A New Career In A New Town, Libraries

A New Career In A New Town: Close The Curtain

 

For the first time in a few months I can say that I currently have ZERO resumes submitted to libraries for possible new jobs. Right now, I’m going to close the curtain on this part of my journey. Let’s get more into the reasons why.

My big goal this time around, one that I knew was going to be a long shot, was to attempt to secure a job in New Zealand. I tried for quite a few. Sometimes I heard nothing back from the library, other times I got the cookie cutter rejection letter, and twice I got personal messages that more or less summed up what I was thinking would happen with this search: you’re a great candidate, but our HR/organization just can’t hire internationally right now. A big part of me gets it…it is tough to immigrate a whole family to another county and also the financial and paperwork side of it is probably a huge task as well. So for now, I am setting the NZ dream aside. I have learned something in this process…..that things take patience and sometimes a bit of luck. I have to keep my heart and head open for a possibility and then leap on it. We’ll get where we need to go.

When I was looking for jobs in New Zealand, I couldn’t help but take a peek at what else was out there in the USA. I saw some good jobs scattered throughout the country. Our idea as a family was that if we were going to relocate in the USA we wanted to be in a place where we really wanted to live. For us, that meant looking at the middle of the country (Colorado, Utah) as well as New England and maybe who knows just maybe if it was the ideal job, California. Salary was also very important to us, as after almost 3 years of having a job that paid a lot lower than other roles in the state and having to rely on food stamps to make ends meet we wanted to get to a level where we were not struggling anymore. Being poor is difficult and a major stress on an individual and a family. It feels a lot like having an extended illness…you keep trying to get better, but no matter what the illness continues to eat away at you because the root issue isn’t being fixed. (FYI: I make $35,000/year as a Library Director, and the average in Pennsylvania for a library with a similar service population is around $42,000/year. I’ll get to that more a bit later).

There was one job that I applied to where I made it through two interviews. After the first interview I felt a little better about the job, but there was something off in my heart. The second interview went really well, but that lingering feeling was still there. It took me a day of serious thought to realize that, yup this path was not for me. I messaged the board, thanked them for the interviews and conversation, and moved on to the next step in my life.

To the jobs that I applied for who kept me updated at every step of their path: THANK YOU. As I said in an earlier post, good communication is key on both sides of the story. That communication minimizes the stress and anxiety on the job seeker, which allows them to give the employer a better interview and idea of the kind of person that they are.

To the jobs that I applied for who didn’t say anything or only offered cookie cutter responses: YOU HAVE SOME WORK TO DO. I think that we can all do better when it comes to giving feedback and open communication to the job seeker. (***)

To myself: STAY POSITIVE, CONTINUE TO BUILD AND UPDATE YOUR RESUME, AND DON’T GET TOO UPSET. Humans beings can’t help but feel  down or a little angry when things don’t work out. Haley tells me and our sons this all the time: it is OK to feel your feelings and in this case she is once again right. Overall, I feel pretty good where I am at despite this job hunt not ending up with the Hoenke family living and wandering around New Zealand.

So what is happening right now? Here are a few projects and ideas that are very exciting to me.

It is time to remedy the low salaries at my library. As I said above, being poor is difficult and a major stress on an individual and a family. My situation is where I did not think I would be at age 37 as a library director and a husband and father: educated, employed, qualified, and in the prime adult stage of my life but having to rely on food stamps and paycheck to paycheck to stay alive. I’ve dove into the PA State Library data from 2016 to look at salaries and see where we are when measured against others of similar sizes. I’ve already met once with some members of our finance committee to discuss this and once budget season comes up we can discuss this in more detail.

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Imagine all of these bushes gone and in their place lots of beautiful flowers, bees, and butterflies.

It is spring and pretty soon summer will be here. These months bring birds chirping in the air, vegetables and plants growing, bees in the borage, and so much other natural joy to the world. At the Benson Memorial Library, we are also planning a pollinator garden on the side of the library. It is going to be BEAUTIFUL.

As tough as it has been to restore and build Fidelia Hall, we will continue to make progress on all of our projects. Much like the garden project I mentioned above, I can see that our family future this summer being one where we work on and enjoy the gardens of Fidelia Hall as much as possible. We remain committed to transforming our land into a place that produces beautiful vegetables and flowers. We welcome bees, butterflies, birds, and all sorts of nature into our living space. This will be our 4th summer in our home and each year has brought many beautiful surprises as we’ve let it grow all around us. Eventually, we’ll get the money we need to finish up things in the hall. Right now, we need to get the funds to put in water lines and finish wiring the space for electricity. Good things come to those who wait.

Thank you to everyone who read this series. For now, this is the last piece in the A New Career In A New Town series, but if I ever look for another job in the future I’ll be sure to continue this series.

(***): Yeah, I know my words were harsh and if you read them you probably thought “why in the hell would I hire this guy?”. That’s OK. I’ve made my peace with the fact that anything that anyone says, especially on the internet, can and will be used against a person at some time in the future. All that I can say is that my words/thoughts/actions are always coming from an honest and pure place. I’m not trying to hurt anyone. I’m just trying to ruffle up some action in order to promote change. In 99% of every situation that has ever existed on Earth, this kind of behavior is looked down upon because human beings crave order and want to keep things the same. I think we have a lot to fix and in order to do so have to ruffle up some action. I’m just doing my little part in an area that I think could use some change. Thank you.

 

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A New Career In A New Town, Libraries

A New Career In a New Town: Communication Between Employers and Job Seekers

I so very much enjoyed writing my last post titled A New Career In A New Town: Librarians On The Move and I really loved the conversation that it generated so what I’m gonna do is start up a new category on this website focused on all things job hunting, moving, and growth as a librarian. And with that, here we go.

COMMUNICATION is something we always need to keep open. I understand that sometimes it is hard to do so. Sometimes there are layers to an organization or group which makes communication difficult. Sometimes it is difficult to deliver the bad news to someone who has applied for a job. There are many things that can make communication between a potential employee and a library looking to fill a position difficult, but no matter the situation communication should always be timely, open, and clear.

An employer who is looking to hire someone should be checking their inbox (or snail mail) at least once a day for new resumes/cover letters. When an employer gets something from a job seeker, they should send them an email/letter back letting the job seeker know that they have received their application and would be getting back to them by a certain date.

This is an excerpt from an email I received 5 minutes after sending in my resume and cover letter for a job opening.

What you see above is an excerpt from an email I received 5 minutes after emailing my resume and cover letter to an employer looking to hire someone confirming that they got my application. Getting this email back from an employer will do something amazing for the job seeker: it cuts down on the stress and anxiety that usually comes with applying for a new job. Let’s face it: finding a great job that inspires you, applying for that job, playing the waiting game, and to top it all off doing the interview thing is tough stuff on a human being. There’s so much excitement, worry, and anticipation with this song and dance. Anything that an employer can do to make it a less stressful experience for the job seeker is welcome. Remember, there are two sides to this employment story. Someone needs a job so that they can live, but at the same time you need a candidate who is not only qualified but full of energy, ready to tackle the work ahead.

This is an excerpt from an email I received 5 minutes after sending in my resume and cover letter for a job opening. (1)

What you see above is an example of how not to do communication with someone who has applied for a job at your organization. First and foremost, the “we got your resume and cover letter” email came SEVEN days after applying. Those seven days were spent worrying “did my email get lost in the internet?” and also “well when is it an acceptable time to email them back?”. This is a stressful game to be playing in your head as a job seeker, and potential employers should try to help minimize this stress. Digging deeper, we see a 24 day lack of communication from the potential employer to the job seeker after they had an interview. Remember that it is OK to say to the job seeker that, while we enjoyed our interview with you the organization has decided to pursue another path.  This is not the easiest thing to say but it helps the job seeker move on and attempt to find another job that they can apply to and focus their energy on.

Open and honest communication between an employer and a job seeker starts off a potential relationship in a good way.. This kind of approach to hiring and job seeking does two things:

  1. It allows the employer to better understand who the job seeker actually is and where they are coming from.
  2. It minimizes the stress and anxiety on the job seeker, which allows them to give the employer a better interview and idea of the kind of person that they are.

Stress and anxiety can change a person drastically. Think of minimizing or eliminating the typical stress and anxiety of the job hunt/interview as a way for you to get the best possible fit for your organization.

 

 

Benson Memorial Library, Libraries, Library Director

Library Stuff That I Am Proud Of

I don’t blog much about what I’ve been up to at the Benson Memorial Library because every time I sit down to do it everything ends up sounding so boring that what I was up to in libraries in the past. I mean, what can top The 2nd Floor at the Chattanooga Public Library? We had a freakin’ arcade there!

When it comes to being a library director, my life is very different than it was when I was involved in Youth Services yet at the same time there is a whiff of familiarity in this job. No matter what I’m doing in libraries, I find that the common thread that connects everything is that I am advocating constantly for services for our community members. That’s really the core of it all….trying to get a safe and fun spot for teens is the same as figuring out a way to get my employees better pay and benefits. No matter what I’m doing, the end goal is always to make the community where I live a stronger place.

All of this hit me when I was putting together our yearly fund drive. You’ll see the end result of that work in the two images at the top of this post. While I was in Chattanooga I learned a lot about the value of the numbers we collect and how they help tell our story to the community. Our numbers at the Benson Memorial Library so far this year (Jan 1-Aug 31) blew me a way so I shared those with our community. It was great to finally send out these Patron Fund Drive letters last week and I look forward to seeing what the community thinks about the Benson Memorial Library once they read up on what we’ve done recently.

Here’s a few other things that we’ve done that I am most proud of. It may not be as fancy as getting a 3D printer in the library or something like that, but I think that the work we’ve done here so far is pretty awesome and I sure am proud of it.

  • June 2015-August 2016: 82058 items have been circulated
  • January-September 28 2016: 40698 visitors to the library
  • June 2015-Present: 313 free events held at the library
  • Renovated the front steps: The sandstone steps were in dire need of repair, and this summer we did just that; we not only got them fixed, but we made some repairs to them that will help them last for many more years.
  • Weeded the entire collection (yes, all of it) in order to reorganize most of the library and give the shelves space so that we can update our collection to fit the needs of the community today.
  • Got some grants to help with quite a few things: building improvement, Youth Services, programming, and more.
  • Updated most if not all of the library policies
  • Updated our Employee Personnel Policy and got 2 months maternity/paternity leave for employees.
  • Decreased our yearly health care costs by $5000-$8000 and increased benefits for the individuals on our plan (they went from a $500 deductible down to a $0 deductible)
  • Kind of sort of restarted the Friends of the Library group (it’s a long story, but we’re getting there very slowly) and ran 3 successful book sales.
  • Hired 3 new employees (two youth services folks, one all purpose staff member who I’m hoping will become our future local history guru)
  • I was asked to join two boards: Titusville Regional Literacy Council and the Titusville Senior Center. These help the library keep in touch with two key demographics and gives us a great chance to work with these organizations to make sure we are helping out everyone in our community.
Libraries, Technology

Hire awesome people, make rad stuff

Yesterday I was reading Breaking Up With Libraries by Nina McHale.  I had a few thoughts.  First and foremost, I was bummed that our profession was losing such an amazing and talented person.  Nina has done amazing work for libraries and she will be sorely missed in this field.  Secondly, this one passage of Nina’s hit me really hard:

Also in the mix is my general frustration with library technology. We pay BILLIONS to ILS and other vendors each year, and for what? Substandard products with interfaces that a mother would kick to the curb. We throw cash at databases because they have the periodical content our clients need locked up inside them, and over a decade after the failure that was federated searching, we STILL do not have an acceptable product that provides a user-friendly interface and makes managing the data behind the scenes as easy as it needs to be for library staff. – See more at: http://ninermac.net/breaking-up-with-libraries#sthash.F7Wn43FP.dpu

 

I had been thinking about this same thing for the past few years when I made an attempt to look into a digital product for teens.  My thoughts with that product were:

1) Wow, I don’t know any teens that would use this.
2) Wow, this is so expensive and there is no way I could ever afford this.
3) Wow, this product has such horrible design.

The outcome?  I did not buy that product.

It was not until a few days ago that while under the influence of Nina’s post and seeing the amazing work that Dan Eveland (Web Developer, Chattanooga Public Library) and Mary Barnett (Social Media Manager, Library) did on the Chattanooga Public Library website that I had it hit me: we really need to start investing in employees who can make amazing things that do what we want them to do.

CHAWebsite
The calender over at chattlibrary.org. Made by Dan Eveland and Mary Barnett. It looks great and the back end (where we do our work) is easy to use and well put together.

Like these calendars, databases, and whatever else that we buy from vendors, hiring awesome people to build stuff just for us is an investment. Sometimes your investment may not work out.  But don’t think about that.  You can always try again.  But what if the investment in awesome people works out?  You get awesome things that were built for what you need them for.

Made by Dan Eveland and Mary Barnett with input and ideas from myself. I think it turned out pretty awesome.

A good example is the website you see above, teens.chattlibrary.org.  About one month ago, the team started talking about what we wanted to do with this site.  We got some ideas and Dan put up a template and we slowly worked on it.  Mary gave the project a deadline and said “let’s get this done” so all last week we put our hardhats on and did it.  Dan and Mary built teens.chattlibrary.org to reflect what I thought teens would be looking for: quick awesome tidbits of information, news of big things going on for teens at the library, a hub for the Teen Advisory Board (TAB), and a contact page.  All built with Drupal on The 4th Floor in about one month by some amazingly talented people on the Chattanooga Public Library team.  The best part?  It’s works super well, is easy to manage, and it is exactly what I was hoping for with the teen site.  Another great part?  If it needs fixed or modified, I only have to head up two floors to talk to Dan and Mary and it’s done.

Hiring awesome people to help you realize your library dreams?  To me, that’s the way forward.  Not only do you get amazing products that you can actually use for what you want, but you get to surround yourself and the library staff with talented and kind people who contribute to the positive vibe of the community.  A win in every area.