Libraries, Management

Three Things You May Not Know About Your Manager/Library Director

It is so bizarre for me to vocalize this, but coming up in June I will have been a library director for 3 years. When I accepted this job, I knew that I was up for challenge and I was pretty sure I could do it. Three years into it I can say that I’ve enjoyed parts of it, loathed some of it, and have realized that I’m still not 100% sure that I can do it. One of the other things that I’ve learned along the way is what it feels like to be a manger/library director. I’ve worked for two really great directors in the past and one not so great and for each of them I always wondered what was going on in their head. Their ideas and decisions always made me so curious. Why did this make this decision? Why did they side with this person and not that person? Where do they think the library is headed? I always tried to understand things but in the moments I didn’t have a full picture so there’s no way I could understand it at all.

But now that I’ve been a director myself I can understand the fuller picture of being a manager/library director. I know that there’s a lot going on and that there are many complex thoughts, ideas, and emotions behind everything. While these three things I’ve learned may not apply to every manager/library director in the world, I’d like to think that they do apply to most of them out there.

No Matter What You Think, I Can Confirm That Your Library Director/Manager Has A Soul

Your manager/library director told you “no” or didn’t side with your input in a situation. This has all happened to us. In my opinion, the best directors always say yes or let you run with your wildest idea, but in some cases they say no. Hearing no or not having your input considered is tough. I’ve been through it many times and each time afterwards I have always had a day or two where I was down in the dumps, thinking that my manager/library director would always be against me or was simply out to destroy everything that I came up with. Boy was I wrong.

From my experience, I believe that no matter what the situation is that every library director out there is trying to think of the best possible solution for every issue that arises. While you may not agree with the end result, I can tell you that your preferred outcome was at least considered. A good manager and library director considers all sides of the story. For the things I’ve done and changed around at the Benson Memorial Library it has always been me pondering every possible side of the story for a few weeks and then once I’ve done that coming to a conclusion that best fits the needs of the library (we’ll get to the library and its needs soon enough). I’m not out to get anyone, I’m not out to give anyone a bad day, and you should know that I’m always thinking of the best possible way forward for everyone.

Your Library Director/Manager Is Thinking Of You

The best library directors and managers are always thinking of their employees. Y’all may not agree on every step of the way, but through the ups and downs I can confirm that they are thinking of you. They’re thinking about where you’re at and where you’re going. You may feel like you and your manager/library director don’t have a connection, but you do. A good library director has a connection with every single one of their employees. It may be small, sometimes almost non-existent, or it may be a bigger connection, but in all cases there should be some kind of connection. No library director or manager wants to make an individuals life miserable or tough. I believe that at our core all of us human beings are looking out for each other, and managers and library directors are the same.

Your Library Director Has To Look Out For The Library First

This is the one big one that I have learned. I believe it was Corinne Hill who told me that her first responsibility as a Director was that she had to look out for the present and future of the library as a whole at all times. Up until that point, I didn’t realize that “the library” was another employee that the library director/manager had to look out for. The library wasn’t just a ethereal thing to the library director…it was a living breathing organism who needed the utmost care and attention. Its existence was greatly depended upon not only by the people it employed, but the entire community.

With that in mind, I’ve come to understand that my first big job as a library director is to look out for the library as a whole. I need to maintain that heating system. I need to update our windows. I need to make sure we have a well rounded collection covers all of the different kind of information that our community needs. I need to make sure that the staff are trained and are doing their work. I need to make sure I lead in a positive and community first way. All of these things, when lumped and smooshed together, are best summed up in the phrase the library director needs to look out for the library as a whole first and foremost. When the manager/library director looks out for the whole of the library, everything that I mentioned above and much, much more can hum along nicely.

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Benson Memorial Library, Libraries, Life, Titusville, PA

Smart Communities by Suzanne W. Morse

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I just started reading Smart Communities by Suzanne W. Morse as part of a local book group here in Titusville, PA and I have to say that I am really enjoying how this book is making me consider my place in the community and to also think about where things are headed.

I decided it would be silly not to share my notes from my reading and the book group with a larger group of people because even though we’re talking about Titusville PA, these ideas and discussions can be applied to pretty much anywhere else. We are really all in this together and a lot of us are facing similar obstacles. My hope is that in opening up what I am learning through this book and the group someone can pull something from this to hopefully help them in their own community. Here goes…

“Small cities connect to other small cities to create a regional presence”
This line stood out to me in my first read through of Chapter 1. When I think about community, I first and foremost think about the place where I live and largely forget about another town that may be 15-20 mile away. I don’t believe that I am trying to leave other areas out intentionally but this sentence has given me more awareness to include those others areas. While their town may not be my town, collectively we all make up a region. If we view ourselves as a region, perhaps that can strengthen the communities all around us.

