Archives For Implementation

pile-of-booksLibraries have different ways of dealing with extra copies. After these books are 6-8 months old, they’re ready to retire to the regular stacks. But how many copies should we hold on to? And for how long? At our library, we keep two copies and hold onto them until they get weeded (which means no checkouts in 4 years). So, browsing through our regular stacks, it’s hard not to notice the many copies of older Patterson’s, and Baldacci’s, and [any popular author we get more than two copies of]. Many are newer, but many are old – really old. Like over 10 years old. Do we really need two copies of a Patterson novel from 2002? That’s a lot of real estate, after all.

Turns out, yes.

Focusing on our Central (downtown) Branch, I recently ran an experiment in CollectionHQ tracking the performance of (a) books we had two copies of and (b) that were at least 10 years old. I scanned a large sample of these books into one experiment, a total of 281 books – from Child to Connelly, Cussler, Evononvich, Kingsbury, Koontz, Macomber, Patterson…you get the idea.

And then I waited.

In four months, 102 of those books had circulated (35%). Not bad. In six months, 129 had circulated (46%). That’s a lot, and doesn’t count renewals, which accounted for 291 circulations. And in many cases, both older copies were checked out (not just one of them).

Don’t sleep on your older but popular authors.

Coworkers in a serious discussion with text 4 ways to heal your team after a micromanager
If your predecessor was a micromanager and you are more of a collaborative type of manager, you may have some clean-up to do to get your new team on track. Here are a few tips that will help you know where to look, and how to repair the damage.

1) Review all rules

Sometimes libraries can go a little overboard with their rules. How strict do you need to be with staff and patrons? Take a look at your policies and procedures and see if they need to be loosened up. Check out job descriptions, too. Do they reflect the needs of the library and is there some flexibility built in? All of these changes will require board (and union) approvals but it will be worth it to have everyone on the same page.

Also look for meeting minutes. These may give you an idea of how much control your predecessor had over things and how much staff were allowed to contribute to decisions. One person cannot possibly have all the answers. Were a variety of voices being heard?

2) Enjoy the honeymoon period

Staff will be so excited by hearing the word “Yes” for the first time that they may build up confidence and get carried away with requests. You will be such a breath of fresh air and will probably end up confused by why their requests seem like such a big deal. Some micromanagers are change-averse and use their power to say no to just about everything.

When the ideas and requests really start flowing, you will eventually have to draw a line and park some of the requests. Staff will have to get used to the new world of ideas and how they need to be managed properly (Why should we implement this? Do we have time right now? How should it be prioritized? How do we do it properly? How will we evaluate success? Do we need to create an experimental space to pilot new ideas?)

3) Wean your staff off dependency

Your priorities will be different than your predecessor’s and they should mirror your job description. For example, working on a presentation for the local Chamber of Commerce is probably going to be a higher priority than filling the golf pencil holder. Micromanagers seem to have an incredible amount of energy to work on everything but their own job duties. Delegation will be very important here and you need to tread carefully.

Find gentle ways of breaking it to your staff and support groups that things are going to be different. For example, you may need to review with your Friends of the Library board what you can and cannot legally do for them. Chances are your predecessor was doing more than just being a representative of the library at this group’s meetings. Be firm about your duties and priorities. Tell staff and support groups all the great things you’re doing so they understand you are being a productive member of the team and then delegate the rest.

4) Build staff’s self-esteem

Now is the time to let every staff member know what they are doing right. Library Lost & Found has some great articles about praising staff. They are used to being criticized or never doing anything quite right. Let them know when you like what they are doing! It’s time for some positive reinforcement.


Being the new boss is never easy. Taking over for someone whose management style is completely different than yours – especially when their style was toxic – means you have your work cut out for you. Your style may be welcome in some ways and confusing in others. I hope this article has given you a few places to start looking to find out which changes need to be made and which expectations need to be redefined as you begin leading your new team.

 

pencil in book with text "don't let perfect prevent finished"

Do you find it difficult to make decisions without analyzing every single minute detail? Do you hone in on specific words people say and try to decipher their meaning in a variety of contexts? Do you find that even simple projects take more time than you anticipated because you can’t get past the initial steps? If you said yes to any of those questions, then you, my friend, are an over thinker.

There is a fine balance between being thoughtful and over thinking. You want to consider the bigger picture and put energy and attention into your work, but when the “if x then y” scenarios turn into an unmanageable list of possibilities, you’ve missed the point entirely.

