5 Non-Library Websites You Should Be Reading Right Now

photo credit: ntr23 via photopin cc

photo credit: ntr23 via photopin cc

If you are like me, you have probably got a whole slew of blogs and websites about library work. However, in my experience, if you want to see the big picture or find the next big idea, you will need to look outside our circle of library people. Here are some websites that I put on my reading list.

Ask a Manager

Alison Green is a former manager that answers questions on everything from resumes, interviewing to being productive on the job. Every library supervisor should read her stuff religiously. Even if you have no aspirations for management, Ask a Manager, puts problems in context and also helps you manage “up”. Job hunters will love the advice on cover letters, resumes and interviewing.

My personal favorite: 10 Worst Holiday Party Disasters

Evil HR Lady

This one is one of my favorites! Evil HR Lady is Suzanne Lucas, a former human resources manager. Like Ask a Manager, Suzanne answers questions on everything human resources. I can’t tell you how many times I have used her for my “reality” check. Not sure something is legal? ethical? or practical? Evil HR Lady has you covered. Even if you are just a minion out there in the working world, this blog will tell you what to expect from an employer (beyond a paycheck).

HBR (Harvard Business Review)

HBR is one of the best places to get your head around big ideas in leadership, work performance and strategic thinking. The format is a bit longer, but worth every paragraph.

Recent Favorite: How to Make Yourself Work When You Just Don’t Want To


Like HBR, this is where go for more big picture articles about leadership and management. On the left hand top right menu pick the Leadership category and you are good to go. Job hunters: there are some really good tips for writing resumes and great advice for interviewing.

Recent Favorite: Leadership Lessons from Animal House


I can already hear everyone saying that this isn’t really a business blog or management blog. It’s a blog about tips, strategies and shortcut in everyday life. I always think this is a great source for what I will tactfully call “getting your crap together”.

Even if you don’t like my favorites, try expanding your library reading to the non-library world. Hanging with “civilians” can be illuminating.

Great Finds – The Happiness Advantage

There is a phrase I live by: “I work to live; I don’t live to work.” What this means, quite literally, is that I work in order to meet a standard of living I have set for myself. I work so that I can contribute to a comfortable retirement life as well. If I didn’t have to work in order to have the necessities and comforts of life that I value, I wouldn’t. I would allow someone who needs to work that opportunity.

The other side of the phrase is “I don’t live to work.” I don’t get up every day just to work. I spend eight hours a day at work doing something I am interested in and at which I want to succeed, but my whole life does not revolve around those eight hours. I live for a lot of things, like family and friends, hobbies, life goals, and overall daily satisfaction. Again, if I didn’t have to work, I wouldn’t. I would volunteer or maybe contribute to similar projects – but on my own time.

There are definitely people who live to work. Shawn Achor’s book The Happiness Advantage talks about the relationship between happiness and success. Some people believe that they will finally be happy when they meet certain professional benchmarks. “When I’m the Director, I’ll be happy!” “When I’m a department head, I’ll be happy!” You know what? They will be happy when they reach a goal they’ve set for themselves. What worries me is the idea that someone could spend their life – year after long year – working toward a goal and not being happy along the way. I may have to work 30 years before I can retire, but I can promise you I’m not spending 30 years focused solely on work to the complete disregard and neglect of everything else.  I focus eight hours of my day specifically on professional success (sometimes a bit more, sometimes a bit less), but only because that work makes me happy. If it didn’t, I would find different work.

Achor says that success is a result of happiness. There are plenty of successful people in this world who are unhappy; who sacrificed much in order to become successful. There are others who enjoyed every minute of their climb to the top and who succeeded because they had a healthy outlook on life both in and out of work.  Work-life balance is another topic for another day, but today I’m suggesting that anyone can be happy on their way to success, that there are small successes every day that should be celebrated, and that you needn’t live to work in order to find success. Happiness is success.

Book cover of Continuing Education for Librarians

Learn by Teaching

Book cover of Continuing Education for Librarians

Let me channel Seneca the Younger for a minute and say that docendo discimus: the most thorough way to learn something is through teaching it.

Librarians tend to live by this principle instinctively. I can’t count the number of times I’ve crammed on a software tutorial right before teaching a workshop on it. My current goal is to do this docendo discimus thing more formally and consciously.

Continuing Education for Librariansa collection of reports from librarians  about how they pursue professional development, includes a section about learning by teaching [full disclosure: I have a chapter in this book]. Celia Ross’s chapter on “Professional Development Through Teaching” provides a framework for thinking through opportunities for teaching:

  • Why should I teach?
  • What could I teach?
  • Whom could I teach and where could I teach them?

Here’s my current thoughts on these questions:

Why should I teach:
Hmm, slam dunk on this one: to learn something more deeply. There’s also the benefit of smartening up the old CV and the dazzling prospect of additional income.

What could I teach:
My specialization is in access services librarianship, which is enjoying a renaissance within the academic library community. I’d love to share my experiences in the user services side of librarianship.

