photo of a dollar bill folded into a heart shape

Creative Commons LicenseThomas Hawk

 

 

Do we work in libraries for love, money, or both?

The Billfold shared a financial interview with an academic librarian today. “Dave” drops some real talk about financial incentives for librarians to move into management:

Generally speaking, the only way to get a significant raise in my field is to move into management, and most people who want to be librarians don’t want to manage anybody.

Once I decided that I was willing to be some kind of manager, the field suddenly looked really different to me.

We know librarians’ motivations for becoming managers are diverse, because we love to ask library leaders what brought them into management. For Jon Cawthorne, it was a conscious determination to become a leader. Paul Gallagher took a management role to serve his organization. Jessica Jones stepped into an interim role after her director retired. Many librarians join management because they want to see things change for the better, and a leadership position offers the platform to make things happen.

These are all motivations that inspire many library leaders, but Dave is right that there’s a financial motivation to move into management. Like many of my colleagues, I didn’t go to library school with the intention to become a boss. After graduating, however, student loan payments made an offer that included supervisory responsibilities seem very hard to turn down. I had also developed strong opinions about efficient workflows, and supervising was a chance to make change a reality.

Dave also describes a common career path for entering librarianship:

I absolutely stumbled into being a librarian. I had an hourly job in the campus library when I was an undergrad.

I discovered that my university had a library school — before that I didn’t know that you had to get a specific degree to be a librarian.

Many librarians entered the field because of part-time jobs as a page or student worker. Knowing this, experienced librarians can begin mentor people in these entry level positions. Helping entry level library workers see the possibilities of information careers is a great strategy for diversifying the profession. As Matt Church says in The Power of Shelvers, “The library shelver you hire today may one day be a youth librarian, corporate librarian or even a library director!”

Check out the full interview on the Billfold to understand Dave’s decision to become a library manager, and then let us know: how did your career path begin? What would incentivize you to consider a position with greater managerial responsibilities?

During the dark gloomy winter months in the Midwest, I often need to seek out a dose of inspiration to keep my innovative juices bubbling. No website has served me better than TED to provide a much needed spark. The talks given by the experts featured in the hundreds of TED videos have not only acted as a catalyst to make me a better innovator, but have also become powerful tools in my mission to inspire innovation. A recent online article on Inc. listed nine TED Talks leaders can use to kickstart creativity that has become a valuable resource when I am stuck in a rut. Two of the videos on the list are ones I regularly use when presenting on innovation and leadership!

Bookmark this list to use for the times you need a kickstart.

 

photo of Vanessa MorrisVanessa Morris is the Assistant Library Director and Braille and Talking Book Librarian at Taylor Community Library. She founded the Library Access Foundation, which supports public libraries in serving people with print impairments. Follow her on Twitter: @Nessa_Morris.

You’ve been in multiple library leadership positions, including at a specialized library for people with vision impairments. Can you tell us about your career path and your current role?

Short Version: Library Assistant → Youth Services Librarian → Small Public Library Director → Library for the Blind Director → Large Public Library Assistant Director / Braille & Talking Book Librarian

Long version: I was hired as a Youth Services Librarian within a few months of getting my M.L.I.S. A few years later, I became director of the River Rouge branch of Wayne County Library in Michigan.

In part because of my interest in technology, I was offered the position of  director of Wayne County Regional Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped. Services for people with vision impairments, like the rest of the world, are moving to an increasingly virtual environment. Refreshable braille is my favorite technological invention so far.

After Wayne County Library sadly bit the dust, I began working with Taylor Community Library (TCL), also in Michigan. TCL has generously allowed me to help establish a new Braille and Talking Books program that serves residents in Wayne County.

What skills or competencies do you see as important for library leadership?

Communication skills are vital. Budget cuts and program cuts happen when you aren’t around to stand up for your library. Always be present, and make sure to listen and think about what people say.

Librarians are often wordy people thinking a million thoughts a minute due to all the exciting knowledge our brains come across and that we want to share with non-librarians, but non-librarians, which includes many politicians and library board members, don’t always want to spend time pondering the mysteries of the library universe. They rely on library experts to relay pertinent information needed for them to make decisions about the future of libraries, and sometimes our messages get lost in our attempts to provide detailed information (i.e., don’t be wordy).

In summary, be present, be attentive, and be brief.

When the future of the Wayne County Braille and Talking Book Library was uncertain, you founded a nonprofit organization, the Library Access Foundation. What inspired you to take this step?

Service to people with disabilities has become a passion of mine. Everyone has a right to use public library materials. Libraries are great at providing materials, but not always so good at making sure people can use the provided materials, especially at smaller libraries where resources may be more limited. I wanted a way to support public libraries with providing accessible services after Wayne County Library closed.

