Archives For Personal Growth


bb878ba0d54fc5ca70e3a1e09719448fLet’s face it, we all have them: those titles that we love fiercely, refer to constantly, recommend to everyone. You become a wild-eyed pusher who wants them to get it same way you did. Sometimes you are satisfyingly successful. You see a few teens pouring over it during a class visit, a woman pages through it by the display, or you see it on the shelving truck!

One of those titles for me is Material World by Peter Menzel, 1994.

Partly because I love seeing other peoples stuff and partly because it works with almost anyone who walks into the library. It is a great browsing book, it still stands up today if only to show a moment in time and has many read-alikes and websites that do similar photos– like these photo essays from the NYT: Rise and Shine, Pink or Blue Toys for Girls and Boys.

This is just one of a long list of my sweeties! What are a few of your one and onlys?

The pile of leadership books that I want to read is growing. I recently added four to the list that I hope will help me grow as a leader.

Contagious: Why Things Catch On by Jonah Berger

What Great Brands Do: The Seven Brand-Bilding Principles That Separate the Best from the Rest by Denise Lee Yohn

A Curious Mind: A Secret to a Bigger Life by Brian Grazer

Creativity Inc: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration by Ed Catmull

All of them have something to do with innovation. This is a trait that leaders often fail to improve. When you foster and encourage innovation within your team, you not only contribute to organizational health but you also keep your mission moving forward. This is why I am constantly trying to seek out the best ways to exercise the innovation part if my brain. Let’s hope the weight of my book pile gives me a good work out.



photo of a book with pages tucked to create a heart shape

cc by-sa Mummelgrummel

We’ve recently been interviewing candidates at my library. One of the most important questions that we ask is, “What do you love?”

Ok, that’s not exactly how we phrase it, but that’s what we want. What do you love?

One of the things that makes my library the vibrant and extraordinary place that it is, is that, as much as we are a community of staff members coming together for a common goal, we’re a community of individuals, and that individuality is important to us.

photo of Harry Potter themed yarn bombing display table

Two loves come together: Harry Potter and yarnbombing!

Today, I designed a display for our Harry Potter themed yarn bombing. #craftinglove

Next month, my boss will do a book club about a WWI book that I cannot imagine reading. #historybuff

In May, my Head of Adult will bring in an author who wrote about his life in the punk scene. #alternativeeducation

We are all different. And it’s those differences that allow our library to be an ever evolving organization. We can meet the needs of the many history aficionados in our service area, but we can also reach the crafters and the musicians.

It is not only in our unity that we are strong, but also in our diversity.

A core value of librarianship is that we have the ability and the responsibility to change society for the better. As the American Library Association puts it, librarians are responsible for “ameliorating or solving the critical problems of society.”

When we are faced with a critical problem like the heartbreaking pattern of unarmed young black men dying in altercations with law enforcement, what can librarians do to ameliorate this hurt?

In crisis situations, librarians can create an intentional community refuge. The Ferguson Public Library responded to community chaos in the wake of Michael Brown’s death by creating a safe space for all community members.

In addition to crisis situations, chronic inequality has an insidious effect on communities. Libraries can respond to chronic inequality as while as crisis situations. We can do this by sharing information, but more importantly, by actively speaking up for social justice.

Nicole Pagowsky and Niamh Wallace, librarians from the University of Arizona, shared a powerful message about librarians and social justice in this month’s College and Research Library News. Hundreds of miles away from Ferguson, these two librarians responded in their own library by creating a Ferguson resource LibGuide, which serves as a guide to information resources about Michael Brown’s death.

They express their belief that librarians have a responsibility to act in support of social justice:

“Positioning the library as anti-racist, anti-sexist, and anti-oppression helps us stay at the heart of the community, particularly in challenging times.”

Pagowsky and Wallace also remind us of Desmond Tutu’s words:

“If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.”

Leadership and librarianship both carry responsibilities for challenging injustice. I often feel unsure about how to address social injustice in my own spheres, both personally and professionally. Pagowsky and Wallace’s article reminded me that it can be as simple as trading neutrality for support, to endorse the message that black lives matter.

Check out the full article in C&RL News, the University of Arizona Ferguson LibGuide and other #BlackLivesMatter guides from Oakland Public Library, San Francisco Public Schools.


Eva —  April 14, 2015 — Leave a comment

The Curse of Competence affects us all.

Each of us, I’m sure, can think of at least one person–yourself, someone you live with, work with, or know who is the “go-to” for problems major and minor.

curse of competenceHow do you know if you have the Curse of Competence?

