Engage! With Your Staff

Melissa T. Smith —  December 31, 2014 — Leave a comment

My first boss was in many ways my best boss. He started on the job a week before I did at a place where the previous Branch Librarian had been, shall we say an institution, many of the staff were there for years as well. We were kind of in the same boat I was a brand spanking new trainee, not even in Library School yet and he was a first time manager coming to a place that had a long established mythology and *way of doing things*. We had to learn the ropes and fast.
The way we accomplished this was to go through my training memo together. We proceeded to be trained and perform tasks at every level from Page to Branch Librarian. We edged shelves, reconciled the reserves, did the fines report, counted the money and revised new books. You get the picture… it took months. We learned the little signtures that were unique to our branch, the letters on the top–not the bottom– of the paperback spine, the property stamp on page 51 but what was really accomplished was a tenor of trust and confidence in the capability of the staff to lead and teach. My boss was able to evaluate, communicate and participate with almost all staff members in a capacity that gave them the opportunity to shine. I got trained in every facet of the Branch. For many of the staff it was the first time in a long time they talked about what they did and why they did it. It opened the lines of communication so that we could ask questions, suggest changes, hear success stories and praise expertise.
For the staff it showed we were invested in the team as a whole, not just the stuff considered *librarian duties*. For my boss it created an air of certain capability and quiet reserve. He had things in hand and was undoubtably in charge but was confident in his team and secure enough to share and delegate leadership opportunities.





You might say *but I’m not a new manager*. Even better! Ask about the new update to the Library Card application, process materials with your most experienced Clerk then your least. Run a program not in your specialty. This doesn’t have to be done in a day, take time to learn. You cannot know what a colleague really does unless you do it yourself. This exercise should be looked upon as open, accepting and non threatening with enough warning so staff can prepare. This gives you an opportunity to address problems you see or make changes and listen to why things are being done the way they are and see if they can be done better. Giving everyone a chance to be the *smartest person in the room* is great for morale and gives you a glimpse into your workplace and how things are really being done.

Melissa T. Smith


Industrious, rarely mild-mannered Librarian Honeybee, working to bring teens and authors together. Book Lover, Teen Advocate and Promoter of Reading for Pleasure. Admirer and Acquirer of Flair in its many forms!

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