Category Archives: Libraries

Leadership VS Management

The past few weeks have found me focused on one question when it comes to libraries: What is the difference between leadership and management? I was asked this question by a great group of librarians a few weeks back. I stumbled in my response when I was asked the question but I kind of trudged my way through. My mind did not stop thinking about the question. I kept reliving the moment. The answer to this question became something of a healthy obsession for me.

I read a lot of articles, saw a lot of tweets (like the great one from Anthony Molaro above), and talked to a lot of people.  Everything has been coming together and I think I have an answer. The piece Three Differences Between Leaders and Managers by Vineet Nayar really helped me shape these ideas, and I’ll be pulling quotes from the piece to share what I’ve learned, where I am, and where I think (hope) I am going.

“You’re probably counting value, not adding it, if you’re managing people.”
Over the past year of my life, I’ve focused strongly on the numbers and analyzing and measuring what we do in libraries. It has been a great experience: I can better see how and if things work, understand what changes need to be made in order to make something work, and to not be afraid to shift things around or pull the plug if they don’t work out. All of these things are ok. Numbers, value, and measurements help this. But if you’ve followed along this blog and my social media presence over the past year you’ve notice that I’ve been…well a bit weirder and more scattered than usual. Change can do that to a person. You know what else can do that to a person? Being in a role that they know they’re OK at, but also being in a role that they’re not the best at. I strive to be the best in everything I do. I want to be the “toppermost of the poppermost” with every role in my life. While I think I am an OK manager (I get things done, I don’t mess up that much), I know these days that I am not and will most likely never be the best manager. It’s not in my personality.

“Leadership refers to an individual’s ability to influence, motivate, and enable others to contribute toward organizational success.”
And here is where things become a bit clearer for me. The part of my job that I enjoy the most is thinking about the big, forward thinking ideas, assisting and connecting with others to put those ideas in place, and influencing and motivating others to be part of the team and take the work we do in the library to the next level. To me, everything I do in a library has one goal: It has to meet and exceed community needs and be beneficial for the longterm health of the organization. This is where it hits me: managers work through the day to day stuff, keep things running, and are the on the ground drivers of the work done in libraries. Leaders have the idea of where to go in the long run. They create, refine, and craft those those ideas. They work with others to get those ideas up and running. They inspire everyone around them to be better people, librarians, and community members. I don’t know why, but all of this makes me think of the Matt Foley sketch from Saturday Night Live. Maybe Matt Foley lit a fire in those characters in the sketch?

My mind tells me that there is a (sort of) clear path ahead for my life as a librarian. I want to be involved in leadership. I’m pretty good at that stuff and I want to get better. I want to be the toppermost of the poppermost. Here’s to the beginning of this journey. I don’t know where I’m exactly going but I know that I’ll work hard to get there.

Some thoughts on “THE SECRET LIFE OF A PUBLIC LIBRARY SECURITY GUARD”

Me, Dillon Bates (who is now a Maine State Representative), and Marko Petrovich, February 2013.

Me, Dillon Bates,  and Marko Petrovich, February 2013.

Sometime this past week, a very well written and interesting essay titled “The Secret Life of a Public Library Security Guard” made the rounds on the internet. I was immediately drawn to this article because of my strong belief in the importance of having a strong security staff at urban public libraries. What’s that belief? It’s simple. A strong security staff at all urban public libraries is critical for the health of the organization. When an urban public library has a strong security staff, this allows both the community and the librarians to better utilize the library as a community center. Everyone loves a happy, healthy, and safe place. Security in an urban library setting allows the public library to establish that “safe place” setting.

The second reason I was drawn to the article was because I had a professional connection to the subjects of the article. From 2010-2013, I worked at the Portland Public Library and as manager of the Teen Library had a great working relationship with the security staff at the library.  The security staff at the Portland Public Library is top notch. Marko, Paul, and the other members of the staff run a tight ship that allows the library to be the community center for Portland, ME.  Simply stated, the security staff at the Portland Public Library puts forth many of the qualities of what an urban public library security staff should be: safety first, community oriented, and human focused. This comes directly from the security staff, a group of employees who at their core care about the public library and the community. You can see this when Petrovich states at the end of the essay, “You don’t need to respect me,” he reminds patrons. “Respect this place. Respect this library is public.”. They’re at the library to help keep it a safe place for the community.

