In 2012, Chesterfield County Public Library (CCPL) implemented Your Personal Librarian, a reference service in which customers meet once with a librarian for help with a learning question (e.g. setting up an email account). This laid the groundwork for later fleshing out the broader concepts of The CCPL Way, their revolutionary new reference approach. During the summer of 2014, as part of the next CCPL Strategic Plan, Library Services Administrators wanted to improve the reference experience in order to address the complex needs people often face today such as job, finance or education related challenges. They believed the library could redefine its role and be of greater value by breaking out of the traditional reference desk mold wherein the customary approach delivers just one “right” answer to a simple question.
The CCPL Way encompasses two goals:
- Turn outward in all that they do, break down the walls between the library/librarian and the customer/community in a way that staff can embrace in their daily performance. CCPL replaced the physical reference desk in some locations with inviting “living room” furniture and trained staff in how to appreciate and capitalize on their own engagement style to maximize approachability.
- Create transformative 21st century library experiences by cultivating a learning-charged environment: engage customers with unique learning opportunities. A Learning Plan is the flexible, outcome-based reference application created to help customers collaboratively achieve personal goals through a series of sessions with a librarian. Designed to support this process, The Learning Plan Toolkit is a tangible adaptable guide that informs interactions between librarian and customer via specific steps, goals, resources and plans for follow-up.
In October 2014, this strategic plan was approved and carried out at two libraries via a “soft launch." In January 2015, implementation was slowly rolled out in all locations, and the number of successfully completed Learning Plans has risen steadily.