Another thing that was brought up was that there are lots of great things are happening through our local organizations, but there is not a unifying connection at the top. Who becomes that unifying connection? And that’s a good question to ask! When I was thinking about it, I came to the realization that this unifying connection would most likely be in the form of a person, someone who specifically acts as a community connector. In the past, I’d gladly nominate the library to be this but now that I have had years to think about it I see that it would take proper funding and preparation to do so. Does your community have someone who is in a paid position that acts as a “community connector” whose job it is to organize what everyone is doing at all levels (government, non-profit, education, etc) and communicate those clearly to everyone?

What is the way in which Titusville PA wants to move forward?
We have all of the elements that people want in their town: small town feel, everyone knows everyone, a large amount of pride in who we are and where we came from, and great schools and neighbors. But how can we get people here when there are not many jobs for those looking? How can we connect what we have to the modern world?

In thinking about this, I have come to my own answer: high speed internet. After seeing what 1GB (and now they’re up to 10GB) fiber internet did for Chattanooga TN I am convinced that very similar things could happen in any region that attempted something similar. Like it or not, I believe that high speed internet and access to all things digital is our generation’s industrial revolution. This stuff is important. It connects us to anyone around the world at the click of a button and allows us to accomplish work that before we didn’t think was imaginable. In my own life, it has sent me to New Zealand, Australia, Germany, and so many other places around the USA. When it comes to opportunities and jobs that high speed internet can create, in my eyes there is nothing quite like it. Digital Assistants and working from home could become a big thing around here if we had high speed internet. Jobs would be created, and people who are looking for communities to live in like Titusville, PA would then be more attracted to move here and stay here.

How do you deal with apathy towards your town? A good point was brought up during our group that so many people ask “why would you want to live here?” when they should already be aware of the great things our community offers. Apathy towards your community is something that happens everywhere. It is easy to get bogged down in the day-to-day rumblings and gossip and lose track of the bigger picture. How can we all deal with apathy in our communities and turn the conversations towards the positive? I know this is something that I think about a lot and am always working on. I try to be positive and forward thinking in all of the things I am involved in with the hope that will rub off on someone and cause them to start framing things in a positive light.

To end, I would like to bring up this quote that someone (Leah Carter?) brought up in the meeting. “Titusville is not in the middle of nowhere…Titusville is in the middle of everywhere”. I love this because it does just what I said above: it is positive and forward thinking and I believe it helps re-frame our conversations. And it is true! Titusville is around 1.5-2 hours away from Pittsburgh, Cleveland, and Buffalo, and we are about 1 hour away from Erie. It is a great place to live and get away from all of the big city hub-bub, yet at the same time close enough that you could enjoy a day or a long weekend away in the city.

 

Libraries, Teens

THREE LIBRARY THINGS

I want passion! I want excitement! I want bold and inspiring statements and ideas from human beings! This month, Library Journal delivered in THREE ways. Here they are. Read them, share them, and be inspired to be a great positive force in your world.

Adversary or Ally? The trouble with fines and fees by Rebecca T. Miller

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COPY AND PASTE all text by Rebecca because this is very important: Ultimately, we must reflect upon our bond with the people libraries are designed to serve. Interactions with patrons can become about the fine or fee, instead of the need addressed by the service. This risks turning librarians and clerks into cops and collection agents and diverting backroom capacity to fee and fine maintenance. In the process, it can set up an adversarial relationship between the library and its users rather than forging an alliance that supports a vibrant interchange. I vote for the library as ally rather than as adversary. Read the full article here. Good job Rebecca.

Barbie Bod Mods by Lisa Mudrakoff and Sasha Schertzer

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A program that is not only FUN but a program that engages youth and gets them to think is a library program that I love and want to sing about from the rooftops.

Over the course of the program, we witnessed participants building a community of young people from all over the city, with relationships developing naturally as the teens worked on their dolls side by side. Some older teens, still working through their own identities, nevertheless found themselves mentoring the younger teens as they talked about their questions and struggles.

FANTASTIC JOB Lisa and Sasha. Read the full article here.

Speak of the Devil by Michael Stephens

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The term devil’s advocate is defined as a role meant to encourage discussion of an issue from all sides by taking an unpopular approach. However, I fear it’s become something different. Many have come to understand that when we say “play devil’s advocate,” it’s a passive-aggressive way of bringing a point up without it looking like it’s our own. Same goes for those who blanket their opinions with, “Others are saying this about that….”

Michael is spot on here (he usually is with his ideas. I enjoy him very much). Don’t be the person that brings negativity into an otherwise healthy situation. I believe in debate and discussion and openness, but it doesn’t have to happen all of the time. Roll with the positive.