Here’s an example. At a three-day conference I attended recently, we were asked to create a short presentation that creatively outlined the ideas we had learned in the workshop. My group performed a silly infomercial, which was horribly embarrassing, but which was well-received. Another group did a fairy tale skit that was dramatic and hilarious. One group, though, did nothing. They admitted, once they saw what the other groups had come up with, that they had overthought the whole concept. They were either unable to get past their performance hang ups, misunderstood the assignment, or maybe even disagreed on the learning outcomes of the workshop. Whatever it was, they never got past the first step of coming up with an idea to present.

Now think of the things you do at work every day and how you might overthink those projects. I make service desk schedules, and that is definitely an area where I overthink! I spend more time than is probably necessary making sure my co-workers get their favorite shifts at their favorite desks, making sure everyone has a break, making sure there is always backup available for Interns and Reference Assistants, making sure there are always Librarians in Charge in the building, making sure the right desks are double-covered at the right times on the right days…it’s enough to make me twitchy just writing about it! And yet, I know that every person on our reference staff is perfectly capable of working at any desk at any time, that they will fill in for each other if asked, that they will step up when needed, and they don’t really need me to orchestrate to such a degree. It will all be fine. Wow, look at that – I’m cured!

If only it were that easy. When our name is attached to a project, we want it to reflect our standards. Sometimes, though, too much planning is detrimental, and as you can see in the workshop example above nothing ends up getting completed.

Practicing mindfulness is a strategy that over-thinkers can try. Worry less about past mistakes and future possibilities and make decisions that are positive right now. The workshop group could have simply made a poster that reflected their indecision. A crazy Venn diagram or flow chart that imitated their discussion would have been fine. It wouldn’t have been the best presentation, but it would have been honest and productive, and would also have met the parameters of the assignment. It would have been something.

Another idea is to limit your choices. I’ve been on committees that spent hours on chair arrangement for a workshop, or on what to serve for lunch, or on what color the button on a new web site should be. I’ve also been on committees that were given a limited list of choices from which to pick, and they managed to choose a room setup, a lunch menu, and a color scheme all in under an hour. Give yourself limited choices for regular activities and you can simply make a quick decision.

Be creative where it counts. If the choices are buff vs. cream, then even a mistake isn’t that costly. Put your time and energy into the decisions that really matter and let go of the rest. Don’t overthink it.

Photo of three people walking silhouetted by sunset

CC-BY Abhijit Kar Gupta

Libraries exist to provide amazing services and resources to our users.  We are so committed to this vision that we continue to offer these services even after users don’t need them.

As non-profit service-oriented organizations, the motivation to pull the plug on a library service is minimal. If even a single user finds a printed pamphlet valuable, we’ll continue trifolding away. But is that the best use of library time?

Maintaining old services diminishes the innovation capacity of libraries. Our resources (staff time, building space, and money) are finite. In order to do new things, we have to stop doing some old things.

Don’t panic, book loving librarians! I said some old things. Of course we continue well-used old services. The printed word is still going strong.

In order create a makerspace or expand reference hours, however, library leadership would have to examine how every inch of floor space and every hour of staff time is used.

In an environment where we hardly ever give things up, libraries can turn to tech companies for inspiration on how to sunset services. Software reaches the end of its life cycle at the speed of light, and product life-cycle management is an entire discipline.

Here’s four lessons about sunsetting from the tech world that we can apply to libraries:

Choose to Sunset Wisely

Pragmatic Marketing, a software product management firm, offers a guide to retiring products. This errs a little far on the business side for library taste, with a lot of talk about profit margins. This advice on how to decide to sunset, however, rings true for libraries:

“The easiest way to know that a product should be killed or sold off is when it no longer fits the company’s distinctive competence and market strategy. Regardless of the costs, a product that doesn’t make sense in the context of the rest of your products just confuses your customers.”

“Distinctive competence” is an great concept for library leaders to consider. Our distinctive competence in libraries is matching users with resources.

I encountered a library where staff invested significant time at the photocopier duplicating journal pages in order to send printed scans of the table of contents to users. This was in 2014, in a time when most journals offer free table of contents alerts by email. It was time to end the physical copy service and instead point users to the email services direct from publishers.

When we examined this through the lens of distinctive competence, we realized that we don’t want to be known for labor-intensive copy making. We want to connect users with a fast automated service that they can control.

Retire Slowly

Even if the decision is clear, you have to move cautiously when sunsetting a service. In 2013, Google announced the sunset of Reader, their widely used RSS feed product. They gave users several months of advance warning:

“To ensure a smooth transition, we’re providing a three-month sunset period so you have sufficient time to find an alternative feed-reading solution.”

