Four Years as a Library Director

HI THERE, May 2019 c/o Haley Hoenke

On June 15 2019 I will celebrate not only my 39th year here on Earth but also my 4th year as a library director. I will try to sum up what’s been happening over the past year in my job, what I’ve learned, and where I am as a person and a librarian in this post. These kinds of posts used to come super naturally to me, but as I’ve typed away in this blog trying to sum everything I’ve had a hard time putting things into words. I don’t know exactly why but I think it has a lot to do with what my friend Matt Finch perfectly described to me as the “little things“, those things we do in our work that are so small that we forget to talk about how we did them but are of great importance. I’ll do my best to break down that barrier I have and talk about these little things, and in the process that’ll hopefully show you what’s been going on.

THE OVERALL PICTURE

I do a lot of little things. I think a lot about procedure. I think a lot about policy. I try to envision and live in a world that is at least five years in the future. I do all of this while living in and trying to remain rooted in the present. I think this is one of the biggest things that I have learned about as a library director, the ability to live in so many spaces at once and remain connected to all of them. I believe a huge part of my job is to be everything to every community member, and this kind of thinking and acting is required for me if I want to achieve that goal. I am there most days, not there at all others, but overall I think I am at least doing the best that I can.

Procedure in how libraries do their work has become increasingly important to me. I ask myself “why are we doing this specific thing and can we do it better?” a lot. Recently after a staff member resigned from their job I took over our interlibrary loan department. Over the past six months I have done what I can to learn how that system works and to map out a procedure for someone to take over in the near future. It has been a great experience: I have learned what to do, what not to do, and how to move ahead. A bonus was that I am now able to do this work if needed and can help out here and there. I understand the need for interlibrary loan in our library currently, but I understand a future where it has less of a place.as

I have written and continue to research and write a lot of library policy. There were some policies when I got here to Titusville but sadly most of it was out of date. I have really enjoyed this work, as I got a chance to understand where the library stood policy wise in the present and then to look forward to where it needed to be. I learned about the balance that policies should have: that they need to be there for the staff, the library, and the community. They have to achieve a balance where they help everyone do their jobs and understand their roles. Policies can’t be heavy handed…they too like librarians of the modern age need to be everything to everyone.

The future of the library in this community continues to be of great importance to me. Over the last few years we’ve seen small growth in circulation, visits, events, and more. This small growth has been great to see, but I realize that at some point that growth will stop. What is the next step for the library? Every library is different and it is very important to remember that. For us, those next steps include:

  • Continuing to offer and grow our Local History & Genealogy Services. This service is something that is very Titusville specific and has gone a long way in helping the community understand that the library is a place where we all come together and learn.
  • Continuing to work on projects around the Library Building as a space: last year this meant the addition of a new handicap accessible restroom on our lower level. This year it hopefully means the completion of our Community Room renovation and the beginning of an update to our Storytime Room. Old buildings often need a tremendous amount of love. If this library is to last another 115 years, a close eye must be kept on what keeps this whole thing together…our building.
  • How does our library look staffing wise in the future? We do a lot of our cataloging and processing in house, but what would it take to get us to remove that part of our work and instead turn those jobs into forward facing community jobs? What would be the responsibilities of those jobs? In my previous post on life as a library director I referred to projects like this as “The Marathon”. You think about these ideas, try to figure them out, but you keep them on the back burner and put them into action when you can.
  • How do we further connect with the community? Library produced events and programs are great, but we can accomplish so much else with partners and other new ideas. In the past year we’ve worked with great partners like the Titusville Herald, the Oil Region Alliance, the Titusville Historical Society, Drake Well Museum, Community Council, the Titusville Rotary Club, and more to do other things for our community. Most of the time these partnerships produce events and community discussions, but sometimes they are digital like the soon to be complete and officially unveiling Titusville PA Heritage Connection. I think a lot of what we do in the future involves us giving up full control of the reins and instead holding onto them with others in the community. We can accomplish great things when we work together.

PHYSICAL AND MENTAL HEALTH

I’m adding this section in because it was there last year when I did this column and I am happy to report that both my physical and mental health have improved so very greatly. I am now 2 years removed from Prozac and while I haven’t lost any weight I have managed to feel better overall physically. Here’s the reasons why I think this has improved and how it relates to my work:

  1. I don’t take things too personally anymore. We don’t have to agree on everything, and you don’t have to like some of the things I say or do. This is OK. I know that if there is negative energy coming my way that it does not have to change my life in a negative way. I can see it, understand it, process it, and grow from it.
  2. We moved into Fidelia Hall. Moving across the yard into a recently renovated 146 year old church was a life changer. Sure, there is still a lot of work to do but overall my quality of life went through the roof. It is so very important to have a space where there is family, love, creativity, and relaxation for me. Our move into Fidelia Hall gave that to me, and because of that I am a better person and library director.
  3. I’ve always listened to my gut, but now I listen to it even more. There was nothing bad about this and instead it was all good stuff. Listen to your gut: it will tell you what you need to do.

Finally…as for those “little things”, head on over to my LinkedIn profile and see some of those little things in action. As standalone pieces, a floor waxing, a pollinator garden, a walk through a cemetery with our Historian, or an art show for the community may not generate the most hype on social media but taken together they do something that every public library should be doing: adding a dash of positivity, kindness, and hope into all of our communities. The best thing public libraries do these days is to bring them community together and give them an excitement about where they live. The little things smooshed together create a big thing, a movement in the right direction for all of our communities.

*read “Three Years as a Library Director here*
*read my writings on being a Library Director here*

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