I stumbled across Words That Work, a 2007 book by Dr. Frank Luntz recently, and I’m so glad it happened! It is about how to use the right words at the right time to meet all of your goals, both personal and professional.

The author works with CEOs, politicians, activists, and world leaders. He teaches them how to use language to inspire people, to evoke emotion, to gain credibility, and to satisfy their listeners.

Dr. Luntz has “Ten rules of effective language”:

  1. Simplicity: use small words
  2. Brevity: use short sentences
  3. Credibility is as important as philosophy
  4. Consistency matters
  5. Novelty: offer something new
  6. Sound and texture matter
  7. Speak aspirationally
  8. Visualize
  9. Ask a question
  10. Provide context and explain relevance

The details of each rule are completely relevant to library leaders and managers. Anyone who gives performance reviews, persuades voters, presents to library board members, runs meetings, trains employees, looks for buy-in on new ideas – and so many other activities library leaders do every day! – simply must read this book.

Help Us Find Lost Leaders!

Kevin King —  August 14, 2015 — 2 Comments

All the contributors of Library Lost & Found are dedicated to providing entertaining, helpful and thought provoking material to leaders in all types of libraries. Thousands of readers each month have used this resource to guide their way out of tough situations in the workplace. In our continuing efforts to provide this content we are seeking out new voices for the blog.

Is there a story or advice that you have been wanting to share that has helped you be a leader? Do you find joy in mentoring the next generation of library leaders? Can you write in complete sentences? If the answer is “yes!” then send us an email at librarylostfound@gmail.com.

Addicts to productivity porn need not apply.

Photo of the author with her sisters from the convent

Sr. Laura, myself, Sr. Tina (back), Sr. Mary, Sr. Rachel, and Sr. Stacy (front) who attended my going away party at the library and met all of my coworkers

A few months ago I wrote a note to my library contacts that went something like this: “Before word went entirely public, I wanted to pass along a message that I am leaving my position as the Associate Director at the library. While leaving a job is not unusual, the reason that I am leaving is. God willing, in August, I will be entering a Catholic religious order (The Servants of God’s Love).”

Most people responded with, “Congratulations?” To which I replied, “Thank you. Yes, that is the right answer.” One editor of this dear blog, though, responded with, “WOW! This sounds great!… Any chance you could write one more blog post about this decision?”

So, here I am, blogging one last time for Library Lost and Found on my last day of work. You see, I contemplated many options for topics:

  • Becoming a Nun: A How-To Guide – That seemed kind of insulting to this library blog and kind of misleading because I’m hoping to become a Sister (not a nun).
  • Decision Making 101: How To Make Big Life Decisions – This idea makes me laugh. For me, mostly, this decision took a deep love of the person of Christ Jesus and the Trinity, a group of amazing women who magnify my prayers and still get over-competitive playing Euchre, and a foolhardy nature that people keep mistaking for “courage”.
  • Beware: There Are Conservatives Among You: I know. It’s a scary thought. In spite of the stereotypes, I have found that the most outspoken librarians tend to be fairly…loose with words. Sometimes they forget that there are librarians that live more conservative lives amongst you. So, maybe edit your tweets before you post them. #notintobookburning #notintoexcessiveswearing

Instead, I wanted to highlight what I really saw about my life as a librarian as I walked through this decision: At its heart, librarianship is service.

What librarians do is not a job: It is an act of love performed for our patrons. It is a moment of kind grace given to a stranger or a friend. It is a moment of hope in a world that often seems hopeless.

I became a librarian because I loved the chase. I worked in ILL in college, and I loved finding ridiculous books in languages that I couldn’t speak (let alone write). That search for hard-to-find information is what motivated me to go to information school. It was a fine motivation. But once I started working as a librarian with the public, I realized that librarianship could be so much more. I interned for a small resource center attached to the U of M Depression Center. I wanted to work on the catalog, but I spent some of my time in the resource center, sometimes with patients, but mostly with friends and family of patients. They’d come to wait during the appointment, and mostly they wanted someone to talk to. I learned how to start every sentence with, “I’m not a mental health professional…” and end every conversation with, “…let me give you a pamphlet.” I don’t think that I ever said anything helpful, but I was there. In a moment of panic and fear, they needed an ear, and I was wearing silver hoops. It was an act of service.

Photo of Kathryn Bergeron holding a microphone at a library event with the character Madeline

Kathryn (right) at a library event

Then I started as an Adult Services Librarian in a public library. While I did a lot of electronic and systems work, I loved working with the public. The older lady who read every thriller book that came out and still, without fail, ran out of books each week. The middle school girls who liked to come and sit at the desk and talk about their days while looking up ridiculous saint names (see St. Ulfrid). The widow who came and interloaned the best mormon fiction books you’ve ever read. The group who gave up their Thursday nights for three months to learn about the Civil Rights movement. No matter how many books I ordered or computers I fixed, those people are what made me excited to come into work in the morning. It was an act of friendship.

When I became Associate Director, it was hard. I didn’t have management ambitions, but I wanted to try. Unfortunately, that meant giving up most of my programming and all of my time on the reference desk. I was lost. I didn’t know what to do. I no longer had the thing that made me most excited to show up to work in the morning.

