to making this very much from a digital perspective and we’re going to continue to evolve in this space and what we um what the inquiries they are looking to i guess understand how it works and sometimes using the term 24 7 library can be used in a way that says you can just access the services online when in actual fact we’ve gone beyond that and you can access it 24 7. the gym analogy works really well um because people understand that and so we um we do sort of talk to them about the systems we use or i guess the biggest misconception is that anyone who’s a member of the library can actually become a 24 7 member and that’s not the case so part of being able to offer the services and protect it for everybody is around the induction process and the application process that means we’re not going to i guess compromise on the service and that when the library opens the next day it’s not um i guess you know damaged or or you know dirty those sorts of things and we’ve we’ve not had an incident since we went we launched for or um 18 months almost two years ago now so that was very surprising as well so that risk management uh lens obviously is very very important so are you aware of any other jurisdictions where they’re picking up your model and we’re likely to see it uh coming to come into shape yeah there are a couple i think of councils across australia i i can’t remember the name of one council but i think they did launch a similar model but not to the same extent um we are the only ones that promoted 24 7 a lot of the some of the others are just using it to extend on existing opening hours and i guess one of the other things too is the question gets asked around what services are available under the 24 7 model for us it’s pretty much every service we haven’t had the computers available but you can access the wi-fi but there has been requests to have our computers available and we’re working through i guess enhancing the service in that respect so terrific so now i do want to leave some time to talk about the other thing that i thought was really exciting that you’re doing which is uh you call a transform transforming classrooms into publishing houses you’re basically letting kids publish books i think is the the simple premise here tell us about how that’s working yeah really good we’ve got a waiting list at the moment actually it’s in demand and i guess we we certainly want to seek funding to support and expand the program but one of the challenges that it’s a challenge and an opportunity we want to educate the community more broadly on what a modern library provides and we want to make sure people continue to use the service and what the beautiful thing about our books by us program is it’s a 360 sort of engagement between the students the school the community and also the parents themselves so we have um students who are coached by an author they get to write their book and they publish their book and they do an excursion to a printing house and then what we do is they have a walk the red carpet moment we invite the media along we have partnerships with local businesses and it’s when they get their book published they don’t get to keep their book it’s actually catalogued in the library and then that brings the parents into the library so that they can share and borrow borrow their books and it it’s a great way to engage with um many more stakeholders than just the kids coming coming to the library so once we’re got out of our first pilot uh yes the primary schools are lining up now and um yeah we’re trying to i guess work out and seek funding for upscaling the project yeah i wondered when you said you’ve got a waiting list effectively so there’s uh there’s a limit to how how much you can do this at any one time is there any is that is that because of a constraint on resources it’s a funding um it’s a project where we would certainly like to partner with like with businesses and and stakeholders more broadly in the community so we self-fund the program for one one school per year uh and then we we want to seek partners that allow us to uh deliver it to more schools that that are um seeking the the um i’m really interested in the program we’ve got some beautiful quotes from the kids who just loved the program and and when you get to read those stories from the kids around how much they loved it and then i was able to say to my son tell him about the program because oh mom i’d love to do that so i was like no that’s don’t get that one so it’s um it’s really exciting and and it’s a great i guess testament to all the effort that the team put in and the programs they deliver that we’re meeting those needs of the community you could be fostering a whole new generation of award-winning published authors in the decades to come of course which i think is pretty exciting yeah absolutely that’d be wonderful how many books have have been published through the books by us program so far uh i think don’t quote me but i i think um we would have probably it would be between the 50 and the 70 books uh we do cater to one to two classes within that same school so um and we’ve got another one our second one obviously we sort of got delayed a little bit with covid restrictions but uh we’ve got our next ones about to get underway so we’re really excited about that have you actually spotted any real talent yet like you’ve spotted someone who you think now this kid is going to be a star in the future in terms of publishing uh well that would be a question for our author that got to coach them but we did have some really beautiful videos that during the program um we went in and videoed the students and there’s we captured some really wonderful moments they’re on our facebook page and uh and yeah when you get to see their excitement it’s it’s just wonderful fabulous i think that’s really exciting i think you’ve done two really innovative things there in those two projects and just going back to the 24 7 library concept how do you think that stood you uh in covert with your libraries and the way you’ve been able to serve your communities with that model as opposed to the traditional library model it’s a good question because we did have to close the 24 7 during covid obviously to comply with covid restrictions but what was really interesting was the community were they kept asking when is it going to reopen so um one that demonstrates that it’s really um valued by the community and i think one of the things that occurred when we opened the 24 7 we were the first to do it we um did it in a small community as a pilot to sort of test and see how it would go and the biggest users of it were not who we expected so um all of the retirees were sort of you know i was there one day and they’re knocking on the door going oh we you know we want to sign up and it’s it’s been embraced and so it really i guess um busted some of those myths around who would use it how it would be used or or that take-up and so we just know that the next one we roll out will be equally supported and in terms of covid the mindset of our people in terms of having you know that innovative mindset being adaptive to how we’re going to deliver library services in the future was probably our biggest strength and that’s what we’re embedding across the whole organization on an ongoing basis fabulously and congratulations to you and your team and your board for having the vision to do all of this and onward and upward to you i look forward to hearing of further successes in the future yeah thanks very much for your time chris leon williams our guest in conversation today on vlga connect from miley the 24 7 library and of course west gippsland regional libraries they’re existing in tandem until uh until miley takes over i think later in the year leanne is that right around or early next year yes yes from one july 2022 and we certainly look to be able to have other councils join if they want to um join on join the service thank you great to speak with you you’ve been watching vlga connect thank you for your company we’ll see you again very soon [Music] you
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VLGA Connect: Episode 209, Leanne Williams, MYLI Community Library

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