Idea Share, Libraries, Library Director, Life, Management

Management Style (Version 2.0)

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Me in my natural library habitat these days. The standing desk is working out well. I feel better about life and my health because of it. I want to have plants all around me and in time this will happen. I want my work home to be like my own little personal room, surrounded by the things that inspire me. They help me to be a better leader.

The last time I did this post was in 2014, and my oh my things have changed. I’ve learned so much, I’ve been through so much, and it feels like the time to write more about management style. Here goes!

I opened up my post in 2014 with the following words:

Did you die?
Did anyone else die?
Did you burn down the building?
Did anyone lose an appendage?

If you answered “no” to all of those questions, you are doing a great job of being a librarian in a public library. -Justin Hoenke’s Management Mantra, 2014.

In many ways, my mantra has not changed. I didn’t fully understand what I meant by these words back in 2014, but in time I’ve grown to understand what I was saying. What I’m saying here is that I think librarians should be approaching their work with the least bit of stress and anxiety that they can bring to the table. Stress and anxiety, or so I have learned over the last few years of my life, are very detrimental to the overall health of a human being. There are many articles out there that talk about this, but this one is very helpful and direct. When we’re stressed and anxious, we’re almost a completely different person. Over longer periods of time where we are stressed or anxious we can begin to see changes happening. I noticed it within myself: I was weaker, my body ached, and headaches happened way too often. There were some other things that contributed to all of this, but there was also stress and anxiety. While I haven’t cut those things out completely, I’ve worked hard to be mindful of my stress and anxiety levels and to back down when I need to breathe.

I think this is what I was trying to get at in 2014. The best library managers and leaders are not the ones that push you to work constantly or to always be thinking of the latest and greatest things. The best ones are the people that remind you to breathe and to take care of yourself. Need to use a sick day as a mental health day? Sure, you deserve this. Feeling overwhelmed by the project you’re in the middle of? OK, set it aside for some time and eventually get back to it. These are behaviors that good managers and leaders will model themselves and then through their actions other staff will pick up on it.

And now will all of that said, let’s dive into the same format we followed back in 2014:

What does a manager/leader do?
As you can see, I’ve expanded this question to include “leader”. I like to use manager/leader in a very similar way. They manage a workflow, they inspire coworkers to try new things, and they’re the guide for keeping the library moving ahead. So what do they do? Everything I just said above. A manager/leader should have a vision as to where things are going and also at the same time be rooted in the present. A manager/leader will understand that the team they have is what they’re working with in the present but will plan ahead for changes in the future. A manager/leader will step up when they need to step up, be the front and center of the organization, and back up their staff at all times.

How does this change what I already do at the library? AND Do I need an office? What does one do in their office?
Your entire library life changes. I can’t believe that five years ago I was thinking all the time about how I could pull together a program and these days are now spent thinking about how I can pull together a policy. The day to day librarian who runs programs and talks to patrons is very different than the librarian who manages and leads. At my current job, I’ve tried to try to approach this with a balance. My office is right near the front door and it has windows all around it. Sometimes I feel like I am in a fishbowl but there are ways that I attempt to get around that (Curtains! Turn off the lights!).

I have no perfect answer with this one. Some days I feel so in tune with the administrative non public side of things, and other days I’m locked in and just wanna talk to people and check out books all day.  So what does that tell me? Do what I wanna do and go with the flow. I think this way of thinking is also something you should pass along to your staff if you’re managing and leading them. Of course, the day to day stuff has to be dealt with, but with everything there’s always a bit of wiggle room.

How does one lead?
Warts and all, I think you just do it. There is the good and that bad. Sometimes you screw up. I remember one time at my current job where I had to talk to an employee about something that ended up being a joke. I came down hard on this person when I really didn’t need to. I messed up and in the end I admitted that I did that. That moment taught me to give some thought to everything before reacting. In the times where I’ve had to have chats with people on my staff, I’ve learned to process everything in advance and give myself time to understand what needs to happen. I think as a result I’ve become more direct: this needs to happen, this is why it needs to happen, and so on and so forth. And the best thing is that there’s always room to grow. If you don’t like who you are and where you are headed, change it up. Growth happens through learning and all of this happens with patience.