I know that to most non library people who read the article that the entire “sex, drugs, booze” slant of the article stood out the most. I bet many people thought “THIS STUFF HAPPENS IN THE PUBLIC LIBRARY WHERE I TAKE MY KIDS TO STORY TIME/PICK UP MY DVDs/USE THE INTERNET?” The answer is yes. This stuff goes on at pretty much any library around the country.  I’ve worked in big libraries and I’ve worked in small libraries. It happens everywhere.  It’s a part of the job that all librarians have to face, understand, and come to terms with. It will never fully go away, and this is another reason why it is important for larger urban libraries to have a security staff. They’re the people that make sure this kind of stuff doesn’t happen in the library or if it does, they make sure it doesn’t happen again. They do all of this without the community and staff (usually) knowing that anything happened.

Marko and the security staff at the Portland Public Library have done an amazing job at making their library a safe and welcoming place for their community. Their efforts and care for the library and the community show in their day to day work. Their leadership and management of all things security related at their library help make the community of Portland, ME a better place for the citizens.

Public libraries, take note. The Portland Public Library Security Team have developed a great model for how we should manage our spaces.

IMLS Supporting Making in Museum and Library Conversation

For the next two days, I’m in Pittsburgh, PA attending the Supporting Making in Museum and Library conversation being held at the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh. I’m really enjoying everything that’s being shared and want to share that with you! Below you will find my Google Doc which I’ll be constantly updating throughout the event.  You can also follow along at the #makingandlearning hashtag

THREE THINGS

1. I am currently in the Atlanta airport on my way to Pittsburgh, PA for my first ever “I’m doing the business travel thing but I’m business traveling to my hometown” experience! I will be taking part in the Supporting Making in Museum and Library meeting happening in Pittsburgh, PA.  I am honored to be a part of this! Late last year, I met Peter Wardrip & Lisa Brahms from the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh and gave them a tour of the 2nd and 4th Floor at the Chattanooga Public Library. It was great to share ideas with them back then and I am looking forward to sharing more with them and many others over the next few days.  The Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh was one of my big inspirations when I started on the 2nd Floor of the Chattanooga Public Library. It’s neat that I get the chance to go back to that same place and learn and share more ideas.  Here are some photos I took the last time I was there.

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The Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh in cooperation with the Institute for Museum and Library Services (IMLS) have launched a field-wide initiative to better understand, advance, support, and connect makerspaces in museums and libraries. This project, in partnership with Maker Education Initiative, Chicago Public Library, the Exploratorium and North Carolina State University Library is holding a convening to advance our efforts in supporting learning in these space and programs.

2. I can’t wait till Megan Emery blogs more about her ideas on libraries, programming, parallel programming, volunteers, and more.  I guess this is kind of my nudge to get her to write about those things!  Ha!  Seriously though, Megan is (IMHO) doing the best work in public libraries at this moment.  From Camp EtsyNooga to linking programming between Chattanooga Public Library’s 2nd and 4th Floor to writing a book on library programming, everything Megan is doing is inspiring and community first. Go ahead and think that I’m a bit biased because I work pretty closely with Megan…you’re right, I do work pretty closely with Megan. But read about her programs and ideas and you’ll see what I mean. Go Megan go.

hyrule

3. I am currently on the sixth dungeon in The Legend of Zelda.  This time around I am playing it on my 3DS in little moments of inspiration. I almost forgot how good this game is.  I find the grinding aspect of the game to be quite rewarding. I haven’t played a game where I need to dedicate a good chunk of my time to getting rupees and preparing for my next adventure in such a long time. If you haven’t played this game in awhile and are looking for something to do, pick up a 3DS and buy it for a few bucks on the Nintendo eShop. You’ll find yourself quite happy!

FOUR THINGS

PROCEDURES
One of the best things to have when you’re managing public library work are sets of procedures for your employees to refer to when needed. Not only are they helpful for your staff, but as a manager who is writing them you get an interesting glimpse into workflow. You learn how to think step by step and try to simplify things.

Here’s a screen capture of a procedure regarding security cameras. Sure, writing procedures won’t be the most fun you’ve ever had as a librarian but I will say this: they’ll help you manage your time, your staff, and aid in creating a positive atmosphere at your library location.

