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#OnTheRoadULC: Featuring Tampa-Hillsborough County Public Library // Two Librarians & A Microphone Podcast

Live from the Urban Libraries Council Annual Forum, we’re interviewing Jacquelyn Zebos and Chely Cantrell from the Tampa-Hillsborough County Public Library about their Honorable Mention in the Organizational Change and Strategic Management category. 

Tampa-Hillsborough overhauled its existing, antiquated staffing model to reflect the realities of today’s services. By taking a critical look at a "day in the life of a librarian," they were able to bring more clarity to job descriptions, empower staff through career growth and allow a broader access to benefits. Other updates included:

+ Providing higher pay grades

+ Eliminating overdue fines and cash handling (for the first time in 6 years, their print circulation numbers went up!)

+ Investing in librarians through tuition reimbursement

Tune in to hear how their focused efforts increased customer satisfaction and saved the library $780,000!


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Jim Heuer [00:00:17] Hi everybody. This is Jim Heuer, host of the Ingram Library Services podcast, Two Librarians and a Microphone. We're excited to come to you live from the Urban Library Council Annual Forum in Baltimore, Maryland. Ingram Library Services is a proud sponsor of the Innovation Awards that the ULC bestows upon their members, and I'm here with librarian two, Donna George, and we're also with two of the Top Innovators from Tampa-Hillsborough County Public Library in Tampa, Florida. Tampa-Hillsborough was awarded Honorable Mention in the Organizational Change and Strategic Management category. We're honored to have with us Jacquelyn Zebos.

Jacquelyn Zebos [00:00:57] Good morning.

Jim Heuer [00:00:58] And also Chely Cantrell.

Chely Cantrell [00:00:57] Good morning.

Jim Heuer [00:01:01] Alright, so could you talk to us a little bit or tell us a little bit about your idea and how you created this dynamic model for a modern library staff?

Jacquelyn Zebos [00:01:10] Yes, sure, very happy to tell you about it. We had a workforce in our organization that had job descriptions that were very antiquated. They hadn't been updated in 20 plus years, so they really did not reflect the realities of the service delivery as it exists today. And soon, after we completed our strategic planning process, it became very clear that was going to be a tool that we could use to update those job classifications with two main goals really, one being for us to find a way where employee goals and organizational goals could intersect. So, we really focused our revised job descriptions on empowering staff, getting them broader access to benefits like tuition reimbursement, getting them higher pay grades, in every case, our new job classes went up at least two pay grades, so every employee was eligible for a raise. And then, we also wanted to make sure that we were focusing on the skill-sets that we need, so we divided our new positions up

Jacquelyn Zebos [00:02:12] into three purpose-based teams: materials and collections, getting the stuff on the shelf, keeping the libraries looking good, a customer service team, which included the librarians and some new positions focused on one-on-one tech help, programming, things like that, and then our administrative team, which has to do with leadership and goal development.

Donna George [00:02:36] Fantastic. I noticed you're in the write-up too, your description, which is that you've had fine forgiveness as part of this initiative too. Tell us a little bit about that and how that came to be and how it plays in with the staff.

Jacquelyn Zebos [00:02:49] Oh sure. It’s a very exciting initiative that our director long-wanted to do, to eliminate overdue fines for materials, and as we worked through this new staffing model, it became very clear to us that we were spending more to collect, you know, count, bank deposit, process, all of these overdue fines than we were actually bringing in. So, we looked at eliminating all the overdue fines, and we're able to really build consensus around doing that, and it freed all of our staff up from cash-handling duties. And anybody who’s worked in a government agency knows, you know, all the layers of oversight that are involved in that, and a lot of man hours. And so really, it was a double-win for us. It was great for our community. People loved the idea. And it also gave us a huge windfall of staff hours that could be redeployed towards customer-service and programming, so it's been very, very popular. And it's led to some really interesting things.

Jacquelyn Zebos [00:03:53] For the first time I think in six years, our print circulation numbers have gone up. And if anything, people are bringing more stuff back than they did before, so it's been wonderful.

Jim Heuer [00:04:07] So, lots of changes in some of the job grades and examining what people are doing today and kind of envisioning what they should be doing or what you wanted them to do tomorrow. What was some of that process like, or you know, how did you go about doing that?

Jacquelyn Zebos [00:04:24] Well, it was very methodically done. First of all, we've actually pulled together a team of our managers, and we looked, you know, from the minute the first person comes in and turns on the light switch till the last person turning the light off at the end of the night…what were specific things that had to occur during the day. We also used input from our community during our strategic planning process that made it very clear to us about things that they wanted to see our staff do outside of the library, out in the community, and we needed a way to free up our librarians to have more time to do that. So we spent a lot of time, I don't want to say flow-charting, because we wouldn't do that, but really, planning all of the tasks that needed to be done, and then of course, we looked at what job skills we needed. And I'll give you an example. We created a new position called a library associate,

Jacquelyn Zebos [00:05:17] which took the place of some of our clerical positions, and we found that we were having a really difficult time keeping those positions staffed, because there's a lot of physical work involved in moving books around and unloading book drops and setting up furniture in meeting rooms. And so, we did a lot of research about other similar jobs in the community at places like the Amazon warehouse and so forth, to come up with a job that would be competitive in our local market, and we think it's been really successful so far.

