A Few Things I Learned in 2012

Once Thanksgiving hits, I get into a particular mood that lasts until around right after dinner on December 25th (yup, I’ve narrowed it down that much).  This mood finds me slowing down, reflecting, and thinking back to what has  happened to me over the past year.  I look back at what I’ve learned and try to summarize that into a nice little package that I can carry into the new year.  It helps me grow as a person because that’s what I believe one of my major jobs as a human being is…to keep growing and being the best Justin I can be.

(I did this back in 2010 with this post and it seemed to be a good thing….that post was read 1,347 times!  It also inspired others to do the same and I had a great time reading what others had to say.)

Here’s the deal with management.  Everyone has their own style and everyone is entitled to that style.  I say that everyone reading this should follow their own style, develop that style, and respect everyone else’s management style. That way you’re happy with what you do, you’re growing,  and you’re also not wasting energy on disrespecting what others are doing.

The approach which I have developed over the last few years is a combo of the following:

  • Let your employees be themselves: for example,  do you have a talented artist on your staff?  If so, let them draw/doodle while they’re on the service desk.  Why?  That’s what they’re good at and who knows, just maybe one teen patron will see that and strike up a conversation with that employee.  And who knows…that conversation could really change some lives.  Isn’t that what it’s all about?
  • Be flexible:  If someone calls out sick at the last minute, doesn’t show up on time, or forgets to do something, don’t be the manager that holds it over their head for weeks/months/years.  Life happens and it’s best for us to be sympathetic to everyone involved.  It may mean some extra work for you as a manager, but that’s ok.
  • Encourage creativity: One of the coolest parts about working in a library is the many awesome people that you work with.  Ask someone why or how they got into libraries and I’m pretty sure you’ll find an interesting story.  After you hear that story and you learn about the people you’re working with, encourage their creativity and let them be themselves.  Everyone has something rad they can give to your library.  Let them give that to your community.
  • Be fair: You may have a manager title and get paid a bit extra for that, but who cares.  Shelve books, straighten up the shelves, wipe the windows.  Do the things that every other library employee does.  You may have departments, teams, job titles, whatever, but remember this: we’re all in this library thing together.

I also keep coming back to this quote from my 2010 Emerging Leaders class:

“The leader’s  job is not to provide energy but to release it from others.”
Frances Hesselbein

Sometimes it is very clear when a major change has happened in your life.  It’s an odd feeling: something just feels off, not right, and you feel uneasy about your place in life.  After having a few of these moments over the past two years, I’ve learned that it’s my body telling me that I should stop something and change.

It could be a health thing (like going vegan), a work thing (should I move onto something else?), or something personal.  No matter what it is, recognize that feeling and do what you can to change your life.  Uncertainty is a very scary thing, but being stuck in a situation that makes you feel horrible is even worse.

What’s the goal of the teen library? Library school taught me that it was about bringing teens closer to the resources they need.  That’s still very true and very important for teen librarians to remember, but having done this for five years I’ve discovered something else that trumps that goal and it’s this: be an awesome person in a teen’s life.

Think back to when you were a teen: you probably thought that most adults were lame, out to get you, control your lives, or just something not that great.

That shouldn’t be the case with teen librarians.  We should be an awesome adult for them.  Be proud of who you are, be proud of what you do, and share your life.  I’m a 32.5 year old white dude who has an awesome wife, two super cool sons, loves the Beach Boys, and really digs Nintendo video games.  A few of my teens may think that’s lame, but that’s who I am and I’m damn proud of that person.  Encourage your teens to be happy with themselves and lead by example.  They may not see you as the coolest cat around but they’ll respect you and think that you’re pretty awesome.

This year I made a pretty significant step towards moving into the next chapter of my life.  I’m not there yet but things have been put in place to (hopefully) allow me to move ahead.  It was scary as hell.  I found myself in situations that I was not accustomed to.  I found myself thinking about a future that may or may not be in line with the professional life I’ve led so far.

Out of it all I feel like I’ve gained some new kind of confidence.  I’ve realized that if my heart and mind are in the right place, I can do anything that I want to do and that in time everything will be OK.

I have a few of these people in my life.  As much as I try to minimize the amount of time that I interact with these people, I always end up leaving my interaction with them with some morsel of knowledge that helps me grow up.  I guess that whole “keep your enemies close” and “challenge yourself by being in uncomfortable situations” thing is true.

I think that I summed this up in every other area of this post but it deserves to be said again: we’re all very different and we all have our own way of doing things but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be nice to each other.  Be kind.  It’s amazing what life can be like when you cut a good deal of negativity out of it.

Thanks to everyone for reading.  I hope your holiday season is awesome and filled with love and excitement.  And here’s to 2013!  It’s gonna be a super rad year.

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