photo of three wise monkey (do no evil, see no evil, speak no evil) stone statues

All Quiet in the Library Office

We all know communication at work is very important. But sometimes not communicating can be a valid and wise choice.

Recently, I sent an email informing my colleagues about an interaction I’d had with a patron and asking for follow up from some of them. In a sea of the normal follow up emails, there was one one-sentence email from a coworker, putting down the patron.

I was immediately disappointed because I like the person who sent the email and I have a real problem with patron bashing. I understand we need to vent and inform each other, but this was not venting. It actually came across as a gesture of solidarity and support, but at the cost of disrespecting the patron. I quickly re-read the email I had sent to make sure I hadn’t unwittingly put down the patron myself but I had maintained a neutral tone and there was no hint of frustration.

This one sentence email that had probably taken my coworker mere seconds to write gave me more than a moment of pause. Should I stand up for what I believe in and tell her the patron was fine and there was no need to talk ill of her? That’s what a large part of me wanted to do because I didn’t want my silence to be mistaken as approval. However, I struggled with what do say because this coworker is in a supervisory role. I’m also new to my organization and still feeling out the culture. On top of all that, I didn’t want to reject her friendly overture.

Ultimately, I decided to say nothing largely because this was over email. As we have all experienced at this point, getting one’s tone right over email can be difficult and as this person and I don’t know each other well, I didn’t want to risk it. If this person had been standing in front of me, I could have probably dealt with the situation casually and quickly but I didn’t want to risk an email. So I let it go.

What do you think? Are there times where you chose to say nothing? Do you ever regret not saying something? How have you handled similar situations?


Three wise monkeys on Innoshima Island photo by Japanexterna.

2015 Technology Predictions and CES (for Libraries)

photo credit: Sweet. via photopin (license)

photo credit: Sweet. via photopin (license)

Two of the most interesting things that happen in the tech world in January are the predictions of technology trends for the new year and CES (the Consumer Electronics Show). As a techie nerd and former Systems Librarian, I wanted to give you some brief (*cough*not-so-brief*cough*) words about each as well as some resources to learn more (I am a librarian, after all).

Technology Predictions:

I do not love the new year for the resolutions or the singing of Auld Lang Syne. I love the new year because of technology predictions. My top choices from last year were the Internet of Things (IoT) and the importance of social technology in driving application development. I hung my hat on IoT. But, since this article is about 2015 predictions, I’ll leave you with this article from American Libraries about the Internet of Things.

2015 Predictions: Here are some examples (with commentary):

  • PC Mag’s Predictions: Kind of lame. Wearables? Health and Fitness trackers? What is this, 2014? You can do better, PC Mag.
  • Fox Business: In general, do I recommend that you get your tech news from Fox Business? No. But, I think that they are least tried to predict. Mobile payments expanding? Yes. Google being evil? Kind of yes. Net Neutrality failing? Yes. Making lobbying illegal in government? Only in my wildest dreams.
  • IDC Predictions (via Software Development Times): First off, I’m biased because the reporter made it far easier to understand than a traditional IDC press release. 3rd platform is just a confusing term. I agree with IDC on a lot though, IoT will continue to affect you. Wireless data growth will be huge. Security will be a big thing.

There are a lot of others predictions. Use Google. Read them. Think about them. Maybe post a comment about how wrong I am in a year. I’m ok with it. Plus, I’ll probably just respond to your concerns by using made up acronyms until you give up.


Why do we, as librarians, talk so rarely about CES. It’s a huge thing. To get you started, some online coverage.

Will all of the products at CES develop into something marketable? No. But that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t alert the world to tech trends that are worth considering. For example:

  • Sling TV: Cable TV is going to have more problems. With already developed trends of people cutting cable and using Hulu, Netflix, and other content providers, another nail has been placed in Cable TV’s grave with Sling TV from Dish Network. Offering channels previously unavailable from not-to-be-named content providers (like ESPN and CNN), Sling TV is giving more access to content without your local megacorp.
  • Internet of Things: I wasn’t so off in my favorite 2014 predictions, and CES proved me right. Apple HomeKit and Google’s Nest are just two examples of improving your life with connected “things”
  • USB 3.1: Ok, this isn’t a “trend” per se, just something that I’m excited for. Imagine, a day when you don’t have to try your USB 3 times before it plugs in. And why is it always 3 times? It only has two sides! If you’ve already tried the first side, why didn’t it work? </rant> Will USB 3.1 ever become the standard? I can only dream of the 30 seconds that it would save me in flipping USBs over the course of my lifetime.