Then we hired a few new managers. Training them and helping them feel confident about their new jobs. Making small changes to our ILS to ease a little bit of the load from my Circulation staff. Bringing a new perspective to a policy debate. These became my new acts of service. I was no longer directly serving my patrons, but I was helping to make the library better for them. And I was directly serving my staff, particularly my managers. When they needed advice, they got advice. When they needed an ear, I gave them an ear. When they needed a kick in the pants, they got a figurative kick in the pants. Watching them grow and develop is probably one of the things about which I am most proud in my time as a librarian. It was an act of love.

When I look back on my 6.5 years as a certified librarian, I don’t think about the books that I ordered or the meetings that I went to; I look back on the people that I served and that I served with. Any impact that I might have had on them, they had 100x the impact on me. Their patience, their kindness, and their willingness to give me a kick in the pants when I needed it helped me to grow and mature into the (still kind of immature) person that I am today. I could not be here, taking this step in my life, about which I am bananas excited, without all that they did for me.

Librarianship for me, has been an act of service and a labor of love. But, somehow, I feel like I received far more than I ever gave, and I have unending gratitude for those who served me so well.

We caught up with Paul Gallagher, Director of Library Operations and User Services for the Wayne State University Libraries, at a recent library conference. He shared his career path as well as inspiring advice for rising library leaders.

LL&F: Tell us about your career path.photo of Paul Gallagher

PG: I worked in IT doing application development, a lot of technology instruction, teaching, and corporate training. As that progressed, I was in between jobs and I decided it was a really good time to go to graduate school.

Somebody actually handed me a pamphlet on libraries and I ended up going to library school.

A paper pamphlet worked on you?

A tri-fold! I thought, wow, this is very interesting. At the time I was doing work in a historical society, so I had some inclination. I was fortunate enough to be part of an IMLS grant that sponsored students to attend graduate school with a focus on Fine and Performing Arts Librarianship. I had a Bachelor of Fine Arts and technology skills so I was fully funded through the program. As part of that I was required to do rather extensive internships in Detroit’s cultural institutions, like the Detroit Symphony and Michigan Opera Theatre.

Michigan Opera Theatre was a brand new library they had just put shelves in. They said, “We’re setting up a new library, we’re starting a spreadsheet of books!” I said, “Nooo!  There is a better way!” I was able to get a basic ILS setup that they could use for material management.

I frequently see non-profits ask people with a library background ,”Can you help us manage our small library?” and it’s not as easy as a spreadsheet! How did you get from that performing arts focus to where you are now?

In 2009 I graduated and I hired in as a developer librarian at Wayne State Libraries, so I was tasked with software and technology development. Even though my background was in fine and performing arts I was still very much a technologist. I did that for about two years and then we had a typical manager turnover. We had a need for the associate director for discovery services and cataloging, so I moved into that role and did that for about two years. Once again we had management changeover and some opportunities, and we integrated the two directors in a chief operating officer role. So it’s been a whirlwind since 2009, and I’ve been happy to step up and serve the organization.

What do you think are the competencies needed for leadership and management?

I would say to people looking for advice is the whole issue of engagement. Some people think of that as extroversion but I think that’s too broad a brush. You have to be able to go out, engage yourself and be part of the discussion on these broader issues. When I talk to students, particularly the ones that are struggling that say: “I took all the classes but I don’t have an job experience in the library,” I respond, “Well, go get some!” You have to get into this world, you really have to step up.

I think this is a profession that attracts maybe more introverts? I’m sensitive about saying it but I think many of us would agree.

Because of the huge need for leadership roles, that whole idea of really getting up and engaging in the library community – when I look back at the things I wish I’d done differently, it always goes back to that. I wish I’d engaged more with that. I wish I’d went to this thing and talked to this person. You look at missed opportunities.

I tell students “Raise your hand. Be a joiner.”

I speak to a lot of LIS students, and that’s always the key thing. Start engaging. Really get into the community. That’s what I’m trying to do the most of right now.

What are the biggest challenges or most exciting projects you have on the horizon?

The biggest one, and it’s very broad: the changing nature of academic libraries is staggering. It’s different at each institution, but people are not coming into our buildings to use the resources anymore. Period. The amount of circulation we do is bottoming out dramatically. Of course electronic on the other side is skyrocketing. The interesting part though is we have as many people coming into our building as we did 10 years ago, but we’re only doing a fraction of the circulation. So, that right there is a huge motivation to step back and look at what we’re doing. There’s a huge shift in the way people use resources. That means a transition to e-resources, scaling back on routine print monographs in the favor of e-books, promotion of special collections, and reinvigorating our physical spaces.

Any words of wisdom for aspiring leaders or new leaders?

Really coming to the acknowledgement that you’re going to move more and more into a leadership role, even if you don’t want to. That doesn’t necessarily mean going into a top leadership position, but that ability demonstrate leadership with these more difficult issues at all levels is huge right now. That’s probably the most exciting part of this profession. You have to adapt to change and if you like that, you can have a blast.

Even the fiercest leader in the world is overcome by sleep.”

Malawian proverb