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One of my beloved minions is stepping into the fracas of library service and I thought this would be a good time to review those items that will frustrate even the most experienced librarian.  Do I have the magic answer?  A no-fail process or procedure?  Not at all.

What I do have is a list of things that you cannot possibly control, no matter how good you are and how well you know the situation. The only thing that I can promise is that you will get better coping with the unknowns in your professional life. I also know that even the most talented, laid back person in the world will have days where coping is just not happening.

2016 (and while we are counting, 2015 too) were both years in my life that were rough. I had a lot of unfixable problems and I worried too much. I also have serious regrets for not recognizing problems ahead of time, underestimating situations, and over-reacting (or under-reacting) to situations both professionally and personally. I am always Monday morning quarterbacking the “should have” and “could have” of just about any project or program. Maybe if I spent more time on “X” it would be better. I am sure everyone does this from time to time. The danger is when you can’t get past the mistakes, and worse, the perceived mistakes, and you find yourself stuck. I still struggle with this after nearly 20 years in library service.

For new librarians it is important you know from the start that no matter how much preparation you do, things will go wrong and you will make mistakes. Even experienced people working in a new situation will have the same things happen that a rookie might face. Lack of experience can work hand-in-hand with chaos. So, newbies, with all my apologies to Ranganathan and his five laws, here are the real laws of library science:

  • There will always be someone who makes things more difficult in your work life. It could be a co-worker, patron, or boss. It might even be all three.
  • At some point, someone will blame you for something.
  • No matter how many signs you hang, training opportunities you offer, processes in place, etc. there will always be people who won’t read a policy/procedure or a sign or attempt training (or even Google a solution) to address a problem.
  • No matter how many signups there are or reminder calls you make, the headcount will never be predictable.
  • You will misinterpret a directive or an instruction from a supervisor or misunderstand a patron’s request.
  • You will bite off more than you can chew.
  • Someone will complain about something.
  • You will forget something important or miss something that should have been obvious.
  • Someone will mess with your budget.
  • You will probably burst into tears or have murderous thoughts about something or someone at work.
  • You can do everything right and it will still turn out awful.

It’s not all doom and gloom, though! Try these strategies for coping:

  • First, just assume everything will go bad and try and plan accordingly.
  • Be an active listener. Take copious notes and confirm your understanding of a problem by following up with an email or conversation
  • Be kind and give the benefit of the doubt to your co-workers, patrons, and bosses.
  • Make sure you connect with other librarians regularly and share your frustrations. Even in a small library you can ask for opinions in library forums or social media. I also meet regularly with a group of library workers that are not employed at the same library as me, and we have an agreement that nothing goes outside our group. They have been my go-to group for support. They are also a good reality check when I think I am losing my mind. Newbies, particularly, need to be able to touch base with more experienced librarians as a sounding board. (Caveat: Don’t get sucked into negativity with someone heading toward burnout.)

Libraries work because of collaboration. Take this to the next level by sharing concerns with your fellow professionals. Be supportive and forgive slights, knowing that no one is perfect. Don’t assume you know all the facts, and remember that no one ever has ALL the facts.

Because everyone needs a librarian in their corner.

LL&F Year in Review

Kevin King —  January 25, 2016 — Leave a comment

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2015 annual report for Library Lost & Found. The past year was incredible! Thanks to all our readers and great contributors. We hope to bring you more helpful content in 2016.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 36,000 times in 2015. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 13 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

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.

photo credit: Tom Gill. via photopin cc

There was recently a post on the Harvard Business Review blog network about the polar vortex and its relationship to work productivity. The author’s study asked 200 people to predict the impact of weather on productivity, and 80 percent predicted that output went up during nice weather and down during bad weather. You can read all about their study methodology at the link above, but the interesting thing was the bottom line: productivity actually rises when the weather is bad (rain, snow, fog, whatever) and decreases the nicer the weather is. Why, you ask? Because people are distracted by thoughts of all the fun and pleasant things they could be doing outside when the weather is nice. When it is ugly out, they don’t have anything better to do and are not distracted by the possibilities. They hunker down and focus in on the work at hand.

How has the polar vortex affected your productivity? I’ve never considered staffing or work assignments based on weather, but if staff are more focused on bad weather days, perhaps they can be given extra time for more detail-oriented projects then. Of course, we serve the public rain or shine, and customer service has to reign supreme regardless of the weather. What if we rotate our staff “on-desk” more on sunny days and give them more “off-desk” time to focus on difficult projects when the weather is bad? It’s an interesting idea.

wpid-Library-Lost-And-Found-Image.jpgWhat did we find in our Library Lost & Found?

What did you find these past two weeks?  What are you looking forward to discovering?

What did you find this week?  What are you looking forward to discovering?