After talking with a few former colleagues and patrons, I worked with them to establish Library Access Foundation (LAF)t, which could continue to provide minimal services no matter where I personally ended up. You can find out more about our projects at LibraryAccess.org.

What have been your successes with LAF so far? Lessons learned?

Photo of woman using a walker with a basketMy first success was the purchase of a walker with a basket for the use of patrons at Taylor Community Library. I happened to be at the library the first time a patron used the walker. For me, it was exciting that a Foundation I helped establish was able to provide something useful. The woman who used the walker felt like a celebrity when I took her picture to add to the library’s website.

As for lessons learned, establishing and administering a foundation is a long process. Make sure you plan ahead, break items into manageable steps, and delegate. You cannot manage an organization on your own. People need a shared vision and that requires communication.

What’s your library leadership philosophy?

Be practical and use common sense. Also, be your own customer. My daughter is a excellent loser of library books, and it’s a humbling experience to pay your co-worker for a lost book. I highly recommend trying everything your library has to offer from the patron perspective, including losing a book.

Then, use a common sense approach to figure out how your library can make experiences less humbling and less threatening, especially to a person who has never used a library before. Libraries can be scary places for non-users.

How is leadership different in the nonprofit environment than in a traditional library?

In my personal experience, the main difference has been lack of a paid staff for the nonprofit, but I’ve only been directing a nonprofit less than a year. At this point, we’re all volunteers with a shared vision.

I’m sure that a larger nonprofit would have more differences, but LAF is a small recently established foundation. We’re still getting our feet wet in the nonprofit world.

How can library leaders broaden access to library resources for people with vision challenges?

library patron seated at video magnifier

Video magnifier in Taylor Community Library Assistive Technology Lab

Experience your library from the patron’s perspective. Put on vaseline-smeared glasses and try to use your library. What do you find most frustrating? How can you fix it?

Some easy changes to make: Put large print stickers on computer keyboards. Position screens away from glare. Use large print with high-contrast on signs and fliers.

Other changes may be more expensive, but you can look for partner organizations like Lions Clubs or Rotary. Video magnifiers enable low-vision patrons to see photos or diagrams in print books more clearly than magnifying glasses. Screen reader software can be purchased on a USB-drive, so it can be used with any library computer, rather than a dedicated workstation.

Send staff to events specializing in services to people with vision impairments, regardless of whether they’re library-related or not.

What are the most exciting projects you have on the horizon, either with LAF or Taylor Community Library?

The new “Braille & Talking Books @ Taylor Community Library” grand opening celebration is tentatively scheduled for early April. Information about the celebration will be posted on TCL’s website in March.

LAF volunteers are evaluating assistive devices in order to create Library Access Boxes (LABs) to distribute to nearby libraries in order to help patrons with low vision.

Any words of wisdom for aspiring library leaders?

Whether we want to or not, librarians to engage with politicians.Politicians often decide the fate of your library. Do you really want uninformed politicians making decisions? Educate them.

Politicians should be patrons of your library. If they’re not, figure out why, and get them library cards. Don’t wait until an emergency. Make sure your local and state politicians understand, not just the governance, but the services your library provides to their constituents.

"Everyone has a right to use public library materials." Image of hand on book set in Braille.

Photo of globes on a shelf in the Portland Central Library

Globes in the Portland Central Library. Photo by flickr user Another Believer

Reignite your wanderlust with a peek at the International Librarians Network (ILN), a group that connects peer librarians across the globe for a two-way sharing experience.

Sign up now to be connected with a librarian from another part of the world. You’ll exchange emails, and (if your schedules are compatible) talk on the phone or video chat. ILN suggests weekly topics to help keep conversation flowing.

The last time I signed up for ILN, I was partnered with Claire Sewell from the UK. Our email exchanges were great – we bonded over lack of shelf space and talked about our dreams for career advancement. It was really cool to develop a connection with a librarian I wouldn’t normally have a chance to meet in person.

This program is an excellent reminder that a library career is not incompatible with glamorous international travel. I love hearing about colleagues traveling to conferences like IFLA (in Singapore this summer) and ECIL (in Istanbul next month). Connecting with a librarian in a different country is also a great way to consider what elements in our career transcend geographical and cultural differences, and what about library work might be influenced locally.

Sign up by February 14 to join the upcoming cycle of international connectivity.

LL&F Year in Review

Kevin King —  January 25, 2016 — Leave a comment

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2015 annual report for Library Lost & Found. The past year was incredible! Thanks to all our readers and great contributors. We hope to bring you more helpful content in 2016.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 36,000 times in 2015. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 13 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.