A cartoon whose first panel says "Who wants change?" and a room of raised hands, and whose second panel says "Who wants to change?" and an empty room.

Library Preparedness in Planning a Renovation: Lessons in Change Management Strategies

Michigan Library Association 2018 Annual Conference Presentation 

We all know change can be a little scary. Especially when one change triggers many more, and a simple update morphs into a full-blown renovation. But sometimes it takes a comprehensive approach to really deliver the intended results. After all, you didn’t just wake up one morning and say, “Let’s make a bunch of changes to our library, even though it is already highly utilized and well-regarded in the community.” You decided to enhance your facility after a lot of thinking, listening, discussing, observing, and planning. Which is why you want to incorporate strategies that will make your project a success (and worth all your hard work).

To help with this, QEA &Bloomfield Township Public Library partnered up to present change management strategies at last week’s MLA 2018 Annual Conference. Drawing on our shared project experience, we discussed the importance of community input, re-evaluating the purpose & function of various spaces, and staff commitment to the process.


Why Change? 

People use libraries today very differently than they did even ten years ago.  
For Bloomfield Township Public Library, it all started with the computer lab. With increased access to personal devices and changing tech needs, patrons were underutilizing this static area. The team quickly realized that numerous spaces were under-used, over-used, and misused, making this a larger undertaking than anticipated. 
Focus groups and surveys were used to collect input from the community, staff, trustees, and government leaders to develop the project’s strategic goals: 

  • Re-evaluate the functionality of various spaces and wayfinding tools
  • Increase awareness in areas for quiet, collaborative, and social activity
  • Improve furniture practicality, comfort, and flexibility
  • Enhance outdoor space for programming and individual use
  • Ultimately, provide an attractive, easy-to-use, and flexible facility and grounds that meet a variety of users’ needs  


How to Strategically Manage Change

Facilitating successful change requires a look at each element, their impact on one another, and developing an approach that addresses potential resistance to the change. 
Key components we integrated into our process were: 

  • Staff Empowerment 
    Because changes to the physical space can impact job roles, staff inclusion was a critical component for a successful renovation. Staff engaged in the process provided insightful input based on their observations and interactions with patrons in the space.
  • Change Champions 
    Some staff members were designated as Change Champions to act as guides in planning and navigating the transformation process, collaborate and provide feedback, and model excitement for achieving the end goal.
  • Board Policy Support 
    Leadership buy-in was crucial for overcoming logistical barriers, such as budget and necessary policy adjustments, to ensure the updated space supported staff to the fullest.
  • Community Communication 
    Developing a communications plan provided a meaningful way to inform and include the board of directors, leadership team, staff, and community throughout the design process.
  • Living Laboratory 
    The opportunity to experiment with ideas, implement changes, take feedback, modify, and proceed empowered the team to move forward confidently with the best solutions.

By bringing everyone together to work toward our common goal and communicating frequently in various ways to build trust and support, we developed solutions that enhance the library’s reputation as a community facility that effectively serves the needs of all users. And although patron engagement with the library will continue to change over time, this strategic approach to managing modernization efforts will serve as a roadmap for successfully navigating future transformations.