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Best LL&F Advice of 2016

Kevin King —  December 8, 2016 — 1 Comment

dumpsterfire-2016-t-shirt-black-midnight-swatch-400x400This past year has sucked. The world is less melodic (Bowie, Prince, Cohen, etc.) and safe now more than ever. There is no better time to step up and be a leader. Below is a list of some of the best LL&F posts of 2016. If you are new to our blog, consider this a sampler of the great advice from library leaders all over the world. My hope is you find some wisdom and direction too help kick ass in 2017.

9 Ways to Become an Even Awesome Library Leader in 2016

You’re a Librarian 24 Hours a Day: Interview with Heather Lowe of Dallas Public Library

Don’t Overthink It: How Librarians Can Conquer Perfectionism with Mindfulness

4 Ways to See Your Library from a Patron’s Perspective

Advice on Being a Good Library Boss

Why We Talk Crap About Patrons

Fix Your Library’s Internal Communication in 20 Minutes with Standup Meetings

Lead From Where You Are

Introverts and Extroverts: Interpersonal Dynamics in a Library Workplace

Write Your Own Story

Do you you advice or a story to share about your leadership journey? Maybe 2017 is the year you contiribute to LL&F! Please email librarylostfound@gmail.com if you want to write for the blog.

All throughout my career I have tried to periodically get up from my desk and take a walk. One of the main reasons is being able to see the library as a patron (see the fabulous post 4 Ways to See Your Library from a Patron’s Perspective), but another is to simply step away from the routine tasks that keep you chained to your desk to gain new insight. Recently I discovered a great article from Rodale’s Organic Life in which the writer Kayla Lewkowicz took walking breaks every day at work for a month. What she discovered was that taking a short walk away from your desk every day made a huge difference in her approach to work.

I Took Walking Breaks At Work Every Day For A Month, And Here’s What Happened

If you are searching for ways to be more productive, healthier and happier I suggest scheduling time to step away and take a walk!

Reading Reignites!

Kevin King —  August 8, 2016 — 1 Comment

Last week I facilitated a book discussion for people who work in libraries on the book, The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains by Nicholas Carr. It was a very lively discussion centered on Carr’s idea that prolonged use of the Internet is causing our brains to change. Carr suggests that the result of this change is that it has become more difficult for humans to engage in deep, contemplative reading. The Internet has become a “distraction machine” and society may suffer over time. His suggestion is to take time out every day to practice reading the printed word.

 

In an article on Inc.com writer Nicolas Cole listed his favorite novels that spark creativity. Cole writes, “Reading a masterful novel and immersing yourself in the story is a workout for your brain. You’ll be amazed how much richer your creativity will be after finishing a classic piece of literature.” The idea that by simply reading you can feed your creative juices seems to support Carr’s theory that the printed word exercises the parts of the brain that encourage deep thinking.

Do you have a list of books you turn to when you are stuck in a creative rut? Please share with the other LL&F readers.

group of 4 people talking in a circle and talking with text "improve you library communication in 20 minutes with standup meetings"Internal communication has been a sticking point in for every library department I’ve worked in. Even within a team, employees felt like they didn’t know what their colleagues were doing.

Solutions to internal communication usually involve a lot of reading and writing. There are internal newsletters, emailed updates, or project reports. All of this written communication takes a ton of time and energy, with only mixed results.

If internal communication is a problem in your library, I want to share an almost magical solution that you can start doing right away. Even better: this communication fix takes 20 minutes at most.

A few years ago, I learned about a great solution to internal communication problems at a fantastic project management training from Megan Torrance of TorranceLearning. I realized in the training session that internal communication isn’t a problem unique to libraries, and that project management strategies offer a fix for this issue.

Many software development teams start each morning with a quick standup meeting to explain to what they’re working on that day.

Standup meetings are a classic project management technique. The idea is to keep each other informed about new projects, let colleagues know if their help is needed, and share a team sense of achievement. Participants don’t need to literally stand up; the name standup just indicates that you’re not going to be in the circle long enough to get settled in.

