What’s On My Desk

Sitting on my desk is a frame containing the poem “Ozymandias” by Percy Bysshe Shelley. The paper is yellowing a bit, the ink is fading some, and the frame shows scratches from being packed and moved multiple times, job to job and house to house.

Ozymandias by Percy Bysshe Shelley

Ozymandias by Percy Bysshe Shelley. Photo by author.

My high school friend Nick gave this to me as a graduation gift, after we spent a lot of time discussing the poem in one of Ms. Schneider’s classes (was it AP English? Composition? British Literature II? It had to have been AP English, because we discussed later how lucky we were to have been prepared when it turned up on that year’s AP English Exam).

While I had the mechanics of the poem down pat as far as school went, I did not really appreciate the message of “Ozymandias” at the time. I have re-read it often since then, though I don’t need to; it is the only poem I can recite from memory.

I don’t want to be Ozymandias. I am sure that some people who have sat on the other side of my desk and read the poem facing them probably think that I do. I am driven, and I am tenacious, but I am not Ozymandias. I keep this framed poem on my desk, not to inspire me to be ruthless and uncaring, but to remind myself that I am not important in the grand scheme of things; that being prideful gets me nothing in the end; and that when I say that “I have no desire for a legacy” I’m not being nihilistic or falsely modest, but realistic and practical.

In the long arc of time, no one remembered who Ozymandias was; his monuments and city did not last, and all the traveler in the poem was able to find was a shattered statue and sand stretching as far as the eye could see. Ozymandias built his legacy to prove that he was “king of kings.” My drive and tenacity are on behalf of my community, not for myself, and keeping “Ozymandias” on my desk reminds me that it’s not all about me. Thanks, Nick!

You Can Be a Leader My Little Hambone!

South Pole PigLeadership motivation can come from the most unexpected places. Earlier this year I read a children’s book by Chris Kurtz called The Adventures of a South Pole Pig (Harcourt 2013). I blogged about the book at Bookends Blog back in August, but was reminded about the sensible leadership advice in this book while preparing for a conference presentation this week. Flora is some pig. She is not content to spend her life in the pig pen. She wants to explore. Setting her sights on being a sled-pig on a sled-dog team, Flora eventually finds herself aboard a ship headed to Antarctica but the cook, who calls her his “Little Hambone,” has different ideas about her role on the ship.

Never fear, Flora is innovative and courageous, and persistent in her goals. There is danger, but she does not end up on a breakfast plate. The story, though, heralds the idea that brains and talent can come from unlikely places and celebrates teamwork. The animals learn that it is important to pursue your own interests and talents. To support others and to allow others to support you. To share your talents and strengths. And, that leadership can ebb and flow in a group.  Certainly this book will be a popular elementary classroom read aloud but perhaps it will help grow future leaders. Meanwhile, it can provide library leaders with some ideas to chew on. Who can you encourage to take on a leadership role in a new project? Who has talents and strengths that you have not tapped? And who on your staff can you call on to support you? Thinking about these things just might save your bacon.

Library Rangers Unite!

LogoPatchOh, the boys at Unshelved are having fun again. Surely you know about their irreverent library humor in their online and print Unshelved comic strip? If not, catch up! But Gene and Bill have a new Kickstarter project that savvy library leaders are going to want to use to reward their hard working staff members. Yes, folks, they are developing Library Rangers badge reward system. Be Informed! Here’s a partial description in their own words:

Library Ranger is anyone who loves libraries and helps support their mission, from librarians, pages, and clerks to teachers, students, and patrons. And now there’s a fun way to celebrate the diverse skills that these good people exhibit on a daily basis: high-quality embroidered badges, designed by Bill & Gene, the Unshelved guys.

Wearing a Library Ranger badge tells the world that you are dedicated to executing your responsibilities, that you have completed your training with honors, that you performed service above and beyond the call of duty, or that you somehow managed to endure a truly epic level of nonsense. They are perfect for dazzling your friends, impressing your coworkers, or starting a conversation at a library conference. Give them to your employees, board members, supporters, volunteers, students, or yourself!

Surely you or someone you envied had a sash or vest full of little cloth embroidered badges for your skills in the wilderness. Now we can celebrate all of our awesome library talents while having fun.  The guys have already reached their initial fundraising goal of $7,000 and have passed a few other stretch goals but there’s still time to make this project more wonderful with additional pledges before October 2, 2013. More donations mean more badges and don’t you want a full sash? Head over to their Kickstarter page to see the sample badges, read more about the project and how you can use it to inspire and reward the people who help make your library extraordinary!

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photo credit: myoldpostcards via photopin cc

How did I get here?

And you may ask yourself, ‘Well, how did I get here? – “Once in a Lifetime,” Talking Heads, written by David Byrne, et al.