I know what you’re thinking. Library service vendors are not the best about getting us the latest and greatest tech. Somehow the latest and greatest is always 3 years past before similar tech is ever debuted. But that is a rant for another day. In the meantime, take a trip down the road of the technologically ideal, library-based thoughts conjectured from CES trends:

  • Libraries rent Rokus and AmazonTVs from the desk. Some libraries do. And I love them. What better way to help your patrons evaluate their new viewing options on their ridiculously-thin TV, then with the help of the Library. They’re going to be paying off that TV for a while, so they don’t have any money to waste.
  • Where could you use IoT at the Library? What if your displays told you when someone took an item off, so that you could refill it? Or, better yet, what if those displays offered suggestions of similar books to the person taking the book off the display? What if your automatic sorter could tell you when there was a back-up of books now being caught in the conveyor? Or what about telling you when the return bin was full?

Tends in consumer electronics mean changes for libraries, both in how libraries use their own technology and in how they serve their patrons.

What to do when you are new.

photo credit: Cracker Jack via photopin (license)

photo credit: Cracker Jack via photopin (license)

Oh new job jitters! It’s stressful and disconcerting to go from a job where you felt secure in your knowledge and role to a new job where you don’t even know where the bathrooms are. This is especially stressful when you want to be a leader in your new job. You want to do well! You want to impress! You want to leave your mark! You want…a pen, where is the supply closet again?

I’ve been experiencing this phenomenon myself and as I come out of the new job haze (I know where the bathrooms AND the water fountains are!) I have a few tips to share. I share these tips from two perspectives: trainer and trainee. One of my last projects at my previous position was to train new student assistants. Obviously, one of my first duties in my new position was being trained. Going from trainer to trainee helped me get a smooth start in my new position and now I hope to help you whether you are starting a whole new job, starting in a new department, or taking on a new job duty.

1. Be patient.

Nobody expects you to be an expert on your first, second, or even fourteenth day on the job. Nobody, that is, except for you. I’m sorry to report that you are going to feel awkward and lost for a while. If you embrace this you put a lot less pressure on yourself to be amazing right now. This leaves you more brain power to learn your new duties instead of beating yourself up for not knowing something.

2. Be quiet.

There is an urge to prove yourself in the early days on a new job. If someone is showing you something that you think you know, you’ll have the urge to interrupt, take over, or tell the person you already know that. Instead, just listen. You might not know it. You might not know all of it. Or you might think you know it but surprise, this is something different.  Managers usually have a system in place for showing you the ins and outs of your new job and the most impressive thing you can do while being shown new things is to listen and ask questions. A manager will be able to tell by your questions and by watching you in action that you know a process. Obviously there are exceptions: if someone else has shown you this procedure already or if you are totally comfortable with a process, it’s fine to speak up. Just don’t feel like you have to call out a bunch of answers to a process you only sort of know in order to impress. Again, go back to number 1: no one expects you to know everything right now.

3. Trust yourself.

Confession time: on my second day at my new job, I was at the circulation desk and the phone rang. And I stared at it. It rang again. I stared. I stared until it stopped ringing. It wasn’t until the moment the phone had started ringing that I realized I didn’t even know what to say when the phone rang! No one had told me! I completely missed that call because no one told me how to answer the phone. Which, of course, is silly, because I know how to answer a phone. I’ve been answering phones in one way or another my whole life and professionally for over sixteen years. You, like me, were hired for your new job because you have skills, experience, and the personality for it. The hiring committee knew it, so don’t you forget it when you’re on your new job. Of course you’ll do silly things like not answer the phone and it’s ok, the library is still standing and I am not fired, but remember: you know how to do a lot of this already. And if you don’t, just ask for help. Trust yourself to know how to answer your metaphorical phone.