So I’m gonna end this post with a cold hard truth: I don’t think you really ever fully know what you’re doing when it comes to anything let alone management and leadership. You’ve just gotta take it all in, process it, learn, and grow from it. I’ve found this approach to be the least stress and anxiety. With those two things minimized (or sometimes completely out of) my life, I feel like I’m the best Justin I can be. I am able to approach things with the best pair of glasses on.

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Family, Fidelia Hall, Life, Titusville, PA

Let It Grow

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The idea of home being the most important thing has always been a big focus of my life. My life has always been focused around my family and where we live. A lot of who I am came from my upbringing in the suburbs of Pittsburgh, PA and a lot of who I am now as an adult comes from the home that I’ve built together with Haley over the past 12 years.

For the last two years we’ve made Fidelia Hall in Titusville, PA our home. At almost an acre with a house and an old church on the property, we’ve got a lot of space to grow and learn about the world around us right in the middle of our little town of 5,500 residents. One of the things we’ve been learning about are gardens and what most people call weeds. We want to understand why these things grow around us and how we can make a garden that incorporates things that we love to look at AND things that are helpful to the environment. We’re getting there. In our two years at Fidelia Hall we’ve planted things that we love (sunflowers, black-eyed susan, mint, chamomile, borage, and much more) and let a lot of what comes naturally grow without interruption. Things such as purslane and dandelions may not be desired by most people in the world, but they’re welcome in our gardens at home.

Our days in the spring and summer are spent preparing and maintaining the gardens as well as sitting back and enjoying them. Sitting in a hammock or chair and doing nothing but looking at how the bees are enjoying the borage become one of my favorite activities. When your home all around you thrives and grows your life becomes just a little bit more magical.

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This morning as we watered the gardens our children Finn and Aero ran around and begged us to spray them with the hose (which we did). The birds all around us chirped, our dog Sonic ran around like a crazy person, and the bees enjoyed the borage. As we watered the gardens, Haley and I talked about what was growing and made plans for years to come. I collected some of those “weeds” to feed to our chickens and rabbits. Those “weeds” were their food for the day, and boy oh boy did they ever enjoy it.

When we have a connection to the world around us, our lives can be significantly better. Everyone deserves a home where they can explore the amazing world we live in. When it comes to life, I say let it grow: let the “weeds” and other plants around you grow and from their growth you will have your own personal growth.

Benson Memorial Library, Libraries, Library Director, Management, Tales From The Library Trenches

Tales From The Library Trenches

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I’m really happy to be writing a four part series for Information Today titled Tales From The Library Trenches. Over the next few months, I’ll be sharing stories and ideas about movin’ on up in the library world and becoming a director. I also got a chance to talk to some great folks along the way (Laura Koenig, Kenley Neufeld, and Jack Martin to name a few) and hear their amazing stories as well. I hope y’all get to check it out and enjoy it.

If you haven’t already, you should head over to InfoToday.com and take a look at some of the great stuff they’re sharing.

If you haven’t already, you can subscribe to their most awesome and excellent newspaper Information Today right here. They make a nice newspaper about important stuff and I enjoy reading it. In fact, I took the picture above while I sat in my hammock on a nice spring day reading the latest issue.

Enjoy!

Chattanooga Public Library, Chattanooga, TN, Great People, Libraries

GREAT PEOPLE: Lee Hope

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I wanted to take a moment to talk about Lee Hope, the Children’s Services Coordinator at the Chattanooga Public Library.  Since I arrived in April 2013, I’ve got a chance to work very closely with Lee on a number of projects involving kids, tweens, and teens in Chattanooga….and it has been an awesome experience, one that deserves sharing.

Lee worked her way up in the Chattanooga Public Library, starting as a shelver, becoming a kid’s librarian, and now as the Youth Services Coordinator.  She’s been with the library for over twenty years and has done great things for her community.  It’s been super awesome to work with her. She’s been a great manager and mentor, being there when I needed guidance but also listening to my ideas and letting me implement them.  There’s a great balance between the two of us and how we work.  We trust each other, we listen to each others ideas, and we question each other.

