Archives For change

Woman in full nursing scrubs including eye protection, face mask, and hairnet

Creative Commons LicenseJosé Eugenio Gómez Rodríguez via Wikimedia Commons

Helping your staff help other people on a shoestring budget in a time crunch – sound familiar? Hospitals and libraries have more in common than you might expect. Nurses also serve community, providing assistance to as many people as possible – and nursing managers have the same challenges and opportunities as library managers.

We’re looking to the health care industry to see what library managers can learn from nursing leadership.

Leaders Set Workplace Culture

A positive workplace makes a huge difference in whether people like working at your library. Lynne Perry Wooten and Patricia Crane studied positive work culture in health care, with a stimulating call to leaders:

. . . nursing leaders should take on the responsibility of culture gatekeeper. This requires nursing leaders to be accessible and visible to their staff. In addition to visibility, an effective culture gatekeeper exemplifies the vision and values of the organization since they are role models for the other members. In health care organizations, this suggests that nursing leaders embrace a humanistic philosophy of caring that permeates to health care providers and ultimately manifests in both patient services and employee relationships.

As in health care, librarianship has strong implicit values. We all assume our library organization values access to information and community building. As leaders, we should be making that unspoken belief an explicit value.

Change Impacts the Front Line

Library services are perpetually in a state of transformation – and as it turns out, so are health services. For nurses as well as circulation staff, change hits the front line first. This puts middle managers in the role of facilitating change while managing the people impacted by that change. Two nursing managers, Lynne Hancock and Diane Hanley describe how a change might roll out in a hospital:

Another example of staff driven change is the implementation of bar code scanning for medication safety. Nurses know the work flow, so it should be the nurses who pilot and test the system. The organizational leaders need to remove the barriers and provide the resources to get the work done.

That resonates with the library experience, where a change in library software might be lead by administration or IT, but front line staff are the everyday power users. Hancock and Hanley champion the nurses who find the ability to lead from the middle.

Coaching is Key

We already know library leadership means coaching, and it’s true of nursing leadership as well. Rose O. Sherman, who blogs on nursing leadership at Emerging RN Leader, offers coaching tips for nursing managers. These strategies work as well for library managers and include connecting with your staff as people, offering professional development, and verbalizing the impact of work:

Leaders as coaches show that they value employees. Nurses want to know that their work matters and that they are contributing to the organization’s success in a meaningful way. This has to be verbalized.

Like nurses, people work in libraries because they care about the mission. Let them know how their work contributes to the mission. Even a task removed from direct patron service (such as tattle taping books) can be connected to the mission (protecting collections for use by all).

Leadership is More than Management

In libraries, we see the difference between leadership and management. Claudia Schmalenberg and Marlene Kramer studied nurse perceptions of leadership and management behaviors for seven years.They found that management activities (such as scheduling shifts) were much less valued by nurses than leadership activities (like creating teams and resolving conflicts with doctors). Kramer and Schmalenberg observed:

With the growing complexity of the nurse manager’s role, we cannot just keep adding more role behaviors. At some point, something has to be taken away. “Managing the unit” competencies—scheduling, patient assignments, routine employee paperwork—can be delegated to others. Leadership behaviors such as walking the talk, the instilling of values, are much more difficult to give away even if it would not be a good idea to do so.

It is a management challenge to delegate activities that are undoubtedly important (like creating the reference desk schedule) – but just like nursing managers, we as library managers can choose leadership over management.

Nurses in the Library

We’re convinced: nurses and librarians share a lot of workplace culture. In fact, Pima County Library (Arizona) recognized public health as such a strong strong community need, they embedded nurses in the library. However, you don’t need to colocate health services within your library to benefit from the wisdom of nursing managers. Let’s take a page from this helping profession, and choose positive leadership.

Stay Calm, Be Positive

hhibner —  May 21, 2013 — 1 Comment

goldfishs jumpsMy library went through an ILS migration this week.  If you’ve ever been through a big computer system change like this, you know that it is a Big Deal.

Change is never easy in an institution (especially one where, as I have pointed out previously, people have worked for a long time).  We get used to the way things are and we get good at our jobs because we know how things work.  Then they go and give us all new software and expect us to be happy about it.

My responsibility in the migration was to schedule the reference staff time for training and to model a good attitude about change. The latter was the more important of the two!  Our staff had been through an ILS migration before, and remembered how painful it was.  They really needed to see how excited the library administrators were about the product and be constantly reassured that their mind would be blown at how AWESOME it would be.

Here’s the ugly truth: I did not vote for this product.  I was on the review committee and this particular system was actually my third choice.  I was overruled in part due to budget and company loyalty, and I’m ok with that because the other truth is that this system is still waaaay better than what we had been using.  I didn’t want staff to necessarily know that it was my last choice of the products we looked at.  I wasn’t hiding that fact, but I didn’t offer it up as common knowledge, either.  Instead, I focused on how much better it would be than our current system and joyfully expressed how much everyone was sure to love it.  (Of course, most of them hadn’t seen the other options, so they had no idea what the others were capable of!)

Then there was the public.  They don’t like change any more than staff do.  Their links! Their precious links! WHAT HAVE WE DONE TO THEIR LINKS?? Staff now had to be cheerleaders to the public, as I had been for them.  We asked for their patience as we figured things out.  We promised that their links were New and Improved.  We showed them features they had never dreamed possible.

And then the catalog broke.

And we fixed it.  The point is, changes like this come with a few speed bumps, but if we can all just stay calm and be positive, those speed bumps don’t turn into mountains.  There are no library catalog emergencies. We can deal with just about any thing that can go wrong.  We can waive fines and give extra renewals. We can give guest passes when library cards don’t authenticate properly.  We can smile and thank our patrons for their patience.  We can promise to keep working on it so we – and the system – get better and better.

It is day two on the new system, and we’re better today than we were yesterday. I call that a victory.