Jim Heuer [00:05:49] So your staff is happier, the community is seeing a big savings in money and library fines not being collected, and circulation is going up, okay, right? So, this sounds like…so everyone in America should adopt this type of a program and save a ridiculous amount of money.

Jacquelyn Zebos [00:06:09] Yes, as a matter of fact, when we got down to the end of the process, I think it was pretty close to a million dollars that we were actually able to save, because we, of course, no longer have to pay for a courier service, and you know, all the costs associated with cash-handling and depositing money. And we are transitioning to a more full-time workforce. We did have a great number of part-time positions that will be, you know, leaving through attrition, and so yes, at the end of the day, it really ended up being a cost-savings as well, significantly for us.

Jim Heuer [00:06:42] So, you did a lot of moving of your people's cheese, and though I'd imagine in and around your organization, you probably had to do that, and maybe, I don't know, did you have internal pushback? Did you have support from the staff? Did people buy into it or how did they get involved for this change?

Jacquelyn Zebos [00:07:01] Well, I think our director really did a great job out in the very beginning. He went out to every one of our libraries, we have 27 locations, and he met with all of the staff, met with every person that works in our organization and explained to them the changes that were coming and how the process was going to work. Of course, we collaborated with our county's HR department, and after the position reclassification was effective, all of the employees were given several opportunities to meet with their manager, to meet with their director, to meet with HR, to discuss if they had any concerns about what position they'd been placed into. And there were a couple of them that we had to tweak, you know, that there were some things we weren't aware of, and so we, you know, miscalculated a little bit, but on the whole, I think people were very happy to have a pay increase, to have better access to tuition reimbursement and more focus

Jacquelyn Zebos [00:07:56] on professional development for them individually, whatever their interests may be. So, I would say on the whole, it's been very positive. Also, we've spent the last seven months doing training, training, training, training, and more training, and more coming next year. So, I think on the whole, it's been very good. Morale in our organization has generally been very good, so I think that people are really on board with it, and we made it very clear to them they would have a whole year to learn their new job skills, that we were going to provide support for them, and really, the only thing we asked of employees this year was just to support the change and help us work towards success.

Chely Cantrell [00:08:38] And I think that Jacki made a really important point earlier, and that was that this whole thing has empowered employees, because we've removed so many menial tasks and allowed so many people to complete professional duties that they enjoy doing, so they have more time to actually be the professionals that they are.

Donna George [00:08:55] I love the fact that you all really studied a "day in the life of a librarian" from getting there, turning the lights on, emptying the book drop, all of those things, but also, just the day-to-day activities and interactions with the customers that you serve. So, what are you hoping for next? What do you think phase two might look like, or what are your plans for checking in with your staff and the community to see how this change is going?

Chely Cantrell [00:09:21] I would say what, you know, in the immediate future, it's definitely the training. We want everybody to feel extremely comfortable in the positions that they're in and be ready to grow, and be ready to move into higher positions if that's the track that they desire. Phase two though…

Jacquelyn Zebos [00:09:38] Yeah, I think that's a really important point. One thing I can tell you about the impact of this outside of the organization, is that we've always enjoyed a pretty robust customer satisfaction rating, but it's actually gone up since our staff have had more time to really be with people one-on-one, and we've had to place fewer limits on what amount of time we can spend with customers. And I would say, you know, Chely brings up a really important point for our organization, and that is that we need to bring up the next generation of leaders, we've done one round of leadership training so far this year, and we'll be doing more, so that's definitely I think something that we'll be focusing on a lot in the next few years.

Jim Heuer [00:10:22] Wow. That, you know, is one of the things that we're trying to do with this podcast, is to get these kinds of ideas out into the public library space, right? So, this is really unique, and this is one of the industries where there's not competition, right? You guys all work together collectively in something where we are at, like this forum, you know. I have a feeling you're going to get a lot of people to hear this and they're going to want to pick your brains about this, right? Because you know, I can't imagine that there aren't some libraries and librarians that will hear this and think that they should be doing something similar, right? You know, saving a million dollars, and circulation goes up. That seems like it's a pretty good goal. So, we're absolutely joining the ULC in giving you our congratulations on your award. That's fantastic. Thank you for getting up a bit earlier this morning here

Jim Heuer [00:11:14] in Baltimore and joining us, and congratulations again. That's great.

Jacquelyn Zebos [00:11:18] Thank you.

Jim Heuer [00:11:18] Two Librarians and A Microphone is brought to you by Ingram Library Services, it is a division of Ingram Content Group. Our producer/director is Rachel Cope, sound engineering by Craig Simpson, special assistance by Essence Brisco, and Elizabeth Wilcox. The research done by our librarians, Trisha Bengel and Donna George. I'm Jim Heuer, thanks most of all to you for listening. Please follow us on Instagram at @thelibrarylife, tag us in your #thelibrarylife moments, because we've got some cool stuff going on, on that social media platform. We're going to be giving away some exclusive books, ARCs, perhaps a signed copy. In order to make sure you're staying tuned to this podcast, we'd love for you to go to our landing page, but most importantly, the best way you can show your support for us, is we'd love some reviews on Apple iTunes. If you can go on there and leave us a positive review, that would really help.

Jim Heuer [00:12:20] We'll see you in your libraries. Thanks everybody.