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Teenage Pages on the Job

Mary Kelly —  January 21, 2015 — 1 Comment

prepare for shelf readingFor the last 4 years or so, I have been doing a teen job search workshop. I got this idea from my daughter who was waitress all through high school. Even as a teenager, she was hiring and firing. She also complained that kids didn’t know how to even fill out an application or had their parents hovering around. Like any decent librarian, my first thought was PROGRAM IDEA! (If you want to read about my program click here to my personal blog.)

My daughter was not exaggerating one bit. I couldn’t believe how little the kids knew about getting and keeping a job. During this workshop, I talk about interviewing, job applications and on the job behavior. It is one of my favorite continuing programs at our library. The kids themselves have told me that no one has ever talked to them about jobs.

I mention this because I have had some recent experiences with hiring teen pages, and it wasn’t pretty. (This is also when I start a rant about “these kids today….”) Even though I knew teens were pretty green at what real world work was about, I was shocked at how much kids really didn’t know. In the span of 3 months, I hired and fired a total of 5 people. So far, my last 2 hires are working out, so crossing fingers. (This is where I tell you that you must start a similar program at your library. I am quite sure this problem isn’t limited to South Eastern Michigan.)

I finally realized I had to re-think training, especially for young people. A branch manager friend of mine told me that as a “first” job for many kids, we have a duty to teach about what it means to work for a living. So, if you have teens on your payroll, shore up your training to include a few of these tips.

  • Give an overview of a library’s functions in terms of how materials move in and out of the library. Remind them that when there is a clog in one place, it will mess up so many other library activities. Don’t assume any prior knowledge about ANYTHING.
  • Don’t overwhelm an employee with too many tasks. Roll out the duties slowly.
  • Telling isn’t teaching. Make sure you explain fully how your process works. Test your pages and offer feedback right away. Lather, rinse, repeat until it everyone involved feels comfortable.
  • If a page isn’t catching on within a couple of weeks (depending on often they work), chances are they aren’t going to ever catch on. Cut your losses now and let that person go.

After my recent foray into page hiring, I found one of my newbies in the stacks shelf reading (without prompting!). He told me it “bothered” him that stuff was out of order. I wept with joy! All true library people are “bothered” when things aren’t arranged correctly. Finally, someone drank my Kool-Aid.

Perils of Pages

Mary Kelly —  January 13, 2015 — 3 Comments

womanscreaming1The director of our very tiny library is on maternity leave and I have been “volunteered” to handle the pages. In the last 2 months I have interviewed, fired and hired about 5 people. Here is what I have learned, the hard way.

  • No one reads a job posting, looks at the requirements and THEN check to see if they have the necessary requirements.
  • Even if you tell someone (multiple times) that paging is often difficult and frustrating job, everyone seems surprised that it is difficult and frustrating job.
  • People think it is a good idea to wear flip-flops (or slippers!) to work-even when they have been specifically told to wear appropriate footwear.
  • One cannot assume that people know the alphabet.
  • Not everyone cares about the library as much as I do.

By the time I was hiring person number 3, I learned a few things.

  • Pre-screen with a phone call before wasting time with interviews.
  • Point out all the job “negatives” : kids/parents that constantly mess up the shelves, snow shoveling, weird patrons, etc. Emphasize that you are never “done” shelving or shelf reading. The books just keep coming.
  • Ask how a potential employee stays organized.
  • State, out loud and in the job description, expectations for dress/shoes, timeliness, and any other deal breakers.
  • Remind every interviewee that not everyone is cut out for library work and that you have no problem letting people go.

Even if you do everything right, you can still be wrong in hiring people. The best you can hope for is to minimize the mistakes. No one really ever shares their real self in a job application or an interview. Think of interviewing as going on a really questionable blind date.

In other news, I really want my boss back handling this stuff. I’m better at the reference desk.

I have mentioned these sites before, but it’s worth repeating. If you aspire or already are a manager/supervisor, you really need to read Ask A Manager and Evil HR Lady regularly!

The Hell of Holidays at Work

Mary Kelly —  December 2, 2014 — 1 Comment

jinglenoIt is that time of year. That dreaded time for the library/office holiday party.I have also referred to office parties as “forced fun”. I have endured in my more than 40 years of working (not just in libraries!) career ending cocktail parties that nearly ended with police intervention, expensive and stupid Secret Santa gift exchanges, and countless “parties” where attendance was more or less mandatory. Jesus himself, would slap these people.

Last year, Alison Green over at Ask a Manager wrote a wonderful article on holiday celebrations. If I could, I would take this article and email it to everyone I ever worked for and I would use it as a basis for any holiday plans in the office. Holidays can be ground zero for office morale and even the best intentions can result in poor morale.  Want some horror stories? Read them here.

In my own family I have had holidays where we buried a relative on Christmas Eve, had a hospitalized child, and waited for an eternity to find out if my husband still had a job. The last thing in the world I wanted to do is hang out and wear a Santa hat and make chit chat for what seemed like hours (unpaid). The holidays are stressful even if you have nothing planned or don’t celebrate anything. Don’t make it worse.

  • Bottom line: If you want to do something kind for your team or at least acknowledge the holidays in some way, try these ideas:
  • Bring in treats or sandwiches for the entire staff. Offer it up during the regularly scheduled work hours. Make participation optional. For example, set out some food in the break room and tell people to graze at their leisure.
  • If you are a boss, get out of the way. Make greetings and then leave. I don’t care if you are the most delightful understanding person around. Get out. No one wants the boss hanging around.

If you really want to reward employees, consider the only gift that is beloved by all – cash and or paid time off.

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?

photo credit: ntr23 via photopin cc

photo credit: ntr23 via photopin cc

If you are like me, you have probably got a whole slew of blogs and websites about library work. However, in my experience, if you want to see the big picture or find the next big idea, you will need to look outside our circle of library people. Here are some websites that I put on my reading list.

Ask a Manager

Alison Green is a former manager that answers questions on everything from resumes, interviewing to being productive on the job. Every library supervisor should read her stuff religiously. Even if you have no aspirations for management, Ask a Manager, puts problems in context and also helps you manage “up”. Job hunters will love the advice on cover letters, resumes and interviewing.

My personal favorite: 10 Worst Holiday Party Disasters

Evil HR Lady

This one is one of my favorites! Evil HR Lady is Suzanne Lucas, a former human resources manager. Like Ask a Manager, Suzanne answers questions on everything human resources. I can’t tell you how many times I have used her for my “reality” check. Not sure something is legal? ethical? or practical? Evil HR Lady has you covered. Even if you are just a minion out there in the working world, this blog will tell you what to expect from an employer (beyond a paycheck).

HBR (Harvard Business Review)

HBR is one of the best places to get your head around big ideas in leadership, work performance and strategic thinking. The format is a bit longer, but worth every paragraph.

Recent Favorite: How to Make Yourself Work When You Just Don’t Want To


Like HBR, this is where go for more big picture articles about leadership and management. On the left hand top right menu pick the Leadership category and you are good to go. Job hunters: there are some really good tips for writing resumes and great advice for interviewing.

Recent Favorite: Leadership Lessons from Animal House


I can already hear everyone saying that this isn’t really a business blog or management blog. It’s a blog about tips, strategies and shortcut in everyday life. I always think this is a great source for what I will tactfully call “getting your crap together”.

Even if you don’t like my favorites, try expanding your library reading to the non-library world. Hanging with “civilians” can be illuminating.