Archives For Implementation

Displays, man. I love em’. I just came back from Portland, where I drank IPAs and visited Powell’s City of Books, the largest Independent bookstore in America. My takeaway from Powell’s was not how many books they have, but how many displays they have. They have a ton. Not only in the main areas, but even in the back areas. Almost every large bookshelf had physical displays on the endcaps, whether it be “featured” of “staff picks” or whatever. I would have appreciated them more if my 3-year-old son wasn’t having a fit, but that’s another story.

Working on the Reference Desk, we’ve all gotten this phone call: “I heard this book on NPR…forgot the title…it was about housing in America…” Now I’ve talked about my book display philosophy elsewhere, but I had a sneaking suspicion that a permanent NPR book display would do very well at my library. So, although these displays are a lot of work on the front end –  build the table, create the location, find the books, add the stickers – I gave it a try.

NPR book display

I was right.

Four months ago, I placed 48 books on the display and began tracking them via CollectionHQ “Experimental Placement”. Four months later, those 48 books have generated 323 circulations (including renewals), which is as successful as any display we’ve ever done. But that number – 323 circs – is only the tip of the iceberg. I’ve added several books since then, feeding it like a bonfire really. Today, although the physical display only holds about 50 books at a time, there are currently 265 NPR books in our system, 210 of which are checked out, generating circs and renewals as we speak. That means 79% of that collection is checked out, which probably means the turnover rate (circ/books) is insane (well over 6, according to the experiment). As a comparison, our other highest performing collection is the “New Books” section, which has 50% checked out at any given time. Urban Fiction and Graphic Novels are around 25%.

People love popular displays, but they also love carefully curated and interesting displays. People want recommendations from people they trust. Librarians, for example. That’s why “Staff Picks” are a slam dunk and that’s why our Library Reads display is popular. NPR is essentially the same concept – expert picks from author interviews that make the books come to life. Indeed, my personal reading list has expanded!

Logistical FAQs
What does the catalog say for these books? “On NPR Display”. In our ILS, we give them a special location, so everyone knows where they are – especially for patrons. It’s work, but I think it’s worth it.

How do shelvers know where to put them? The ILS says “DISPLAYNPR,” but we also put a small sticker on the spine. The sticker tells the shelver what display it goes on. There are alternative ways to do that.

How do you get the list of NPR books? RSS feed that goes into my Outlook mail every day, into a special folder actually. See NPR’s books site. Tracking the books down is a bit of work, no doubt. Sometimes they are in Cataloging, On Order, checked out, or in the stacks. Luckily, I can do most of this remotely, from my desk.

What happens when the display gets too full? This happens, but not as frequently as you might think.



Email Etiquette

kathrynabergeron —  July 25, 2017 — 1 Comment

iStock_000003795732_crop380wI struggle a lot with writing emails. My emails are too long; I cc: too many people; and it is too hard to figure out what the point of the email is.

Recently, to combat that, I’ve been drafting my emails and editing them later before I send them. This is a little bit like my theory for essays when I was college freshman except I’m not finishing the emails at 4:30 am and proofreading them in 5 minutes before I leave for my 9 am class.

What am I trying to fix in those emails? I’m taking my advice from the Harvard Business Review’s website, and I think that you should, too: How to Make Sure Your Emails Give the Right Impression by Shani Harmon

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.