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.
Leadership motivation can come from the most unexpected places. Earlier this year I read a children’s book by Chris Kurtz called The Adventures of a South Pole Pig (Harcourt 2013). I blogged about the book at Bookends Blog back in August, but was reminded about the sensible leadership advice in this book while preparing for a conference presentation this week. Flora is some pig. She is not content to spend her life in the pig pen. She wants to explore. Setting her sights on being a sled-pig on a sled-dog team, Flora eventually finds herself aboard a ship headed to Antarctica but the cook, who calls her his “Little Hambone,” has different ideas about her role on the ship.
Never fear, Flora is innovative and courageous, and persistent in her goals. There is danger, but she does not end up on a breakfast plate. The story, though, heralds the idea that brains and talent can come from unlikely places and celebrates teamwork. The animals learn that it is important to pursue your own interests and talents. To support others and to allow others to support you. To share your talents and strengths. And, that leadership can ebb and flow in a group. Certainly this book will be a popular elementary classroom read aloud but perhaps it will help grow future leaders. Meanwhile, it can provide library leaders with some ideas to chew on. Who can you encourage to take on a leadership role in a new project? Who has talents and strengths that you have not tapped? And who on your staff can you call on to support you? Thinking about these things just might save your bacon.
Oh, the boys at Unshelved are having fun again. Surely you know about their irreverent library humor in their online and print Unshelved comic strip? If not, catch up! But Gene and Bill have a new Kickstarter project that savvy library leaders are going to want to use to reward their hard working staff members. Yes, folks, they are developing Library Rangers badge reward system. Be Informed! Here’s a partial description in their own words:
A Library Ranger is anyone who loves libraries and helps support their mission, from librarians, pages, and clerks to teachers, students, and patrons. And now there’s a fun way to celebrate the diverse skills that these good people exhibit on a daily basis: high-quality embroidered badges, designed by Bill & Gene, the Unshelved guys.
Wearing a Library Ranger badge tells the world that you are dedicated to executing your responsibilities, that you have completed your training with honors, that you performed service above and beyond the call of duty, or that you somehow managed to endure a truly epic level of nonsense. They are perfect for dazzling your friends, impressing your coworkers, or starting a conversation at a library conference. Give them to your employees, board members, supporters, volunteers, students, or yourself!
Surely you or someone you envied had a sash or vest full of little cloth embroidered badges for your skills in the wilderness. Now we can celebrate all of our awesome library talents while having fun. The guys have already reached their initial fundraising goal of $7,000 and have passed a few other stretch goals but there’s still time to make this project more wonderful with additional pledges before October 2, 2013. More donations mean more badges and don’t you want a full sash? Head over to their Kickstarter page to see the sample badges, read more about the project and how you can use it to inspire and reward the people who help make your library extraordinary!
I’ve been AWOL on posting here at Library Lost & Found, but with good excuse. Well, it seems good to me. I just came out the other side of a major kitchen remodel project at home that started at Spring Break and continued through the madness of the end of a school year at two busy middle school libraries. As with any major project of any sort, it was a learning experience. Besides being a creative adapter in the feeding ourselves department, my husband and I made a pact that I think library leaders should consider. As the new amazing space took shape and the project wrapped up so we could start moving back in, we made a firm decision that EVERYTHING would have to earn its place before it moved back in. We would BOTH have to love it, need it, and see it as an asset to the functionality AND beauty of the new space.
Now, for some of you, this is probably easy. But for me, things have stories and memories and I have trouble parting with things sometimes. The new kitchen does not need every piece of glassware I’ve ever owned. So, the unpacking has taken longer doing it when my husband and I are both here than if I did it alone, but the transformation is dramatic. Gone are duplicate utensils, knives that we never use, coffee mugs with company logos, the pendulum wall clock that was a wedding gift 28 years ago (donated to a community sale and it will make someone very happy), the drawer of phone books (? what is this thing you call “phone book?”) and other items we rarely used. We are foodies and cook and bake a lot, so we have a lot of cooking gadgets but really, we don’t need all of this stuff. We are not done unpacking yet, but what we have unpacked has a place behind doors, will be used, and if on display, makes us smile. The space is clean, clutter-free, functional, and stocked with only cherished items.