My community is situated pretty much smack-dab in the middle of two LIS schools, so I am asked “What was your career path?” a lot, usually as part of an Intro to Library Science course.

My previous stock answer was that librarianship brings my two favorite job experiences together: Customer service and research. But now, I add a third item to my answer: I get to use my leadership skills.

As a librarian, connecting patrons with information meant I would learn something new every day. When I worked as a researcher in the publishing industry, one of the things I enjoyed most was the discovery process: Putting pieces together to answer an editor’s question, gathering resources for publication and attribution, or checking a fact. For those of you old (and esoteric) enough to remember the TV show Herman’s Head, that’s pretty much what I did. I felt intrepid, curious, determined, and optimistic–like a detective solving a crime (oh, how I loved Encyclopedia Brown, Nancy Drew, and Agatha Christie growing up!). When I became a librarian, most of my friends and family said the leap made sense to them–I always liked to read (because that’s what we do all day, amirite?) and I am curious.

I was also drawn to librarianship for what I call the “craps table” or “Russian roulette” of working with the public. I have a strong retail background and enjoy the quirks, foibles, highs, and lows of working with the general public. While there is stability in the library–in knowing the people I work with and the desks I work at and when I am scheduled to work them–working with the public provides enough uncertainty to keep things interesting (who will walk up next? who will call next? will it be a homework question, an investment question, readers’ advisory, or a paper jam?).

The mash-up of research and customer service is what drew me to public librarianship initially, but looking back on my career trajectory, I see that there was something else that got me here, too–my leadership orientation. While I would not have identified myself at the time as a leader in either publishing or retail, looking at it now I realize that I worked my way up into leadership positions in both. In retail, I started as a Cashier; when I left, I was the equivalent of a Supervisor. In publishing, I started as an Assistant Researcher; when I left publishing, I was an Editor.

I could plan, organize, marshall, manage, motivate, problem-solve, and inspire before I was fully cognizant of having these skills. When I decided that I wanted to become a library director and asked myself, “Well, how did I get here?” I realized that I’ve exhibited leadership skills in some way, shape, or form for most of my life. Directing a library allows me to bring my leadership skills to the forefront while also satisfying my love of learning and customer service.

How about you, Library Lost & Founders? How did you get here?

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Fantasy vs. Reality

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Yesterday I was faced with a decision as a leader.  Do I venture on the path that leads to fun and frivolity or do I contribute to the profession?  Battling heroes (or villains), learning to cast spells, or helping my state association plan for the future?  Library leaders are constantly faced with deciding between what is easy and what is right.  This sign put the thought process into perspective for me and will forever remind me that some days it is truly a battle between wizards, heroes, villains and librarians.  It is OK if you wage this war in your mind, just be sure that at the end of the day you make a right turn.

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Oatmeal is Good for You

The-OatmealIt’s very dangerous to read The Oatmeal at work.  Matthew Inman’s hilarious and irreverent online comic has been known to induce spit takes that can ruin a desktop computer.  His brand of humor is definitely not to be shared in storytime, but that does not mean you can’t learn from the unique wisdom within the comic strip.

Recently the post titled How to Get More Likes on Facebook caused me to rethink how libraries should use the social media tool to gain a following.  Have you wallpapered your library website with Facebook icons?  Do you pander to your patrons for “Likes”?  These moves will most likely cause your fans to think you are desperate for attention.  Inman suggests that instead of begging for attention, use that energy to actually do something “likeable.”  Craft posts that are “hilarious, sad, beautiful, interesting, inspiring or simply awesome” like:

  • Book Haul videos
  • Impromptu patron interviews
  • Vine videos about the library
  • Behind the scenes pics of staff having fun
  • Interesting facts and trivia

Setting aside all the insidious reasons Facebook exists, it is an inexpensive (practically FREE) way to market to your patrons.  It is one of the best ways to promote what the library is doing in a less traditional marketing way.  If patrons always encounter a plea for attention when they visit your Facebook page you’ll eventually drive them to “unfriend” you.  Remember Inman’s sage advice when it comes to posting on Facebook, “More tanks.”

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Finding Confidence

While I can’t speak for other managers, I know that I have days where I have the following thoughts:

  • Huh. Never run across that one.Sound-of-music2
  • I have no idea what I’m doing.
  • Wow, they really let me be in charge.
  • Am I even grown-up enough to do this?
  • Don’t Panic. If you panic, others will panic.

I suppose I could give some sage advice on how I don’t let these thoughts get to me but mostly, I just think of this:

So if you happen to be visiting my library and you see me execute a random jazz square and twirl, you now know that it’s not just out of the pure joy of being a librarian.