We’re changing to serve you better, Saskatoon.

We aspire to be a vibrant and welcoming community space that offers a wide range of digital services, learning resources and collections. We want to be a library that reflects, serves and includes everyone who calls Saskatoon home.

Our Strategic Plan (2016-2021) sets forth an exciting and ambitious plan for growth, modernization and cultural progress for Saskatoon Public Library (SPL). This plan aligns with our vision to change lives through community connections, engagement, and inclusivity. You can read all about it here.

To realize our vision, we must take critical and necessary steps to grow, adapt and continually improve. Our city and society are changing at unprecedented rates, and SPL must be able to meet the needs of our patrons both now and into the future. We're therefore turning the page on our traditional operating model and moving toward a new one that will be energized and inspired by you.

We are transitioning from a traditional desk-based library service model to a community-led service model. The community-led service model is structured so decisions about programs, services and collections are informed through consultation with the community, as well as data analysis. This modern and inclusive approach to our operations makes it easier to connect people to library services, both within and outside of library walls. The community-led service is not unique to Saskatoon. The service model began in 2004 and is considered best-practice by libraries across North America.  

Traditionally, public libraries have served some segments of the population better than others, and SPL is no different in that regard. The community-led service model provides a framework for removing barriers to access and creating inclusion for everyone in the community.

To operate in a community-led service model, we are transitioning into a new organizational structure that supports community engagement. The new structure includes new, flexible roles that will enable our public services employees to identify and respond to community needs in efficient and meaningful ways. These changes were designed based on employee consultation, as well as trends and industry best practices.

These changes benefit all of our stakeholders by:

  1. Increasing SPL's ability to strategically and deliberately make a community impact—beyond access to information.
  2. Reducing structural barriers to employee success—making it easier for people who serve the public to do their jobs.
  3. Unlocking the potential and productivity of SPL, resulting in a higher return on investment for the community.

Over the next two years, as we transition to this new model, our public services employees will settle into their new roles and complete training.

Our goal is to reflect the needs, expectations and interests of the unique and diverse communities we serve. You'll be able to engage and connect with us in new ways. Even though our approach to decisions about collections, programs and services will be different, our commitment to fundamentals like children's programming, the physical collection and Local History will remain.

Our goals for transitioning into the new service model and organizational structure are:

  1. To minimize operational and service disruptions during the transition. We will, therefore, continue to provide our current services and programming.
  2. To minimize negative impacts on employees by ensuring there is a role for all existing employees in the new structure.
  3. Provide training and development to support employees who move into new roles with different qualifications.
  4. Work within our existing budget.

While some have lamented the potential decline of libraries in today's digital age, we beg to differ. Last year, patrons made over 1.4 million visits to our libraries; borrowed over 3 million items and more than 92,000 of you participated in our programs. You can read all about the foundation we're building from in our 2016 Report to Our Community here. We're proud of our legacy and rich history of being a part of the Saskatoon community, but we're eager to serve you better and do even more.

As with any major organizational change, the benefits associated with our new structure and service model may not be immediately apparent. We are beginning this change in January 2018, and we anticipate it will take approximately two years to complete. We are asking for your patience and understanding as we work through this process

We're looking forward to writing a new chapter for SPL, together.


Questions? We've got answers.

Why is SPL doing this?

We're working to provide the best, most efficient service that we can to deliver the most value to the taxpayers. 

Saskatoon has been growing rapidly in the past decade, and the world around us has been changing as well. Technological advances, globalization, and increased cultural diversity are all influencing the ways libraries operate. SPL has met its mandate over the years and established itself as a valued and important public service. However, Saskatoon looks and feels different than it did in years past—and our mandate needs to evolve as well.  

With our world and community changing, SPL has an opportunity to do better—and it’s an opportunity we’re looking to seize. And while there will be aspects of our programs and services that will change, other fundamentals will remain untouched. We will continue providing safe places to relax, gather and learn. We will still provide free WiFi and public computers. We will continue working with community partners to deliver relevant and impactful programs across our city. The biggest change moving forward will be that, through our community-led service model, much of what we do and offer will be informed by the feedback we receive from you. 

What is a library service model?

A library service model is a perspective and approach to working with the community that is used to frame resource-allocation decisions.
The service model dictates: 

  1. The organizational structure of public services and support services.
  2. Roles and the types of responsibilities associated with them. 
  3. What services we offer to the public and how we offer them. 
  4. How we curate the collection. 
  5. What programs are available, and the delivery of the programs. 
  6. Required changes and upgrades at facilities.

What is a community-led service model and how is it different than SPL’s current operating model?

The community-led service model is one where the library engages the community to inform decision-making processes about the library’s collections, services and programming. 

In a traditional library service model, which SPL currently operates under, decisions about the library’s collections, services and programming are made solely by employees. 

Is this service model unique to Saskatoon? 

The community-led service model is not new. It began in 2004 and is in practice by many other public library systems across North America. It will make our organization more flexible and give us the ability to engage with the community more actively. This will help ensure our programs, services and collections reflect the needs of the many neighbourhoods we serve. 

If you'd like to learn more about the community-led service model, you can read about the community-led toolkit here.

What's wrong with how the library operates today? 

Traditionally, public libraries have served some segments of the population better than others, and SPL is no different in that regard. The community-service model provides a framework for removing barriers to access and creating inclusion for everyone in the community. 

What differences will the public see/experience after the new model is implemented?

We anticipate providing enhanced customer service both inside and outside the library so that every employee you interact with can meet your needs, rather than having to move between multiple service points. In-depth and specialized patron needs will continue to be met by dedicated specialists in each area. 