  • When a great idea comes up and everyone instinctively turns to you, expecting you to volunteer. And then you do.
  • When you see someone or some group struggling and you help, which means you end up doing most, if not all, of their work.
  • When you are part of a group and slowly realize that you’ve taken on all of the major tasks and milestones, because otherwise they might not get done.
  • When your boss gives you project after report after presentation without seeming to realize that none of them are actually your job or even your department, but you do them because you want to be a team player.
  • When you are the Dear Abby of the library and everyone asks you for your advice and guidance.
  • When your boss puts you on long-established teams with the directive to get it done; to clean it up; to light a fire under them; or otherwise produce the deliverable that the team hasn’t produced.
  • When you find yourself taking back work you’ve assigned to a person or a group because “It’s just easier for me to do it” rather than explain, train, or go through multiple back-and-forth drafts.

While it’s awesome to be needed and reliable and depended upon, the curse of being competent is the toll that it can take on you. Being responsible without having any authority is exhausting. Batting clean-up is a heavy burden. Operating in crisis mode all the time is stressful. And in those times when you have a moment to actually lift your head up and take breath, you’ll find yourself wondering what your job actually is–because it’s not all of these other jobs, that’s for sure.

Mitigating the curse of competence can be done; it takes time and persistence in the short-term, but it has a long-term payoff.

First, really think about whether your help is what’s being asked for. Are you jumping in to save people and projects because you want the glory? Are you sure they want you to take over? Check yourself; ask a trusted colleague for feedback. Look at the faces that other people are making while you’re doling out advice and taking on their work and make sure that’s what they really want. Are you unintentionally bulldozing or overwhelming people? Think about whether others are really “doing it wrong” or if they’re just “doing it differently.” One of my most difficult management transitions was accepting that there are billions of ways to accomplish something, and to allow my staff to use their own methods as long as they operate within our policies and parameters.

If you determine that you do have the curse of competence, talk to your boss about priorities. Take your long list and ask for a meeting where you go through and determine which priorities are essential to your job and performance. Talk about what can be reassigned to others–priorities that rightly belong to another person or another department. Talk, too, about what’s not a priority and can fall off the list all together. Note: This is not about you, the competent person, saying that you are incompetent. This is about you as a fully-formed adult acknowledging that there are only so many hours in a day and asking your boss to help you and the library by focusing on mutually agreed-upon priorities. And then when your boss comes to you with the next big project or idea, say, “That sounds great. I will have to stop doing this project or that project in order to accomplish this new project. Which priority should we bump?”

Next, talk to your colleagues about your priorities. Make sure your fellow managers understand that you and your boss agree that you must focus on these priorities, and ask them to help you by not referring their people or projects to you or your department unless it’s one of the identified priorities. And then when your colleague asks you to lend a hand with their project or department, have the conversation with them about how that fits in with your established priorities. If it doesn’t, that’s that. If it does, you can then talk about whether you are the person who should take this on or if someone else needs the opportunity or has the skills.

Third, talk to your staff. Make sure that they understand and are comfortable with their own autonomy. Train them to work through problems on their own before coming to you–in many cases, they are perfectly capable of working out a solution or resolving a situation within established guidelines without you. Demonstrate and reinforce your confidence in them, and their confidence will grow, too. When I was a frontline manager, one thing I always tried to do in one-on-one meetings was ask my employees what they’d like to be involved in at the library. Sometimes I could make it happen, sometimes I couldn’t, but asking the question led to good conversations about their job and career growth, and where their personal interests intersect with that. Even if I didn’t have anything for them to work on right then, I’d tuck their interests in the back of my mind and be on the lookout for ways to engage them with a project (which I then didn’t have to do myself!).

The hardest part is to learn to let go. Take baby steps. Start by giving a small project to someone with a deadline and the desired outcome (“Take this data, review it, and present me with two to four recommendations for how we can do better by the end of the month”) and encourage them to come to you with questions. And then let them do it their way. Make the time to train and cross-train your staff. When one of them comes to you with a problem, talk them through it–what does our policy say? Has a similar situation come up with you before and how did you handle it then? What does your gut tell you is the right answer?–and guide them through the process of getting to the answer themselves. This takes time and effort in the moment, but in the long run they’ll be empowered and confident, and you will be less stressed.

Lastly, recognize that the curse of competence is always there. It ebbs and flows but never really goes away. I continue to struggle with it every day, and so will you. But we can learn to manage it better.