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Engaging your Staff


Becoming a key actor in the development of your smart city/community will not happen without your staff. It is essential that your team understands what a smart city/community is and that it feels excited about the contribution your public library can make in this respect.


In addition, your staff needs to be equipped with the necessary skills to offer useful programs and services for residents to become smart citizens and to further your public library’s contribution to developing a smart city/community.


Finally, engaging your staff is an important component of any change management strategy and, also, in your public library’s transition to a new role that makes it a key actor in building a smart city/community will help to raise staff’s awareness of what a smart city/community involves, to learn about the necessary skills and knowledge to make this happen, to prepare them for any changes in the library, and to explore potential contributions that your library may make and that you were not considering.


There are several ways of involving your staff. The first important aspect is to raise staff awareness through information and communication. It is important to raise staff’s awareness about the concept of smart city, but also about the changing role of public libraries in the development of a smart city/community.


The role public libraries can play in the development of a smart city/community has only been timidly explored and it may vary considerably in different contexts. Being clear about what a smart city is and why it is beneficial for the library to be(come) a key partner in its development will be very important for your staff to understand the need to start a new strategic planning process and to engage in its implementation.


In order to raise staff’s awareness, library leaders need to persuasively communicate the need for change, whereas staff must hear about the proposed changes and their reasons, preferably multiple times and across multiple channels, and they must be able to talk about the changes in order to understand them, fit them into their own interpretative schemes, adapt them to their own circumstances, and explore their implications.


As one of your public library leaders, you can start a dialogue with your staff about the need to become a key partner in smart city development and to start a planning process that reflects your desired role in the community. Further, once your strategic planning process starts, engage your staff by asking for ideas and input around the different stages of the process.


For example, you may have a new strategic goal on becoming an innovation hub in your community, which may result in starting a makerspace. You may engage your staff in a discussion about what having a makerspace means for your library and welcome their ideas about how to build a makerspace that specifically fits the needs of your community members and fulfill the new mission and vision of the library. You can encourage your staff to think about who the primary users will be, what changes need to be made in the layout of the building, what equipment is available, and which skills they may want or need to learn to support such a makerspace.


Raising awareness through information and communication is the first step to address potential feelings of fear and resistance to change among your staff. That is why interaction with your staff needs to be an iterative process that happens more than once.


The second important aspect is to identify the skills that the staff and volunteers will need to implement the desired changes and to contribute to position your public library as a key player in the development of a smart city.  


Continuing with the example above, if you want to build a makerspace with the aim of becoming an innovation hub in your community, you may need staff and volunteers that know how to use digital production tools and that have experience in using such tools with, for instance, entrepreneurship purposes. Staff may also need skills for design thinking or product design. If your library aims to further promote community engagement, facilitating and moderating skills may be necessary.


Further, given the importance of building partnerships in the context of a smart city, your staff may also need to be aware of the processes to identify and engage partners in programs and services. After you identify, in collaboration with your staff, which skills are needed to implement the desired changes, you may want to address these needs through training. You can organize workshops and bring in external experts to train them in new abilities and capacities that will help your public library to play a new or enhanced role in the development of your smart city.


The third important aspect is to empower staff and encourage their participation in designing new programs and services and strengthening public libraries’ contribution to developing smart cities/communities. It is not only about asking for input and welcoming their ideas. Let them be the agents of the internal transformation, the promoters of change.


If they are the ones who proactively come up with the ideas, for example, about new programs and services or new partners to collaborate with, they will also be more engaged in their implementation, increasing the chances of success. Set up fora for your staff to share their ideas, such as internal social media platforms or ideas contests, conduct focus groups and survey employees, award prizes to the best ideas and recognize winners, add participation as part of their job descriptions. There are numerous ways to boost participation in the changes your public library needs to make to become a more significant player in the development of a smart city.


General resources on engaging your staff through change management strategies:


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