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We can all use more project management skills in our libraries. OCLC’s WebJunction (an amazing source of free online learning for libraries) is partnering with the Coalition to Advance Learning in Archives, Libraries and Museums to offer a webinar series on project management in libraries.

Webinars can be hit or miss, but this two-part format offers an especially rich learning experience compared to other programs. Learners will even get to submit their own project plans for feedback from the moderators.

The first webinar is February 5, and I’m already signed up and raring to go. Comment below if you decide to register and we’ll set up a discussion post for our Library Lost & Found cohort.

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.

Before You Say No

Mary Kelly —  November 26, 2013 — Leave a comment
photo credit: Julia Manzerova via photopin cc

photo credit: Julia Manzerova via photopin cc

For the last three years I have been a youth librarian at my tiny library. Prior to that, I was a dyed-in-the-wool adult services librarian. I also did some moonlighting at a small university reference desk and subbed at another public library.  If you had said that I was on track for youth services, I would have thought you were smoking crack. Youth services? Are you kidding? Even my own kids say I have no nurturing instincts.

Prior to my current position, I realized as was at a bit of crossroads. At the same time the economy stunk and I was feeling a bit desperate. The only position I could find was youth services. I liked the library and my co-workers so much I figured I could make it work, so, I said yes to kids.  I honestly never thought I was cut out for this work, and yet here I am. Aside from some occasional suicidal/homicidal thoughts during Summer Reading, I love this job. I really believe if a few things had gone differently I would have never tried youth services.

The point of my tedious life story is to keep an open mind. When I am discussing job postings with people, I often see many people reject positions because they weren’t exactly what they had in mind. It seems like many folks are reading the job posting and maybe one or two skills are not a perfect alignment with their idea of a job. Too often, I see a person not considering anything that isn’t completely within their comfort zone.

So, next time you are running through the job postings, take a breath and look at the larger picture. Before you say no to a job posting, consider the following:

Do you have the minimum requirements?
“Minimum” is the key. Libraries post with a minimum set of requirements and then add extras (“desired skills”) that they would like to have in a candidate. Very few libraries will find everything on the “desired” list.
What is the reputation of the library and the Director? 
Even a great job will be ruined in a flash by horrible management or bad employee culture. Check around. Find out the employee turnover rate. If this library is chewing up directors and librarians every few months, there is a probably a serious problem that you are wise to avoid. Conversely, if you are excited about the staff and direction a library is headed, even if the job isn’t perfect, I would seriously consider applying.
What do you want from a job?
This is where you need to be clear about your own needs. Like the job posting, separate your requirements, or deal breakers, from your list of desired attributes. Don’t forget to be realistic in developing your list of desires and deal breakers. (Example: Desired: open bar in the staff room. Reality: A pop machine, you supply the money.)
Seldom, if ever, does a career go in a straight line toward success or satisfaction. What my example should tell you is that if you are a librarian and you like being a librarian, be open to different kinds of library service. You never know what might happen.

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?