Whom could I teach and where could I teach them:
I’m still working on this one. I’ve framed out a syllabus for a graduate class on access services, and am slowly working on pitching it to a graduate program.

What about you? What could you teach?

Small Messages

Great Finds: Small Message, Big Impact

Small Message, Big Impact: The elevator Speech Effect

By Terri L. Sjodin

Copyright 2012

Here’s a little light summer reading for all you library leaders! It is truly a small message (219 pages) with a big impact. There is so much good advice packed into this little tome; it is well worth your time to read it. It is not library-specific, but the ideas definitely translate well to our industry. Some key ideas include:

1. Craft a variety of elevator speeches or talking points and deliver the one that is most appropriate and relevant to the situation. For example, if you are at a big library conference like ALA, you can introduce yourself to a session speaker using an elevator speech around the topic of the session. When I speak at conferences, I love it when attendees come up afterward to introduce themselves. The problem is that there are a multitude of people who sort of rush the stage, and you only really have time for an elevator speech with each one. You are genuinely interested in what they have to say, but you can’t have a long conversation with each person.

2. The author gives advice for different presentation styles, but warns that ultimately you have to be you. You can try something really creative and kitschy, and that does work in the right situation, but you still have to be comfortable delivering it and it has to work for the audience. This is especially true in elevator speech situations, where you may be trying to get someone’s attention for three short minutes by any means possible. If you’re too crazy and they don’t know you, they may run in the other direction! On the other hand, if your gimmick is clever enough – and relevant to that person’s interests – you just might get their attention in a positive way.

3. This leads to the author’s idea of being “scrappy.” Find out about the person you want to add to your network and use that information to make connections. Do they like coffee? Bring them coffee and ask for three minutes of their time (the length of time it takes you to deliver your elevator speech). Do they know a mutual person that you know? Show up where those two people will be and have person A formally introduce you to person B. Will they both be at a certain conference? You should go too!

4. The author also talks about how and when to be persuasive rather than informative (or vice versa) and how to pass the “So what?” test. You have to answer this question: What does this mean to me? Superlatives like “best,” “largest,” “oldest,” “newest,” and “most popular” are not helpful when you’re trying to be persuasive. You have to prove it. What makes you the best, largest, etc. and compared to what?  There are six general case arguments that work: How are you going to save them time, money, sanity, provide security, help them have fun, or make things easy?

For me, and I’ve written about being an introvert, this advice makes the idea of an elevator speech very do-able. I am certainly not shy, but I do prefer to have a well-crafted and thoughtful presentation ready. The thought of coming up with a three minute persuasive elevator speech off-the-cuff is terrifying. I may miss opportunities to share ideas I am passionate about with people who might also be passionate about them because I am not as good a spontaneous verbal communicator. Having a few talking points on a variety of topics ready to share any time and anywhere makes me feel much more confident. For the extroverts among us, having these planned speeches could help them focus their message into the three minutes they may get to share their ideas without overwhelming their audience.

Highly recommended!

Crucial Conversations cover

Great Finds: Crucial Conversations

Crucial Conversations cover

Difficult conversations are, well, difficult. When the buck stops with you, though, you can’t really delegate those tough conversations to someone else. A book that has really helped me is Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When the Stakes Are High, by Kerry Patterson, et al.

Crucial Conversations presents seven key points to be aware of, consider, and do when you have to have a tough discussion. I took a previous conversation as an example to lead myself through the book, applying each step as I went along. It made me think about how that past conversation maybe didn’t go so well, and I was able to apply the seven key points to imagine how it could have gone better. This made the book more concrete for me, and easier to apply the steps in future conversations.

  1. Start with Heart – Focus on what you really want from the conversation, whether it’s for yourself, for them, for your organization. Take a step outside of yourself and examine your actions–do they convey what you want, and if not, think about how someone would behave if they really wanted that thing, and alter your actions so that your actions reflect your heart. Think ahead about how can you ensure that everyone in the conversation feels “safe,” that is, not threatened or stressed (fight-or-flight).
  2. Learn to Look – Pay attention to the point where the conversation turns crucial. What are your physical, mental, and emotional signs that you are getting stressed? What are the signs in the other person–body language, breathing, expressions, tone, words–that indicate that they are feeling threatened, challenged, or otherwise not safe in the conversation?
  3. Make It Safe – When tempers flare, when people’s fight-or-flight response kicks in, a leader has to regain composure and model behaviors to bring everyone back to a safe place. Apologize when it is appropriate (“I’m sorry that my comment has upset you”). Use contrasting statements to clear up misunderstandings; start with what you don’t want (“I don’t want you to think that I dismiss your value to the library”), say what you do think (“I think your ideas on improving our shelving process are very good”), and then pivot back to the topic (“However, putting those changes in place without checking with me is an issue I’d like us to talk about”). The authors also use a strategy called “CRIB” to get mutual agreement, mutual respect, and return to a sense of “safety”–you’ll have to read the book!
  4. Master Your Stories – Ask yourself what your story is, and what your role in the solution could be. Think about what a reasonable, rational person would do to help you figure out what to do right now, in the conversation, to move toward what you really want. Then tell that story.
  5. State Your Path – STATE stands for a) Share your facts, b) Tell your story, c) Ask for others’ paths, d) Talk tentatively, and e) Encourage testing. This method helps you stay focused on the real issue, and test whether you truly are open to other people’s views and ideas.
  6. Explore Others’ Paths – Actively engage in a discussion of other people’s ideas. Ask them questions; mirror their responses and gestures back to them to establish commonality; paraphrase their statements and ideas; prime them to think about consequences, next steps, and actions; and review points of agreement.
  7. Move to Action – Once you know what you agree on, don’t leave the meeting without assigning actions. Even if you don’t have all of the decisions made, review who will do what next, who will follow up, and when you will meet again.