These changes will be most noticeable at the downtown Frances Morrison Central Library. We will be adopting the single-point-of-contact philosophy we currently offer at the neighbourhood branches and applying that to our downtown location. For example, a patron who comes to a service desk whose needs are to obtain a library card, place a hold on a book, and then use a computer would need to go three different service points in our current model. In the new model all of those needs will be met by the first employee the patron interacts with. A patron who comes in with an in-depth research need in local history will still be directed to the local history specialist, just like they would today. 

We will also be taking the specializations that exist at our downtown location and bringing them to our neighbourhood branches. For example, in the area of programming we will have a dedicated programming team who will deliver programs that previously were only delvered by specialist at the downtown location, that same specialist will now be delivering those programs at the neighbourhood branches as well. 

This change will result in increased employee expertise and a consistent patron experience across the system. 

How will services be different from before? 

None of the existing services offered will be changed until we are able to consult the community beginning in 2019. 

The deparments at Frances Morrison Central Library will remain from the patron’s standpoint as they are today. Fine Arts, Local History, Children’s, etc. will all continue to exist as they are. What is changing is how we support those departments with our organizational structure. 

We are moving away from a traditional desk-based model, but that doesn’t mean there will be fewer employees working to serve you. At Frances Morrison Central Library, we are moving to an integrated desk model with roving reference. 

What is roving reference? 

Roving reference is a practice where library employees provide service and assistance to patrons anywhere in the library. Roving reference began being used in public libraries in the 1980s. 

Does community-led mean that you consult the community about all aspects of the library?

Community-led means the public will have an opportunity to shape some aspects of the programs and services we deliver in neighbourhoods throughout the city. For instance, we may find that after-school programming is a top priority in one neighbourhood while seniors' programming is a priority in another. We would not consult on the day-to-day administration of the library.

Are you doing any public consultations about the new model or structure? 

The service model and structure were designed by looking at trends, industry best practices and employee consultations. We look forward to beginning community consultations about things such as hours of operation, collections and services once we’ve completed the transition, employee training and given everyone a chance to settle into their new roles.

The community-led service model is one where the library engages the community to inform our decision-making process about the library's collections, services and programming. 

We aren't making any changes to our services right now. We can't properly consult and respond to community needs until we have fully transitioned public services employees to our new structure. 

Why does SPL need a new organizational structure? 

Our existing service model and structure is designed to provide desk-based service inside the library. As a result, current roles and schedules are rigid. To operate within a community-led service model, we need a structure that supports community engagement. Our organization must have flexible roles that enable employees to identify and respond to community needs in appropriate, efficient and meaningful ways. 

Are roles changing for SPL employees?

Yes, for some employees in public services. We consulted with employees in 2016 and announced the changes in the spring of 2017. We let employees know that we are committed to supporting them during the transition. It is the goal of library administration to transition employees as quickly and efficiently as possible.

As an example, our librarian roles are currently built around providing coverage on the service desks. In their limited off-desk time they are also responsible for supervision and scheduling, ordering materials for the collection, outreach, and designing and delivering programs. We heard from employees that this was not supporting success for them personally or for the organization. In response, we’ve removed the overwhelming mix of duties to allow them to specialize in areas such as programming, collections and reference.

Are you de-skilling the labour force? 

Most of the roles at SPL and the qualifications for these roles are not changing. For example, all librarians hold and will continue to hold a Master’s of Information and Library Science degree. 
The qualifications have changed for our Library Service Associate roles. They are different, but most definitely not de-skilled. The qualifications have changed from any university degree to specific skills training in the form of a Library and Information Technology diploma. 

How are employees being supported through the transition?

We consulted employees in the design of the new structure, and they identified numerous barriers that the new structure is designed to remove. In addition, we have held over 35 town halls with employees in 2017 to share information and gather feedback that has shaped our transition process. We are doing what we can to minimize the impacts by ensuring that they are well supported with information and training as we move through the transition, and we will continue to adjust as we find areas that can be improved.

Who will be eligible to apply for positions in the new structure? 

There will initially be no external recruitment during the transition to the new structure. Positions within the new structure will be posted internally and be open to existing employees only. External recruitment will only happen if vacant positions remain after the transition is complete. 

Will any specializations be lost in the new structure?

No. In fact, the overall level of expertise in the system will increase. In-depth and specialized work will continue to be performed by professional librarians, and we have removed many barriers in the new structure that will enable our librarians to fully utilize their expertise. 

In the new structure, librarians are supported by Library Service Associates trained in library customer service, technology and answering reference questions. 

At Frances Morrison Central Library, all of the Library Service Associates who work at the branch will be cross-trained to provide service and support anywhere in the library (i.e., not limited to a single service point as in our current structure). 

After these changes are implemented, do you foresee SPL making any other future changes to its model/organizational structure?

No. SPL's new model and structure has been designed to be flexible and able to adapt to changing community needs and societal drivers moving forward. Any further changes would be minor/incremental. 

Who was consulted about these changes? 

The new structure was designed based on employee consultation, which took place in 2016 from September to December. We also considered trends and industry best practices. Since we shared the new structure with employees in the spring of 2017, there have been over 35 town hall meetings to talk with employees about the opportunities they see and the concerns they have. Based on their feedback, many refinements to the structure have been and will continue to be made.

Is this service model and organizational structure change related to the budget pressure?

No, it is part of our 2016-2021 Strategic Plan. The Library Board and administration began planning for this service model and structural change in early 2016. 

How much more money does SPL need from City Hall to make this transition?

SPL doesn't need any additional funding to be able to make this transition, and we won’t be requesting an increase to the municipal levy in 2018.