3 ways we support staff happiness, well-being & success

Photo above: Staff Engagement Day provides dedicated time for everyone to gather, learn, and connect with and from each other. See holiday hours and browse a list of all scheduled days closed in 2021 »

Stewardship is one of the library’s key priorities. It means we sustain, share, and respect community resources. That includes the nearly 120 people who work across our three library locations.

“Having happy, stable, successful employees means that our patrons are going to have a better experience using their library,” says Director of Human Resources Billy Treece. “Overall, my goal is to attract and retain a diverse workforce so we can be the best library for all of Oak Park.”

Taking a more holistic approach to wellness

Treece says his views on employee relations have been shaped by the library’s “turning outward” approach—the intentional process of listening to and learning about our community, and then acting on what we learn. As human resources director, he applies this method by turning outward toward library staff.

Last spring, Treece launched a Staff Well-Being Committee focused on learning and listening to staff throughout the organization. One of the first things the committee did was survey library employees about their well-being.

Overall, responses were positive. Most of the 108 respondents, regardless of part- or full-time status, indicated above-average satisfaction with the library as a place to work. However, part-time staff were significantly more likely to disagree with the statements “I have good health,” “I am in control of my current financial state,” and “I feel secure about my financial future.”

“Listening to staff and discovering real issues can be tough, but because of this we’re able to challenge our assumptions and make improvements,” Treece says. “The things we’ve heard from staff are now part of the conversations that library leadership are having, and we’re starting to see action.”

Increasing access to benefits, wage equity

More part-time library staff have access to benefits in 2020. Overall, 76% of all staff are now eligible for benefits, compared with only 42% in 2017.

More part-time staff now have access to benefits such as paid time off, and overall staff wages and salaries have been brought more in line with average market rates, as a result of the library’s comprehensive studies of wages, salaries, and benefits starting in 2018.

Prior to 2018, when we learned that 82% of all library employees were being paid below the market rate for their positions, it had been about seven years since staff wages were studied and compared with the overall labor market, Treece says.

“We made a lot of progress in 2018 and 2019,” Treece says. This “enormous shift” approved by the Board of Library Trustees included market equity pay raises, as well as more hours for part-time staff, bringing the percentage of all staff eligible for benefits up to 76 percent in 2020, compared with only 42 percent in 2017 (see charts on this page).

“We’ve already made the most significant adjustments, and we now have an ongoing framework to review market data for wages and salaries every year, to make sure we pay our staff fairly,” Treece says. “Now we can focus on other improvements, such as improving staff relationships with peers, managers, and leaders, as well as increasing transparency and inclusiveness in decision-making processes.”

Offering consistent opportunities to learn & grow

Twice a year, the library dedicates a half day for all staff to come together to learn and connect. In addition, we offer year-round opportunities for staff. These “Learn While You Earn” sessions, which provide a range of opportunities to expand understanding and develop skills, are offered an average of seven to ten times a month.

“Learning in this way has become part of our library’s culture,” says Sharon Grimm, Learning and Talent Development Coordinator. “The biggest impact continues to be how it strengthens relationships among staff as they gather to learn together. Sometimes staff with disparate schedules or work assignments meet for the first time in these sessions.”

The Learn While You Earn program has been in place since 2005, and in recent years the sessions have supported the library’s learning priorities. In 2020 those priorities are cultural humility, technology, library foundations, and well-being, which in turn support the library’s strategic priorities of engagement, learning, and stewardship.

Most sessions are led by fellow library staff who share skills or new learning of their own, perhaps from a recent conference they’ve attended or class they’ve taken. “Staff-led sessions signal expertise and interest, so even staff unable to attend know more about their colleagues and who to consult,” Grimm says.

Here’s just a sampling of the sessions staff have access to in March:

  • Helping the Public Complete the 2020 Census: What Front-Line Staff Need to Know
  • Census 2020 Outreach to Communities of Color
  • Cultivating Protective Factors for Safe Libraries and Resilient Communities
  • Getting the Most from GSuites (Calendars, Gmail, Drives, Oh My!)
  • Intersex 101: Gender Diversity Crash Course
  • Life Kit Listens: “Feeling Anxious? Here’s a Quick Tool to Center Your Soul” 
  • Disability Rights and Access for All

“Fairly compensated staff, access to opportunities to learn and grow in their positions—all this translates into better staff retention and engagement,” Treece says. “And it means the people in our community are going to have a better experience when they visit the library.”