Good luck out there with new jobs and new job duties! It can be a stressful time but it is ultimately rewarding to challenge yourself and learn new things. Just remember: be patient, be quiet, and trust yourself.

Find Your Flair!

DVFDiane Von Furstenberg is shall we say, “killing it” right now. A TV show, a book, a new philanthropy project and DVF remains a force in the fashion industry. Just like her iconic wrapdress, she shows that versatility, collaboration and staying true to oneself is the secret to success!

7 Pieces of Amazing Career Advice from Diane von Furstenberg

by: Meghan Blalock

Patrons say the Darndest Things

photo credit: IMG_0259 via photopin (license)

photo credit: IMG_0259 via photopin (license)

Art Linkletter is famous for sharing the funny, and often embarrassing, things that kids will say. As librarians working with the public, we also hear the darndest things. We don’t have a national television show, but with social media we have plenty of outlets we can use to share these gems. As this Booklist Reader post, No Shaming by Erin Downey Howerton, wisely points out, it is important to share these stories with sensitivity. She discusses the need for securing anonymity and using humor in careful ways. Her post would make a great starting point for a staff discussion about how they use the library or personal accounts to share humorous interactions with patrons. It’s also essential to keep your reaction in check when you are with the patron. A couple of years ago a sixth grader asked me for help finding a fictional story about the Holocaust. I was showing her how to find book summaries in our library catalog when after reading through a dozen of them together she turned to me and asked, “Don’t you have any happy Holocaust stories?” That is not the time to make a young patron feel bad about asking for help. She wanted a survivor story, a resistance worker story, a story with hope. Sensitivity training…just another of the skills that library school should include.

How Librarians Get Things Done

Group of post-it notes with handwritten: "At ease", "Just do it!" and "Urgent"

cc by-nc Lasse Rintakumpu.

I love a good productivity strategy, but I struggle with how to apply these practices in the fluid environment of the library. I usually end up with a desk covered in post-it notes and a To Do list as long as my arm.

Enter The Productive Librarian, a blog featuring interviews with librarians about how they arrange their work most efficiently on the job. One middle school librarian shared:

I remember reading a productivity article that suggested doing creative/problem-solving tasks in the morning and saving mundane tasks for the afternoon, when most people are more tired. This seems to be true for me – although, the library is generally busier in the morning – conundrum!

Oh, I feel that conundrum!

The Productive Librarian is a great new resource for finding out how other librarians deal with the nitty-gritty work of the library. Now I’m just waiting for someone to describe how they actually use Getting Things Done in library world.

Mentoring – You can do it!

Just before the new year, I attended an event where I saw someone I used to work with a long time ago, pre-librarianship. We both happen to be librarians now, but in different specialties. We spent some time after chatting and catching up, and she asked me if I would consider mentoring her formally.

This took me aback. In my head I listed the reasons why I should say no:

  1. I’m not that familiar with her area of librarianship.
  2. I have not kept up with her professional development or involvement in the profession.
  3. She doesn’t work for me.

And then I listed the reasons why I should say yes:

  1. I might actually be better at mentoring her in general management and giving her advice on specific situations because we are in two different library worlds with minimal overlap–I have no horse in her race.
  2. I can give her alternate perspectives and learn from her, too. This would be a great way for us to reconnect after all this time and perhaps find new commonalities beyond our shared past.
  3. I’ve never formally mentored anyone who was not my direct report. In those situations, I know exactly what I’m talking about. Here, I’ll have to pay close attention and ask lots of questions to understand the dynamics, which would be a nice stretch for me as well as benefiting her.

I was momentarily hung up on the idea that I had nothing to teach her, but I realized that this was unnecessarily limiting of me. She gets to determine when she wants to meet with me and she gets to drive the conversations–if I’m not helping her, or if she no longer needs me to help her, she can thank me for my time and end the formal mentoring. So, I said yes–I outlined my concerns, but I still said yes. She is going to contact me soon to set up a coffee or a lunch.

Have you ever had a formal mentoring relationship outside of your specialty or your organization? I’d be glad for any tips and advice.