This process made me look at my two libraries differently. My time is limited at each since I bounce back and forth and decorating is low on the list of things I need to attend to when I am in the building. I am fortunate to have two very neat secretaries who keep the circulation area and the library in general neat and uncluttered. But then there is my office. And my desk. And the walls. There is work to do. I do decorate the enormous bulletin boards because it is a chance to promote materials and services but one library has huge pastel professionally- framed Tulip Time posters that have been there since before I started in 1991. If I apply the principal of things having to earn their place to this library, those posters HAVE TO GO. Yes, Tulip Time is important to Holland, but I don’t think there are ANY middle school students who would tell me that they enjoy seeing these “art prints.” My secretary and I hate them in this setting. You can see one of them here if you are curious. No offense to the watercolor artist but I am looking for art that my teens will enjoy seeing…and I need to have back up so we can switch things up and not look at the same art all year or for decades. And once that decision was made we started looking around. Some signage is faded, and the walls are boring. It’s my goal for rainy days this summer off, to go in and do some clean up. Make some positive changes. Clean my desk. Purge my files. Keep only what I truly need so that when school starts in the fall the place will be clean, clutter-free, functional and stocked with only cherished items. And then I’m going to beg the art teacher for more student art. The pieces we have, we love.
So, library leaders, without committing the mistake that the Urbana Free Library director made, take a look around today at your library. Start with yourself. What does your office say about you? Then go outside your library front door and look at the door. What do you see? Is it what you want your patrons to see first when they visit? Is the information bulletin board full of outdated information? Does the free puzzle exchange collection need a new location and a better storage system? Is your signage adequate or does it need sprucing up? If you didn’t know where to go, would you be able to figure it out? Do you have a staff member who needs some special attention to organizing their work area? Do you give the same attention to all departments in resources for decor and organization? I remember visiting the Kalamazoo Public Library when Kevin King was the head of teen services. I saw his wall posters being displayed in black poster frames. Huh. Mine were laminated and taped to the walls. I felt so cheap. An $8 poster frame would make such a difference to the look of the area. Who knew?
Now that I have you thinking, and looking, act on it. Could you pick a time of the year for each department (or the whole library) to do their “spring cleaning?” The youth librarians will kill you with their eyes or a sharp reading prize if you pick the summer reading club months to tackle this with them, but surely there is a time that can work and it could be fun. Ask for ideas from your staff. Perhaps gift certificates for office organizing supplies could be given to the employee who makes the most significant change or comes up with the best ideas? Have fun with it. Me? I just made some cheesy scrambled eggs with a side of whole grain toast slathered with my homemade Michigan strawberry jam that I made last week and I’m enjoying it in my new kitchen. I need energy to tackle those Tulip Time posters!
I have a tendency to procrastinate. Well, let me think about that and I’ll tell you tomorrow if I have a tendency to procrastinate….You get the idea. Whether it is a project that is overwhelming, a phone call or email that I don’t want to make or some other onerous task that I simply don’t want to deal with it is easy for me to find a lot of other things to do in its place. Occasionally procrastinating pays off, but usually it is just an energy drain. My brain keeps thinking about the task I am avoiding and when I finally get around to doing the task I find that it was not as bad as I imagined.
I’m a list maker. I’ve been known to put things on my to-do list after I’ve done them just so I can check them off. But again, that’s a waste of time. Some of the to-do items take longer to list than they do to do them.
Last year I got frustrated with this endless cycle and decided to make a sign for my desk that says DO IT NOW! As you can see from the photo, I resisted the urge to make this complicated and and perfect by creating a fancy sign in Publisher or by laminating it or using cute stickers. I grabbed a piece of note paper on my desk and a black marker and followed my own advice. DO IT NOW!
The sign reminds me when I see an email or think of something to do, to just DO IT NOW when it makes sense to do so. Time management principles aside, often the moment to act is NOW. Works for me.