 

 

 

Chattanooga, TN, Family

Finn and The Dentist

He's pretty awesome
He’s pretty awesome

I used to write about my family, music, and other things on this blog a lot more in the past, but in the last few years I’ve focused solely on library stuff. I’ve been wanting to get back to opening it up to other topics for a few months now and this moment just seems like the perfect time to do that.

My son Finn has had a pretty rough history with the dentist. When he was 1.5 years old, he had to go into the out patient clinic to have four teeth capped. The poor dude has some iffy genetics when it comes to teeth, so it was not something he could’ve avoided. Oh well. That’s life. He’s had to go back and forth to the dentist for cleanings/checkups since then and it’s never been that much fun for him. When something like that happens to you when you’re a little dude, it stays with you.

When we moved to Chattanooga this past April we quickly got him set up with a new dentist. Knowing that he most likely had some cavities in his molars (yikes!) we wanted to take care of it. We had an appointment to get him used to the dentist about a month ago but it just didn’t work out….he didn’t want to have any of it and the trip instead became an opportunity to show him how cool the dentist could be (and trust me, the dentist here is pretty cool. They have movies, toys, video games, and ICE CREAM). He was pretty cool with the idea of going back. Note: the dentist also gave us a prescription for Demerol to help take the edge off. Hey, don’t we all need that sometimes?

This week, Finn and I made the trek back to the dentist. I went back with him, reminded him about the video games and then quietly made my way back to the lobby and let him do his thing with the dentist and his assistants. I gave him the option to do what he wanted back there and I was pretty impressed with the results:

Not only did Finn get his teeth cleaned, but he also got X-Rays and gave the dentist a chance to see exactly what we need to do with his teeth (summary? lots of work and braces to come).

He also gave the dentist’s office a taste of his personality (this is what really impressed me). He told the whole office how digestion works (I use my teeth to chew the food, it then goes down my esophagus and into my belly and then I poop it out), recited the entire opening to Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope, and negotiated with the dental hygienists to get to sit in the chair how he wanted to (I didn’t want to lie down, I wanted to sit up like a big kid).

To sum it up: I’m proud of him for overcoming his fears, getting what needed to be done finished, and doing it his way.

Libraries

Balance in the Library

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I had this brief conversation with a friend a few days ago and it got me thinking about how librarians spend their time at work.

It is a very good thing to be on the public desk.  You get to interact with your community.  You get firsthand knowledge of the kind of things they want to see happen in the library.

On the flip side  it can be tiring to spend all of your time with the public.  They have a lot of questions.  They enjoy chatting with you.  This is all great but sometimes everybody needs a little time away.

It is a very good thing to be in your office to think, plan, scheme, and put the gears in place to make important things move forward.  You have time to reflect, listen, and get stuff done.

On the flip side  it can be so easy to just stay inside your office all day and not deal with the public.  It can be comforting to not have to deal with any situations that arise in the library.  It can be nice to live in a world full of planning, hopes, and dreams.  It can be safe.

My solution: always put balance at the front of your mind.  If you have the ability to structure your own schedule, split it evenly down the line 50/50.  If you don’t, talk to your supervisor about the benefits to working this way.  If you’re in charge…put this plan into action!

A balanced work life will both increase creativity and the the quality of interactions with your community.

Books, ebooks, Libraries

Ebooks, again

Every blog post should have a good image. I don't have a good image for ebooks, so this sloth will have to do. They're really neat animals. Carol Schaffer took this picture, and you can find the original picture here: http://goo.gl/eQX0A

Now that Penguin has pulled out of lending ebooks to libraries, that leaves 2 of the 5 big publishers left in the library lending ebook game.

I don’t know about you, but the whole situation depresses me.  It’s not because there are less and less ebooks and not many way other ways to get ebooks into libraries, but because it feels like every time something happens in regards to ebooks and libraries, the same thing happens over and over again.  People involved with libraries recommend that you:

  • Cancel your subscription to Overdrive
  • Quit buying physical books from these publishers
  • Write the publishers and voice your concern
  • Talk to your patrons about what the publishers are doing
  • BoycottTweet/Blog/+1/Facebook a lot about it

And I’m not saying that any of these things are wrong.  I’m a firm believer in people doing whatever they feel is best for them to do at that moment in time.  But it all just feels like we’ve had these discussions before and it’s led to…the same thing happening.

I don’t have a clear answer of what libraries should be doing, but what I keep coming back to is this: The ebook wars have given us an excellent opportunity to forever change the idea of what a library means.  Long before ebooks came along, we were doing so much more for our patrons (reference, the library as a space, programming) but we were still known as the “place where all of the books are”.  Now that we can’t have ebooks, we can work towards getting rid of that stereotype.  We can change our image to include everything we do: we provide space, we make stuff, we inspire people, and we lend out a lot of neat things.

To me, this is a beautiful way forward.

SOURCES OF INSPIRATION: