Idea Share, Libraries, Library Director, Life, Management

Management Style (Version 2.0)

IMG_0109
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.

Advertisements
3D printing, Libraries, Life

Library Stuff

I should write about libraries even though…

We got a 3D printer and some other fun technology at my library recently. We also got some awesome chairs and other neat things that really make the library smile a bit more. But I can’t help but thinking that all this stuff is meaningless and that the point where libraries make the most impact is in the day to day interactions we have with our community. What I enjoy the most these days is seeing the positive interactions our staff has with the community. So much great stuff can happen at the circulation desk. It is really what decides whether the community comes back in or not. Now don’t get me wrong…having a 3D printer or something else that is shiny and new is good as well, but I don’t think it should be the focus…of both our community library and our professional library conversations. I want more focus in our profession on how to we can be better human beings to each other. The problem is that “Be Nice to Each Other” and “Have Meaningful Conversations” are not headline grabbing stories or think pieces that people want to read, nor are they things that you should be reading…they are things you should be doing.

Maybe that’s why I don’t wanna write about libraries as much anymore. Writing what happened when you are nice to other human beings isn’t the same as actually experiencing a positive interaction. I could wear a smartphone around my neck like a necklace and use Periscope all day. That would be interesting.

I think librarians shouldn’t look up to librarians. I think we all  should look somewhere else for our inspiration. When we look up to each other what happens is something I think of as incestual inspiration. “OMG, ______ Library is doing this program with their community we need to do it!” and then so on and so forth until we’re all doing it. A truly beautiful library is one that is a reflection of its surroundings, not a cookie cutter of another library.

When I wanna think about something new, I’ve been using MixCloud (specifically these tracks) to help inspire me. I think about the structure and the form of these DJ mixes. The way that the songs ebb and flow into each other really warm my heart. The transition from one song to another is an important part of these mixes and when done correctly they can increase my energy level. They inspire me to think about the structure and pacing of our programs and services at the library. I don’t have a second chance to do things in the library and I want to make the most of this moment. The music fills my soul and bends my brain and out comes something that I think is unique to my community. Bend and break and twist and smoosh. Go left inside of right. Don’t listen to me. Put on TUSK by Fleetwood Mac instead and go batshit crazy letting that guitar riff into your heart. Then come up with a program for your library that is unlike anything and that fits your community.

3D printing, Chattanooga Public Library, Libraries, Technology, Teens

Community Engagement Projects in United States Public Libraries by Frances Tout

Screenshot-1

Everyone needs a pick me up and some inspiration from time to time, and Frances Tout report titled Travelling Librarian 2015: Community Engagement Projects in United States Public Libraries (for a pdf of the report click here) was that inspiration for me today. I was originally pointed to it by a colleague who said “hey, part of your work at the 2nd Floor at the Chattanooga Public Library is mentioned in this piece.” It was super nice to read about the positive experience Frances had during her visit to the 2nd Floor. I was and remain very proud of that place. It was a great chapter in my life! Much love to Lee Hope, Vicki Prater, Kaye Rose, Olga Russell, Janice Keene, LaDonna Spruill, Ali Banks, Jessie Meyer, Alondra Gomez, Victoria Caldwell, Megan Emery, and many, many others that helped build the 2nd Floor and make it what it is today. It is really neat to see all of that work live on.

Screenshot.png
Thanks for the kind words Frances!  🙂

The big takeaways I got from this excellent report were as follows:

  • The emphasis (in US Libraries) is now very much on programming rather than stock.
  • Every library’s community is different, engaging with communities and meeting the needs of individual communities is vital, there is no one size fits all when it comes to programming

It’s great to read these things when you’re in the middle of them. It reaffirms the work that we do and why we do it.

Follow Frances Tout on Twitter @francestout
Read more from Travelling Librarian 2015 @ the blog

Libraries, MAKE!, Teens

Buttons, buttons everywhere

Photo Jun 11, 4 11 16 PM

Putting a button maker in teen library and making it available all of the hours that we are open has been one of the neatest things to watch.  At first, there’s curiosity   The tweens and teens see it and go…”Hmm, what could this be.” They wander up to it, move it around, and that’s where the librarian comes in…

Photo Jun 19, 12 27 33 PM

WANNA LEARN HOW TO MAKE A BUTTON? That’s my standard line. I always say it with a smile.  The teens get a bit more curious.  I jump in, take them step by step through the process, and BOOM!  I’ve made a button.

Photo Jun 10, 4 15 35 PM (1)

 

And after they see the button that I’ve made, they want to make one.  And after they’ve made their first button, they want to make at least 5-10 more.  This is awesome.

I cannot wait for school to start and these tweens and teens have put the buttons that they’ve made at the library all over their jackets and book bags.  I cannot wait for their friends, who are obviously wanting cool buttons of their own, to ask them where they got their buttons and then for the tweens and teens to say “AT THE LIBRARY!”.