I have used the techniques from this book in both my personal life and at work. When I had to take up a collection among my siblings for my father’s retirement party, Crucial Conversations helped me frame my “You are notorious for leaving me in the lurch! Pay up in advance or else” concern into a talk that left us all feeling respected (the party was lovely, thank you for asking). I’ve told a smelly patron that he had to leave the building and could only come back after he’d addressed his body odor. He came back in the following week, girlfriend(!) in tow, and they both thanked me–she thanked me because I was able to get him to shower when her pleas were ignored, and he thanked me for giving him a wake-up call while still treating him with respect (No kidding, he actually said “You treated me with respect when you kicked me out”).

I am the kind of librarian who considers all the libraries everywhere to be my library, so I don’t own a lot of books. But I found myself referring to Crucial Conversations so often that I bought my own copy–that is how valuable I find it. I hope that you will find it valuable, too.

Trello logo - image of cards on a board

Great Finds: Trello

Trello-IconI was recently introduced to Trello by the boss at my non-library second job. At a small publicity company, all the employees have a lot of small inter-connecting tasks to do, which, if not done can leave someone else in the lurch.

Enter Trello, a to-do list on steroids.

You create a board for each project you and your team are working on and then cards with each of the steps required to finish it. By default, there are three columns, “To Do,” “Doing” and “Done,” but these are customizable. For instance, if you wanted to streamline your event planning, you could create a column called, “Create Facebook Event” and have individual programs represented as cards. On the cards, you can create due dates, checklists and attach files. As a manager, you include all the people involved in the project on the board and then on each of the cards, you include the person whose task it is. You can also tag anyone who the board is shared with in notes on cards to let them know there’s something important for them there.

When I went on a trip a while back, I used Trello to help me get through all the things I needed to do before I left. “Pack” was an individual card, with a 25 item packing list. While I was packing, the card lived in the “Doing” column and when I was finished, I moved it to “Done”. The web interface is clean and intuitive and both the Android and Apple apps were easy to use. I can imagine implementing Trello for a large, multi-faceted project (large fund-raising event) or using it as a way to track a process you do all the time (booking your meeting room spaces), where each of the steps is vital, but easy to forget.


Great Finds: Tribal Leadership

Tribal Leadership: How Successful Groups Form Great Organizations

By Dave Logan and John King

© 2008

This is one of the better books I’ve read on leadership. It combines the trust of research with the readability of stories from the field.

The basic idea is that corporations are like small towns, and small towns are made up of tribes.  Tribes are groups of people who are like-minded, who do similar work, and who have similar goals.  Tribal leaders help the tribe to be successful, and lead them to upgrade what the authors call “tribal culture.”

There are five tribal stages:

First, people realize that there is something wrong, or unfair, about their world. They band together to get ahead. Most companies skip this stage entirely.

Second is where individuals still feel that something is unfair and are resigned to it, but passive. Tribal leaders must work to get their tribes “unstuck” from stage two or nothing will get done.

Third is where most corporations become stuck. Here is where employees hoard information because “knowledge is power.” They try to out work and out think each other for personal gain, rather than working hard for the good of the company.

At stage four, employees go from “I’m great” to “We’re great.” Employees are happy, work gets done, and the company moves forward. The problem at this step is that employees can lose self-awareness and self-confidence, believing that they can only be successful as part of the tribe and not individually. Occasionally, tribes will reach stage four, working well together, but still competing with other tribes.

Finally, there is stage five.  Here, employees are “in competition with what’s possible, not with another tribe” (p.25). These employees are innovative and visionary, creating global impact.  Often, there are spikes into stage five and then tribes settle back into stage four.

This book has all kinds of great advice on how to become a tribal leader and how to lead tribes from one stage into the next.  In libraries, tribes can be both departmental employees or even specific types of library users.  Tribal leaders are the department heads that upgrade the culture of the department to keep the library moving forward through the stages. They inspire staff to continually create new and exciting services for library patrons, fulfilling their career goals, while also moving the library forward into a place patrons never dreamed a library could be.

While written with a focus on corporate culture, the information in this book is very relevant to library leaders. Highly recommended!