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We call each other Goose and Maverick, a nod to the film Top Gun.  In our eyes, we’ve gotta have that balance.  Sure, (SPOILER ALERT) Goose dies in Top Gun, but that’s not the point.  The point is that Goose and Maverick work together.  They trust each other. Plus, it’s just really fun to be constantly making Top Gun references through the work day.

Lee’s mentorship means a lot to me. She helps me see the whole picture and has taught me how to collect my thoughts, create a plan, and put that plan into action. That’s huge. Her teachings have really helped me grow.

Now that I’m Coordinator of Teen Services for the Chattanooga Public Library, I get to work even closer with Lee. We’ve got one big project that’s almost ready to share. I can’t wait to put it out there in the world.

Thank you Lee for everything!

Chattanooga Public Library, DEV DEV: Summer of Code 2013, Libraries

DEV DEV

I’m so happy to share this video with you. It was produced by Colt Helton during our DEV DEV Demo Day which occurred on The 2nd Floor of the Chattanooga Public Library on Friday August 2, 2013.

I’ve said a lot about DEV DEV over the past month but I’m gonna say it again: it was an amazing experience not only for the teens, our partners, and the library but for the community.  Many thanks from the bottom of my heart go out to every single person involved in this program. This program was the single greatest experience of my library career.

Libraries, Teens, Three Things

Three Things That I Learned in Three Years (4.9.13)

When you move onto the next chapter of your life, you can’t help but look back to see what you’ve learned and how you can continue to grow.  The past two weeks have been full of that and a flood of other emotions for me.  It’s cool.  I embrace this.  However, keeping this all locked up in my head and in my heart doesn’t do any good so here goes: a soul baring blog post about the things I learned.  Warts and all.

ONE
When I came into town three years ago I was a bit naive.  I thought that no matter what the situation was that I could use my positive approach and all of the love in my heart to change things.  While I still believe in the power of positivity and a good heart, I now understand that there’s more to consider.  Some people can’t be changed.  Some mountains can’t be moved.  And that’s ok. 

Out of this came Three Punk Rock Lessons for Surviving 21st-Century Library Hell.  If the system doesn’t respond to the way you approach things, you circumnavigate the system.  You find something that works that is a blend of your style while pleasing the mountains that cannot be moved.  You get things done, you’re happy because you’ve served your community, and no one bugs you.

TWO
I would love to say that what I got most out of working in Portland, Maine came from my community and the teens I worked with but this was not the case.  That’s what I got from my previous job at the Cape May County Library.  But that’s not to say that I didn’t get anything from these two powerful groups: what they did was REINFORCE everything I learned at the Cape May County Library.  If it wasn’t in my head and my heart enough in 2010, it is now embedded there forever and has no chance of slipping away.  Folks: if you don’t have your community in the front of your thoughts, your library is not winning.

Twitter - JustinLibrarian- Libraries are easy folks- say ...

I learned a lot from managing a small staff of people in the teen library.  What I did learn the most during my time is that freedom, respect, and support for your staff is the most critical thing to have when you are working with others.  If you have a staff that doesn’t trust or respect you, forget about it.  INSPIRE them.  Say YES.  Let them run wild in the library.  Your library is stronger with everyone’s ideas working together.  It will form an institution that is not only dynamic but full of personality.

One of my favorite moments in Portland was when I noticed that one of my staff members was an amazing artist.  What did I have him do?  I had him draw amazing things while he watched over the teen service desk.  Call it a bit of performance art and a little bit of library decoration: the teens and other patrons got to see the creation of art in progress and the end result still proudly hangs in the library so that patrons can go OMG WOW when they see it.  It’s a beautiful thing.  The best part?  Having my employee not be bored while watching over the teen desk and seeing them look forward to working in my part of the library.

THREE
And finally: Your happiness in your job has a lot to do with your happiness in the world.  Remember, your job is not your life but it does have some impact on it.  Are you unhappy?  Frustrated? Tired?  Grumpy?  Have you tried to change things and you keep hitting a brick wall?  Have you REALLY tried to change things and STILL keep hitting that brick wall?

It is time for you to find another job.  

This is difficult to say and even more difficult to comprehend, but PLEASE do yourself a favor and go down that path.  Your heart will smile in the long run.  Don’t get caught up on the what/who/when/where/why/how of it all.  Just do it.