Google gave plenty of time for users to adjust to the idea of the service going away. Libraries could take a page from this example by targeting communication to the few remaining users of an aging service, like typewriters, to let them know gently that there will be other options soon.

Answer ALL the Questions

Geomagic, a suite of tools for transforming 3D scans into CAD models, recently consolidated their software offerings and discontinued some products. Their Q&A page on the sunset covers everything a user might want to know, from basics like “What are we doing?” and “Why are we doing this?” all the way to extreme specifics:

How did you decide which products to move forward with?

What happens to my dongle for a retired product?

I am a non-maintenance customer. Will my retiring product still work after Dec 31, 2015?

The Geomagic example anticipates any question that a user might have and gives them as much information as possible up front.

Communicate Sensitively

Slinger Jansen, a computer science professor at Utrecht University in the Netherlands, led a research inquiry into the software sunsetting process. The resulting technical paper has a softer side:

“Think, for instance, of the support engineer who knows every nook and cranny of the software product, or the user who has configured the product just to her specifications and is described as the wizard of that product by her colleagues. We advise practitioners to make compromises and be sensitive towards the emotions that surround legacy products, both in their internal and external communication.”

This is a good reminder that every single library service has a champion on staff. Sensitivity to the feelings of those “wizards” in your messaging about sunsetting – even internal communications – will help that devotee let go.

Library Staff Day

hhibner —  March 26, 2015 — 2 Comments

My library held a staff in-service recently. It was very successful, so I thought I would share a few do’s and don’ts of planning an in-service.

The Committee

Our in-service planning committee consisted of one person from each department. I led the committee, plus there was a Page, a Clerk, a Librarian, a Reference Assistant, and the Public Relations and Marketing person. I highly recommend having people from various departments on the committee. It creates a more holistic, “bigger picture” program that is relevant to everyone. What I don’t recommend is long meetings. We put our program together in four one-hour meetings. Have an agenda and then send a follow-up email after every meeting that reminds everyone of what was decided.

The Activities

We were asked by the Director to include one team building exercise. After talking it over, the committee members all agreed that we didn’t want to make anyone do anything silly or embarrassing that would single them out or require them to touch anyone (I’ll admit, that one is my hang-up). We decided to play trivia. We created teams that included people from various departments. Our library is a three-story building, so there are a lot of people we rarely see and never get to work with. Trivia teams were encouraged to come up with a team name. Some of them even dressed alike. We got to have fun in a non-threatening, team environment with people we didn’t necessarily know well ahead of time. The questions came from a trivia question-a-day calendar from a few years ago that one committee member had, so they covered pop culture categories.

My next suggestion is to give everyone on staff an opportunity to weigh in on what learning opportunities are offered on in-service day. We asked for suggestions, and the most-requested topic was emergency procedures. They wanted to do a fire drill and talk about all kinds of emergency situations like tornadoes, medical emergencies, active shooter scenarios, etc. We had a city police officer, an EMT, and a fire chief come to give a quick talk. Then they watched us go through our fire drill procedure and do a mock evacuation as if we were open for business. After the all-clear from them, we came back together as a group and the fire department critiqued how we did. It was very valuable, since we learned a few things about our PA system, our new security panels, and our signage.

The rest of the day was filled with department-specific meetings and project-specific updates. That’s not as exciting, but very relevant to everyone and a good opportunity for departments to train or share information with everyone in their department at once. Even our regular monthly meetings don’t catch as many staff members as this staff in-service day did, so take advantage!

The Food

I can’t leave out the most important tip of the day: have food and make it good. That sounds really easy and obvious, but as it turns out there are a lot of ways of doing this and you will never make everyone happy. We provided a nice breakfast spread with a variety of bakery items and fruit and beverages. Then we provided boxed lunches with three sandwich options or two salad options. My advice is to acknowledge dietary restrictions, of course, but limit the number of choices. Make it clear what is included, and what substitutions can and cannot be made. The reality is that you’re providing lunch (you’re welcome), you’re giving enough options to satisfy diverse lifestyles and restrictions, and if anyone just can’t make it work they are welcome to provide their own lunch. If they just can’t remove the cheese or abide the white bread the sandwich comes on, that’s not necessarily on you. Do the best you can to accommodate health risk, but don’t get too caught up in personal taste. At some point, it is what it is and you have to move on to bigger problems.

Conclusion

Ultimately, a staff in-service is a paid-time work day that is meant to be interesting and informative. If you can build in some fun, that’s great too!

 

Photo cc-by Calvert Cafe & Catering.