If you ask your average library employee what they’d like in a manager, one of the answers you’re sure to get is “someone who works with us in the trenches”. Or something to that effect. I think we’ve all had that boss who sits in his or her office all day with no practical working knowledge of how things are going on the floor. It’s not exactly a morale booster.
I’m lucky enough to work in a library and a department that needs my contribution of time on-desk. I can’t imagine tweaking policies or making judgment calls on patron fees without my day to day experience working with the public. Besides the invaluable experience of knowing how your library actually works (and doesn’t work), putting some time in the trenches will also help you gain your employees’ respect. The next time you ask them to work an extra shift on-desk or deal with a difficult patron, they’ll know you’re asking them to do something you’re willing to do too. Here’s some ideas for getting out there in the mud! Leave your great ideas in the comments.
*Ask your colleagues what the busiest hour of the day is. Get on-desk during that shift. Find out for yourself what it feels like.
*Is there a dreaded task that no one likes to do at your library? Find out what it is and do it. Maybe there’s a way to make it less odious. Either way, you’ll give someone a break from it!
*Make the rounds in your library, especially during busy times. Our library has set up a schedule of rounds throughout the day where a staff member checks for safety, neatness, and cleanliness. It’s also a great way to make yourself available to patrons who might not come to a service desk to ask for help. Once again, if the boss is plunging toilets and cleaning up ink off computer desks, employees won’t feel so put upon when they have to, too.
*Shelve some materials. Has it been a long time since you were in contact with your collection? What better way to reacquaint yourself than to put things back on their shelves. This can also be a great way to spot issues and can be surprisingly mind-clearing.
*Take it one step further! Work like a patron!