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8 Keys to Organizational Health at Your Library
Struggling with employee morale or workplace conflict? Discover the keys to organizational health—and how we can help you measure it in your library.
Is your library a healthy workplace?
How would you answer this question? How would your staff respond?
The public face of the library is usually one of dedicated service. But excellent services can hide trouble behind the scenes. Mission creep, bullying, compassion fatigue, and resource crunches are common stressors. Communication problems, territorial disputes, and resistance to change can impact morale and management, sucking time and energy from other responsibilities.
Taking care of organizational health is essential. The benefits are clear. Healthy organizations have more teamwork and less absenteeism. They’re able to innovate, adapt, and solve problems more quickly. And they recruit and retain talented employees, directly impacting public service.
How staff experience your library will tell you a lot about its health. We’ve identified eight key traits that measure organizational health—and help libraries move from toxic to healthy workplaces. Read on to see how.
The Keys to Organizational Health
Employees want to belong. A sense of belonging means staff feel comfortable being who they are. They share ideas and perspectives without fear of bullying, isolation, retribution, or retaliation. When employees feel like they don’t belong, the flow of ideas and information slows or stops. Building belonging by asking people how they feel, creating a check-in culture, and communicating the big picture takes time. But the results—more energy, experimentation, and enthusiasm—are worth it.
Happy people are more productive. And one way to create happy employees is to support personal and professional growth. Some staff may want to be at the library forever. Others may see it as a stepping stone. But nearly everyone wants to build skills and improve professionally. So helping staff articulate, set, and reach goals benefits them and the library–even if someone’s path ultimately takes them elsewhere.
Everyone wants to be seen. It’s easy for front-line staff to feel like no one sees them. In some libraries, managers get what they need from people without giving much in return. Inclusive systems allow people to create value together, making individuals and institutions more innovative and resilient. Showing managers how to build inclusive systems helps limit micromanagement, emphasize the positive, and encourage experimentation.
Communication sets the culture. Unclear, incomplete, or inconsistent communication is often the number one symptom of a sick organization. In healthy organizations, people communicate up, down, and across systems. Managers can have hard conversations and address conflict, limiting emotional responses and defensiveness. People are honest, and actionable feedback helps everyone grow, adapt, and improve. Healthy communication can take time to develop, but it can be done. And, it is fundamental to improving the library’s culture.
People crave meaning. You know the joke—no one works in a library for the money. Most people find deep meaning in their work—promoting literacy, doing outreach, and connecting people with information (and each other). Staff who believe their work has meaning are happier, which means the library is healthier. Sometimes, this happens organically. Other times, directors and managers must connect employees with the library’s mission and vision. It’s important to find out where employee values and library practices don’t align, and work to bring them closer. Talk about the big picture. Let everyone know how they have a stake in it. And build the future together.
The path needs to be clear. People want to know where the library is going. How does the vision connect with reality? How does the mission chart the way forward? Understanding future goals helps employees see how what they’re doing today makes a difference in what will happen over time.
Everyone wants to be valued. Recognizing good work helps staff feel seen. Instead of saving praise for annual reviews or employee celebrations, it’s better to create a culture of recognition. Little wins matter, so make recognition a habit. Things like simple thank you notes let people know you see and appreciate their work.
Culture determines satisfaction. Ask around. Do people like their work? Do they enjoy what they do and who they do it with? Do they feel like they’ve made a difference at the end of the day? Workplace satisfaction has more to do with culture than circumstances. Even tough work situations can be satisfying if people feel like they’re in things together. Developing a culture of value, recognition, communication, and belonging can do more for your team than the newest building or biggest budget.
How Healthy is Your Library?
So, how do you know if your library is a healthy workplace?
At Niche Academy, we’ve developed a survey to measure these eight keys to organizational health. Over 700 librarians have taken it, and fewer than half rated their workplace as “good” or “excellent”. A full 38% are in environments that “need work”.
If you want to do a health check for your library, this survey is a great place to start. You can assign it anonymously and use the results as a baseline. You’ll quickly see where the library is doing well and where it could use some help.
Once you know where you stand, you can address what isn’t working—and build on what is. And we’re here every step of the way. At Niche Academy, we solve big problems together. We can help you identify problems and find solutions all in one place.
Don’t just take our word for it. One of our subscribers, Patricia Knapp at the Hartford Public Library, says it best:
Niche Academy provides training on real-world situations, particularly in the library profession. Based on the value of empathy, it provides the knowledge base, including the research, practical tools, and scenarios to demonstrate how to effectively manage a situation and achieve positive outcomes.
After your staff takes the survey, we can connect you with our marketplace of professional development tutorials. A subscription gets you access to hundreds of tutorials on topics like Equitable Workplace Practices, Bullying, Conflict Resolution, and more.
Get the survey today. We’ll help you create an organization where people love where they work and what they do!