The time investment to payoff ratio is stunningly good. Each person is given 60 seconds maximum, so the standup meetings last only as many minutes as there are people.

I wanted to try standup meetings out with my circulation department, but I needed to tweak the format to fit our service-oriented work.

The timing was the first thing to change. Daily meetings seemed way too often. For one thing, we cover a wide variety of schedules to keep the library open, so it’s a rare day that we’re all here at the same time. Instead of daily standup, I settled on weekly standup meetings with my access services team.

The standup meetings have been amazing for our team communication. In just a few minutes, the entire team gets a sense of our biggest accomplishments and the challenges coming up.

I borrowed the format Megan Torrance shared at the training. We gather around our ILL processing table every Friday morning, and in 60 seconds, each team member is asked to share:

  • What you’re working on
  • What you need help with
  • (If you want to share) something that’s going on in your personal life

This basic outline results in a lot of information packed into 60 seconds. For instance, a circulation manager might say:

“I’m working on hiring new student employees to staff the circulation desk. I might need your help with some of new hire training, because I’ll be out on vacation next week if my kid makes the gymnastics semi-finals.”

These two sentences give the team a heads up that new student employees will be joining the department, that they might need to lend a hand for training and orientation, and that their coworker has something exciting going on at home.

As a manager, I really appreciate the communal format of standup meetings. Everyone’s voice is heard and my staff are giving status updates to each other, not just to me. Everyone at the standup hears that reserve requests are flooding in or that interlibrary loan urgently needs extra processing help, and we’re able to create a quick plan to deal with it as a team.

The better understanding of current workloads we get at standup meetings helps us empathize with each other. When you know your coworker is dealing with rewriting loan rules, you’re able to empathize with her, hold off on less pressing requests, and understand if she’s slow to get back to you.

The empathy also extends to personal life. If you know that your colleague’s sister is visiting from out of town, you understand why he’s really motivated to get out the door at 5 o’clock sharp.

Of course, all of these things could be shared in casual conversation. The beauty of the standup meeting is that it sets aside a small amount of time to ensure updates are shared, and that information is shared equally with everyone at the same time. Staff who felt out of the loop before are assured a place in the circle.

I also believe that standup meetings help us get more done. Saying out loud what you plan to accomplish instantly creates a feeling of accountability, so we get to work right away.

How does your library department keep up to date with each other?

Standup up meetings are the best strategy I’ve found for my group. They’re quick, effective, and help us feel connected. If your library department could use an internal communication boost, invest 20 minutes to try out a standup meeting.

Do you want to be a good supervisor?

I do, so I had to read Baharak Yousefi’s amazing list of good library boss practices on Letters to a Young Librarian. I was pumping my fist by the middle of the first paragraph:

When I come across smart, awesome, politically progressive librarians (which happens with delightful frequency), I try to convince them to consider management. This is not because I think management is the only path forward for these wonderful humans, but because I want more smart, awesome, and politically progressive folks at those tables.

Darn right! If you care about how libraries are developing, taking on a formal leadership role is the easiest way to influence change in the future.

The point from this list that has stuck with me over the past few days is #5:

Make absolutely sure that people who work for you have the resources to do their work. If resources are scarce, then change their work. Do less with less and more with more.

In a time of flat budgets, “Do less with less” might become my mantra. It’s so easy for library staff to get overwhelmed because we naturally want to do all the things for all the users. The reality is that we’re limited in resources, including employee work time. A good boss needs to understand the capacity of their team and make sure the workload is humanly achievable. If we can’t fulfill every service without overworking our staff, it’s time to hire more people or gracefully sunset something.

The rest of Baharak’s list is equally relevant to any library boss. If you’re not already regularly reading Letters to a Young Librarian, it’s a great resource to add to your regular rotation. Jessica Olin curates submissions from all types of librarians about career lessons they learned after library school.

 

Photo of neatly arranged bookshelves

By Maarten van den Heuvel via Unsplash