District Feature: Douglas County Libraries

Douglas County Libraries see a total of nearly 1.9 million visitors pass through the doors of their six branches each year. With so many visitors, each of their 312 employees shares a responsibility to promote and maintain a safe, healthy environment for visitors and staff.

“The wellbeing of Douglas County Libraries’ employees and the public are of the greatest importance to us,” said Loretta Bertagni, DCL’s Safety Coordinator. “The prevention of accidents and injuries takes precedence over expedience, and in our day-to-day activities, every effort is made to ensure an environment that prevents accidents from occurring.”

Douglas County Libraries promotes employee interest and seeks cooperation for health and safety by familiarizing all staff members and volunteers with relevant issues, then making health and safety themed activities an integral part of their operations. The goal is to bring together various viewpoints for discussion, then to ultimately identify and address any potential concerns.

Bertagni says that DCL strives to create a culture where everyone in the workplace is accountable. They do this by empowering their employees and volunteers to take action to ensure their own health and safety, as well as that of their colleagues and DCL’s visitors.

All DCL employees and volunteers are encouraged to bring any health concerns, unsafe conditions or practices to the attention of the Health & Safety Committee or their manager. The committee is then responsible for responding to these reports and communicating findings, actions or results to the appropriate DCL staff.

The district also created their own “Person in Charge” or “PIC model” for day-to-day disruptions that may occur in their libraries. “With a large, rotating staff, it’s important to know who to contact when incidents happen,” said Bertagni. “A lot of other districts have asked us about our PIC model, and we’re happy to share the emergency manual information that we’ve developed.”

Selected by the district management team to be the Health and Safety Coordinator, Bertagni visits each DCL branch at least once a month to check in and meet with the rest of the committee members, who are comprised of two groups: Core Members and Branch Advocates.

The Core Members are Operations Supervisors at each of DCL’s branch locations and remain on the committee as long as they maintain their supervisory role with the district. The Branch Advocates, on the other hand, are rotating members who are assigned at their home branch and serve one-to-two-year terms. When a Branch Advocacy vacancy opens up, a notice goes out to that branch and any staff member can request to join the committee, with supervisor approval.

Training and Orientation

Douglas County Libraries has all of their new employees undergo a comprehensive employee orientation that includes tours of the district’s facilities, introductions to key management and safety staff, as well as training presentations on all of DCL’s health, safety and wellness programs, Workers’ Comp issues, harassment prevention training, and the branches’ emergency procedures. All of the district’s policies are reviewed and set by their board, and all of the rules and guidelines are readily accessible in the district’s employee handbook.

DCL also offers monthly health and safety trainings which can be a video, online lesson, voice-over presentation or facilitated learning session. Monthly themes or topics are chosen based on relevant national observances, such as breast cancer awareness in October to coincide with the national awareness campaign.

In addition to the training topic, DCL also sends out a monthly “VitaMin,” which is shorthand for “vital information in a minute” and is provided by DCL’s healthcare provider.

“Our orientation program and the monthly trainings we provide are designed to keep health and safety at the forefront of our business culture,” said Bertagni. “Every communication piece that goes out reminds our employees that we welcome feedback on our programs and policies, and our employees are always encouraged to come to management or the safety committee with any questions or concerns they may have. No matter whether the conversation takes place face-to-face with a Branch Advocate or over email, we greatly value input from everyone.”

A Focus on Wellness

Aside from the wide variety of trainings that DCL offers, they also do organization-wide health challenges. The goal is to have a health challenge take place at least four times a year.

Employees receive a wellness calendar that maps out the dates of each month-long health challenge. To qualify for prizes, employees must take part in that month’s activity for at least 22 out of the 30 days. Every employee who meets the requirements of the wellness challenge has their name entered into a drawing for a generous gift basket.

The district also incentivizes employees to participate in the health challenges by making them fun and engaging while they’re happening. For example, earlier this year, DCL went on a “virtual walk” across the country by having everyone track their daily activity, then compiling the total mileage that district employees walked, biked, or ran during the period to map out how far they collectively traveled.

The wellness team mapped out a route of national monuments online and sent DCL employees regular updates with pictures “from the road” of where all they had traveled that week and what they would have seen along the way.

In recognition of their exemplary wellness efforts, Douglas County Libraries has been certified as a healthy business through HealthLinks Colorado for a second straight year.

Utilizing Technology to Prevent Injuries

Seven years ago, DCL invested in upgrading to an automated book return equipment system. Consisting of a conveyor belt with a Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) reader, the system is able to automatically separate returned books into the proper bins. Not only is this system far faster and more efficient, but it also helps to prevent repetitive motion injuries from occurring.

DCL is currently in the process of constructing new buildings for some of their library branches, and the new buildings will be getting an even newer version of the book return system. The district plans to apply for funds from the Pool’s Safety and Loss Prevention Grant Program to help defray up to 50 percent of the costs of the upgraded safety equipment.”

Creating and maintaining a safe work environment takes a multi-faceted approach with buy-in from everyone within a special district. Douglas County Libraries has taken charge by being proactive with creating their own customized workplace policies, maintaining comprehensive safety and wellness programs, and implementing a safety committee structure that seeks participation and input from all levels of their organization. The result is a special district with healthier, happier employees, and a commendable safety record.


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