Screen Shot 2015-01-13 at 11.40.50 AMBALANCE
2014 was the year where I noticed my personal life/work life balance was way off. I worked pretty hard over the past year or so but I hadn’t noticed it. When I started having dreams about work that’s when I noticed that I should take a step back and balance everything out in my life. It has a been a great journey. When I’m away from work and libraries in general, I don’t think about them that much. I’ve always had a worry in the back of my mind that if I stopped thinking about libraries even for a moment that I’d become stale, old, and outdated. I was very wrong about this. Stepping back and taking your mind off of your work allows you to be even better than before. It gives you more patience. It allows you to stop and think before reacting. You grow to make better decisions. These decisions allow you to give your community the best that you have to offer. Everyone wins when balance is achieved.

IDEAS
One of my colleagues Michael Whittaker once said the following to me: “You and I are idea people. We have about ten ideas every minute. Once you learn to let some of those ideas go and focus on the really good ones you become a lot happier.”

It is so much fun to sit in a room and brainstorm a ton of ideas. There’s probably some study out there that talks about how some kind of very awesome brain thing happens when you sit in a room and brainstorm. I’m  not going to link to that study here because I’m being lazy and I don’t want to look it up. But you know what’s even better than sitting in a room and brainstorming? Having ideas, weeding out the ones that won’t work, and sitting back and letting things happen naturally. Now I’m not suggesting we stop brainstorming. It is good! But we’ve all fallen into the “what we brainstormed didn’t happen and now we’re stuck in a rut” trap. Brainstorming allows us to be free and dream big. But sometimes when we brainstorm we come up with things that just don’t translate well into the real world. When we get hung up on those things not working, we can get bummed out.  That’s not fun either.

I really like my work here on The 2nd Floor.I have had so many ideas about how to make this place work and how to make it both fun and enriching for the community. Some things have worked and some things haven’t worked. As I step into a bigger management role, I’ve had to put some of those ideas aside and hand over the keys to my colleagues to be the idea makers. Some of their ideas have worked and some of their ideas haven’t worked. It’s all good. We’re all trying our best.

DISCO
I really like disco music. Specifically I love Italo Disco. Websites like Mixcloud and Soundcloud are amazing places to find disco and dance music. Check it out! Here’s a mix of JAMZ that I’ve collected on Soundcloud. Smile! Dance! Enjoy life!

Reinventing Reference: How Libraries Deliver Value in the Age of Google

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Radical! Reinventing Reference: How libraries deliver value in the age of Google is finally in print!

I was honored to be a part of this book! Back in 2011 when I was just beginning my “outside the library that I am currently employed at” librarian journey Katie and Vibiana were one of the first people in the library world to give me a shot at doing something in the greater librarian community. I am eternally thankful to them for asking me to be a part of this!

It was really neat and interesting to write a book chapter. I found it to be a really great learning experience: I had to balance my enthusiastic and untrained writing style with something more….well, book-ish. Was it tough? Sure, but it was a great learning experience.

I got my own copy a few weeks ago and have been digging through it. I LOVE all of the stuff said by the collaborators and I found it very useful and informative.

If you want to check it out, you can purchase it in that old fashioned yet very handy print format here: REINVENTING REFERENCE

The 2nd Floor PLUS STEM School Chattanooga

Over the past few months, the Chattanooga Public Library has collaborated with the STEM School Chattanooga on a project with juniors for the Project and Problem Based Learning curriculum. The project that the library presented to the students dealt with 3D Printing: How can we create a 3D Printing station that allows the community to walk up to the 3D Printer, watch a video tutorial that introduces 3D printing, and in the end have the customer leave with a great 3D printing experience and an object.

Over the next few months, the students and their teacher Michael Stone worked on what a 3D Printing station looks like, what it includes, and then spent the time building the station in their school Fab Lab. The end result? Check out the image in the tweet above! It’s a beautiful station like structure that was created by the students. The words 3D PRINTER represent the various stages of 3D printing….from first layer to the honeycomb structured middle to the end product. Using the laser engraver, the students also created a plaque that proudly displays the STEM School Fab Lab logo. Finally, the students put together tutorial videos for customers to watch so that they could get acquainted with 3D printing. You can watch those videos here: Beginner Video and Advanced Video.

I’m super happy with the results and I couldn’t ask for more. The 2nd Floor of the Downtown Chattanooga Public Library is all about the public library as an experience, and the 3D printing station created by the STEM School fits perfectly in with the vibe of the 2nd Floor.  I look forward to working with the STEM School and their students on more projects in the very near future!

For more of my writings on 3D Printing, click here!

For the FAQ’s and details on 3D Printing on The 2nd Floor of the Downtown Chattanooga Public Library, click here!