What’s your POV?

photo credit: kennymatic via photopin cc

photo credit: kennymatic via photopin cc

I’m a big fan of the Food Network. One of my favorite shows on that channel is “Food Network Star.” They take chefs – both professional and amateur – and put them through all kinds of challenges, and the last chef standing at the end of the season gets their own show on Food Network. Point of view is one of the biggest parts of becoming the next Food Network Star. The contestants need to have a food point of view (Vegetarian? Seafood? Healthy cooking?), and they also need to be able to articulate that point of view.

Librarians, too, should have a point of view that we can articulate clearly. For example, youth librarians with a particular interest in early literacy should be able to talk succinctly about teaching children to read, cite statistics on literacy rates, and provide literacy programming ideas. Business librarians should be able to use a variety of sources for business research, demonstrate business databases, and interpret business data and reports.

As a public librarian, I am very much a generalist. I do a little collection management, a little reference and reader’s advisory, a little programming, etc. My POV is more “big picture” and centered on customer service. Basically, my point of view is that every interaction is an opportunity to deliver a positive patron experience. In collection management, this means honoring requests whenever possible. In reference and reader’s advisory, this means following through with a solid answer or suggestion. In programming, this means informing or entertaining the participants. As a manager, it means being as flexible as possible to create a drama-free, stress-free, creative environment for my co-workers.

What’s your point of view? How do you articulate it?




Public speaking is a skill librarians need

photo of a microphone

Fear this no more! Creative Commons License Andrew E. Larsen

I remember a speech class I had in college. I thought it was a complete waste of time. Yes, I went to college in the dark ages and it was long before Powerpoint and the idea of making an official speech was only a remote possibility. My only plus for the class is that no one ever said they couldn’t hear me.

It wasn’t until after I had been working for libraries that I realized public speaking (or should I say communicating) is essential for the job. There will be more times than you can count that you have to present an idea to staff members, bosses and library boards. This isn’t even considering the umpteen thousand times that you will absolutely have to get out and promote your library, explain a policy, teach a class, or even make a formal presentation to the general public.

I think there are great parallels between interviewing for a job and any kind of speech or presentation. Both need preparation and knowledge of the subject matter.


Preparation is not just practicing or memorizing a speech. You need to be so well-versed on your topic that you can handle any situation or potential question or problem. What are people likely to ask? What are they going to be concerned about? Be ready with an answer, even if it’s, “I don’t know, let me look into that”.

Visual aids

Use Powerpoint judiciously. Personal bias: I am not fond of Prezi, since I have gotten motion sickness almost every time someone uses it.   Some visuals distract from what the speech/presentation is about. Don’t put your verbatim speech on the Powerpoint. Slides should illustrate, not reiterate what you are saying.

Stage Fright / Performance Anxiety

As the reigning queen of anxiety, I feel your pain! I worry about EVERYTHING! I got a bit of perspective when I saw a library presentation where a woman was so visibly distressed and nervous. Her presentation was also quite technical. I thought she might burst into tears! In a word, she was awful. With the exception of one VERY STUPID LIBRARIAN, everyone was supportive and clapped. The said stupid librarian was shunned and I am sure she is not working in the profession anymore.  My point is even in the worst situation, there is support and people will understand. Keep getting up and trying and you will improve.

Some helpful resources on public speaking:

David Lee King’s Blog: Presentation tips using  Powerpoint. 

Mind Tools:  Managing Presentation Nerves 

Lifehacker: How can I become more comfortable speaking in public?

Nice Boss, Sloppy Shelves

When it comes to bosses, being “nice” has little to do with being good. Laura Smith reminisced in Slate about trying – and failing – to be a nice boss:

I allowed my coffee shop to become characterized by permissiveness. Some took advantage of this permissiveness by making up excuses for being late, or by trying to do as little work as possible. Those who didn’t take advantage became resentful of the other employees, and of me. It brought out the worst in everyone.

That sounds like a familiar story. Libraries have an ingrained culture of being both “nice” and permissive. In my first supervisory position, I struggled at first with clarifying rules for shelving to pages. I sympathize with Smith’s struggle telling another adult person how to slice a scone; specifying where to put a bookend seems like micro-management.

Oil painting of disordered bookshelves

Messy shelves: a reality since 1725. Painting by Guiseppe Crespi.

I  ended up with pages who didn’t understand exactly how to place books on the shelf, and shelves that were poorly maintained. I had to stop being nice. When I finally did articulate to a page exactly shelve a book, I was careful to express it calmly and encouragingly. It was still pleasant, but the directions were clear and firm.

Are you clear about articulating rules? Is the working atmosphere at your library permissive? What do you think about “nice” bosses in the library?

Banned Books Week Reflections…


Last week ouklr school celebrated Banned Books Week. I am lucky enough to work at an arts high school that prides itself on intellectual and academic freedom, creativity, and instilling the value of the humanities within our students. Since our school opened its doors fifteen years ago, Banned Books Week (BBW) has been celebrated.  It is so well embedded in our school that even our President proudly supports our events and the openness of our institution. But none of this happened overnight.

