Question Four

The library has an active joint team of managers and non-managers dedicated to assessing and addressing barriers to inclusion. It has also incorporated removing barriers to inclusion into policy and service planning structures within the organization.

What is it and why is it important?

This question assesses whether the removal of barriers to inclusion is a shared commitment by staff members across the board. It also determines whether both members of management and non-management staff contributed to the development or amendment of policies and service planning structures of the library to ensure the policies are inclusive.

As indicated earlier, most of the work to remove barriers to inclusion require a participatory, authentic, and accountable approach, not only with the community, but with all members of staff, board, and volunteers. In order to truly explore and challenge existing beliefs, all concerned parties must participate in this dialogue.

This will help change management efforts to be tangibly realized by all staff, volunteers, and board members. Organizational change management principles dictate that change in practices and behaviours are effectively developed and more rapidly integrated into practice when all staff members are included in the discussion, formulation, and application of policies. Commitment to practices associated with removal of barriers to inclusion are thus retained, even when there is a turnover of staff.

The involvement of all members of staff in the development of operational policies aimed at removing barriers to inclusion inspires the following:

  • a richer discussion,
  • more ideas shared,
  • unity of staff members to create a framework for discussions and implementation of policies,
  • acceptance of new policies prior to their implementation,
  • quicker application of these policies.

Understandably, it may not be possible to include all staff members in all the discussions and development of policies. Still, it is critical that the process permits a cross-section of staff is included in the various stages of policy development, including discussion, formulation, promotion, and implementation of any new or amended policies.

Lessons from Inclusiveness at Work: How to Build Inclusive Non-profit Organizations

  • Inclusiveness initiatives are most successful when the board and executive director/CEO fully participate and support the development, implementation and evaluation of these efforts.
  • When the executive director/CEO places a high priority on removing barriers to inclusion, staff and volunteers are more likely to participate in the development and implementation of initiatives.
  • Senior managers have an important role in the development, implementation, and monitoring of initiatives that lead to the removal of barriers to inclusion.
  • Direct service/program staff, “have valuable perspectives and insights that all organizations should tap into throughout their inclusiveness initiatives.”

What does it look like and how do you do it?

The following exercise will help assess the library’s progress engaging staff in the development, implementation, and evaluation of policies and practices to remove barriers to social inclusion.

Figure 4.0 Assessing progress on staff engagement
Questions Responses What are the actions required? When are these actions due
1. Are the staff, board, and volunteer teams aware that the library is considering ways to become more inclusive?

  • If the answer is no, then the inclusiveness team needs to provide suggestions on how the staff, volunteer, and board teams can remove barriers to inclusion in their work
2. Are staff included in discussions to develop a demographic profile of the community group the library is investigating?
3. Are staff encouraged to ask questions, provide suggestions and feedback on the various elements of the library’s plan to remove barriers to inclusion?
4. Has the board and staff developed a shared vision on what inclusion means to the library and to the community it serves?
5. Have staff and board members been asked to generate or discuss a list of benefits to removing barriers to inclusion?
6. Has “removing barriers to inclusion” been added as a standing item on the staff and board meeting agendas?
7. Have staff teams integrated monthly, quarterly and yearly reporting by management staff, program, and other operational teams to include a section dedicated to the progress of integrating policies and practices that focus on the removal of barriers to inclusion?

Assessing the degree of a staff and board’s engagement is critical. It is likely discussions held by both will, at some point, touch on the notion of “fair access.” In order for a library to be inclusive, many will state that the library needs to be accessible in a fair manner by the community.

But what does fair access really mean? How can a library begin to assess the components of fair access? In a report on social inclusion by Help the Hospices titled “Widening Access to Hospice Care” (2006), Yasmin Gunaratnam outlines four components of fair access that can be applied to non-profits that serve the community, including libraries.
The four components of fair access include:

  1. Service availability
  2. Service use and relevance
  3. Responsiveness
  4. Quality

The information below can be used to structure dialogue between staff, volunteers, and board members on removing barriers to access to ensure fair access of the library and its services.

Figure 4.1 Inspiring fair access – thought stimulating questions for both board and staff teams
Questions Responses
1. Service availability: How can the library eliminate obstacles so that programs, services, and collections are provided to the community in an adequate and timely manner?
2. Service use: How can the library increase the use of services by improving the level of awareness of available services and collections, and eliminate organizational and social barriers that prohibit access?
3. Service relevance and responsiveness: How can the library provide culturally responsive and relevant services? How can the library adapt programs and services to various groups within your community?
4. Quality: How can the library evaluate its services to ensure that service users are able to “derive equal benefit” appropriate to their needs?

After the inclusion team has responded to the questions above, using the template exercise below (4.2), they should document and prioritize implementation of the new, expanded, or revised practices, policies, programs, services, and collections.

Figure 4.2 Fair access planning

This brief exercise will assist staff and board members who are leading the development of inclusive initiatives to:

  • track various insights and thoughts on how to remove barriers,
  • provide a structure to capture next steps,
  • identify who is accountable and who is participating in the development of these initiatives,
  • capture a timeline for this development and a method in which each team can track the progress of their efforts.
Fair Access Principles Thoughts on new and revised practices, policies, programs/services, and collections Next Steps Responsibility Timeline Update on Progress
Service availability
Service use
Service relevance and responsiveness

Audit Tool Interpretation – How to assess status and progress

The Social Inclusion Audit Tool is designed to help the library assess its current status and level of progress in removing barriers to social inclusion. This box contains some examples to help when using the Audit Tool for Question 4.

Low Status/Low Progress

This may be the case when the library staff is not actively trying to remove barriers to inclusion. The executive director may not be promoting inclusion to staff. As a result, a clear direction towards inclusiveness does not exist.

What should you do? Be Open to Change.

A key element to the success of inclusion initiatives is the executive director taking a leadership role by making inclusion a priority. Begin with the thought-starter questions below and the other exercises in this chapter to identify the best ways for the library to incorporate inclusion into its day-to-day planning and operations.

Low Status/High Progress

This may be the case when barriers to inclusion still exist in some (or all) of the library’s programs and services, but the impetus for change has begun. Perhaps the executive director is onboard and staff are being trained on inclusion principles. Maybe some planning and community consultation is underway.

What should you do? Refine.

Ensuring all staff have a thorough understanding of inclusion and its importance in a library setting is critical. Use the exercises in this chapter to help ensure the library’s plans cover all aspects of removing barriers to inclusion in both policy and service planning documents. Adding discussions about inclusion and progress made to staff meetings is also helpful.

High Status/Low Progress

This may be the case when library staff have knowledge of inclusion principles, and when programs and services requiring improvement have been identified. Inclusion is being discussed but progress towards removing those barriers is slow.

What should you do? Become Intentional.

Use the exercises in this chapter to focus the library’s efforts. It is important to ensure that all the steps required in removing barriers are identified and that responsibility is assigned and deadlines are set. Developing some indicators to help monitor the progress towards inclusion, and making changes to the library’s approach when falling behind is also helpful.

High Status/High Progress

This may be the case when the executive director actively supports removing barriers to inclusion, all library programs and services are assessed and the library has consulted with the community and has made changes to make it more inclusive. The entire library staff considers inclusion when making decisions. Inclusion is discussed at staff meetings, and progress is reported to the board.

What should you do? Mentor Others.

The library is demonstrating a high capacity to support all staff in becoming dedicated to assessing and addressing barriers to inclusion. No doubt there will have been some great successes along the way and some failures. Sharing these experiences with other libraries will help everyone on the way to becoming more inclusive.