Prior to BBW, I met with the graphic design teacher in August to discuss an ongoing annual project where seniors design BBW posters that are displayed in the library. In my opinion, they always do a better job than anything ALA will sell me (see above artwork). Throughout BBW I went to four high school U.S. Government classes to discuss the 1st Amendment, prominent case-law involving students’ rights, and how this ties to BBW and their rights as young adults. Each day in the library we held trivia contests distributed via email to our students where they could win Banned Books, posters, buttons, T-shirts and other anti-censorship prizes in addition to Amazon gift cards, all displayed on tables in cauldrons in the front of the library. Our library director did a program on the controversial opera “The Death Of Klinghoffer.” Mid-week we held our annual BBW Read Out at lunch in the courtyard and had a great group of students and teachers reading from their favorite banned books. I was proud to see our Dean & VP in the amphitheater observing.

sbAlthough many places don’t offer the support that I receive, there is nothing more patriotic than celebrating Banned Books Week. My father is a vet and retired Air Force and my sister-in-law is an Iraqi War Veteran. If you’re concerned about a backlash, invite service members into your BBW library program. My sister-in-law is a huge fan of fantasy literature and would proudly state “you’re damn right I fought for your right to read Harry Potter or any other book.” Hearing that from a service member in uniform with an American flag backdrop helps take away the politics and allows us to celebrate as united Americans.

apI have always believed that libraries are about relationships. I love getting to know all the students, teachers, administrators, and staff at school. The best relationships take time to build. It took years to build up trust before Creative Writing, History, Government, and Visual Arts teachers let me into their classrooms and collaborated with me for BBW. It was through informal conversations that they gained a sense of who I was and what was motivating me. I hope that everyone is out there building quality relationships that give them the support they need to celebrate BBW.  The best part of BBW this year? When a 12th grader I didn’t know visited me in the library and thanked me for coming to his class because he thought the discussion interesting.  It is the beginning of a new relationship.

Back In Full Effect

photo credit: msaari via photopin cc

photo credit: msaari via photopin cc

Thanks for finding us.  We were lost for a few months.

The leaders behind Library Lost & Found want to earn your trust again as a source for practical and sound leadership advice.  Good stuff from the trenches.  It certainly does not help when the blog drops off the grid for a few months.

How many times as a leader do you feel like you have lost the trust of a team member?  It is not a great feeling.  I was really worried that our absence may result in losing your trust as a reader.  When I started thinking of how the contributors of LL&F could get you reading again, an email from the Harvard Business Review appeared in my inbox that really helped.

In her blog post Carolyn O’Hara outlined four easy ways to build and keep the trust of your team.  Every suggestion helped me reevaluate the charge of this blog.

  • Make a connection. – We have enlisted seven new contributors!  All of them are from different types of libraries all over the United States.  Most importantly each one is at a differently level in their leadership career!  We hope that you will connect with the diverse voices writing about their experiences.
  • Encourage rather than command. – LL&F is not a “how-to” manual.  The goal is to share the honest stories that provide insights on how to lead in libraries.  Success will be measured if we encourage you to become a better leader from what you have read.
  • Take blame, but give credit. – Some of the best posts come from stories in which we failed.  The contributors are not above admitting mistakes in their own leadership adventures.  We will share when we mess up and will celebrate the people in our lives that help us lead.
  • Show competenceLL&F is committed to not only waxing poetic about the leadership battles that make us strong, but also providing scholarly research.  Expect to see more links to articles on leadership from different professions, resources that support the journey, and insight from the people charging forward to make libraries great.  Don’t worry, we will still try and make you laugh as well.

LL&F is back in full effect.  Ready to be the trusted blog you visit weekly to discover “library leaders dropping knowledge.”  Thanks for coming back to pick up what we are putting down.

The Mound Visit

photo credit: Thomas Huston via photopin cc

photo credit: Thomas Huston via photopin cc

Recently I was attending a Detroit Tigers baseball game with my daughter.  She is still learning the game, so when the manager left the dugout to go talk to the pitcher during the middle of the game she was confused.  “What is he doing Dad?,” she asked as the skipper made a slow strut to the pitching mound.  “He is checking in with the pitcher to see if he is feeling OK, if he needs anything, remind him of the game plan, or to simply encourage him,” I explained to my young fan.  This question got me thinking.  How many times do we check in with the players on our team?

The quick check in, or mound visit, is essential for a healthy workplace.  If we are being observant of our team it becomes obvious when one of them needs a visit.  How many times a week do you simply stop by an employee’s workstation to see how they are doing?  Do you regularly talk to staff about what they need to succeed?  Are quick morning meetings in which you review the events of the day commonplace?  Is recognition and encouragement the norm?

I’m a huge fan of the idea that leaders try their best to interact with their team members once a week.  The benefits of leaving your dugout to be more actively involved in the game are enormous.  This is something I have decided to committing myself to doing during the second half of the year.  I also love the idea of short, 5-10 minute, morning meetings just before you open.  This allows for a review of the day’s events as well as a chance to recognize and celebrate success.

One of my favorite scenes in the movie Bull Durham is when the catcher Crash Davis , played by Kevin Costner, calls time out to talk to his pitcher Calvin LaLoosh, played by Tim Robbins (see below NSFW).  LaLoosh is nervous because his dad is in the stands cheering him on, so Davis does what all great catchers do and distracts him.  Soon the rest of the team is at the mound discussing their problems and Davis goes on to help them all.  Don’t be afraid to visit the mound.  Make it a regular part of your leadership duties and it will result in a winning team.