Archives For Holidays

Where is Everyone?

Kevin King —  December 29, 2016 — 1 Comment

f56c4079680abe2c7a4042f9ed9f86b6I just returned from being off from work for the Christmas Holiday to discover that many of my colleagues are still off. Luckily before the break I tried to catch up on emails and smaller, but important tasks. Now that I have returned, I am finding that many of the things I want to work on are going to have to wait until certain individuals return. What should I do now?

In a Harvard Business Review article, writer Dorie Clark lists three strategies to keep you busy while you wait for your co-workers to return.

  1. Embrace “deep work.” – Don’t spend this uninterrupted time just catching up on emails! Use it to develop some long-range goals or craft some new innovations. When there are not too many people at work the emails slow to a manageable number that can be pushed aside.
  2. Clean up minor tasks. – This could be as simple as cleaning off your desk (a perfect task to help you embrace the new year) or finalizing evaluations or reports. I always find that this time is perfect for cleaning out my files.
  3. Build your network. – Step away from your desk, find someone else who is back from the holidays, and go to lunch! This is the perfect opportunity to establish some meaningful connections with others in different departments.

Being one of the few people at work can be lonely, but it is also a great time to re-establish your roots at work. Clark sums it up best by writing that the “…reward for holding down the fort is uninterrupted time to embrace meaningful work, clear out the cobwebs that have been hindering your productivity, and extra time to connect with colleagues and build a robust network.”

Lead Locally, Shop Locally

Kevin King —  December 15, 2016 — 1 Comment

I firmly believe that one of the responsibilities of a community leader is to actively contribute to the city in which they serve. Leaders who are seen eating in the neighborhood diner, shopping in the co-op, drinking a beer in the micro-brewery, or simply relaxing in the city park are making a visible statement of love for their community. Leaders who spend their hard earned cash in the local economy are not only investing in small businesses but are also acting as a catalyst for others to shop locally. In the end, the community around your library grows and more people find their way into your buildings. There is no better time to put this idea into practice than the Holiday Season!

img_4310My first stop was the Michigan News Agency, one of the oldest and best literary locations in Kalamazoo. This place has been selling newspapers, magazines, and books since 1947. The owner Dean Hauck is a local treasure and fellow Detroit Tigers fan. I love visiting the store during the summer months and hearing the sweet sounds of baseball playing on the radio in the background. Unfortunately the day I went shopping Dean was not around, but that did not stop me from browsing the thousands of books and magazines on her packed shelves.

img_4314I found some great books that I know the leaders on my Christmas list will enjoy! The innovative, daring, “punk rock” manager will love either Please Kill Me: The Uncensored Oral History of Punk by Legs McNeil or Paddle Your Own Canoe: One Man’s Fundamentals for Delicious Living by Nick Offerman. Both books should inspire leaders to embrace the unconventional, a trait I suspect will be needed in 2017. Do you know a leader that has a difficult time making a decision? Buy them Sway: The Irresistible Pull of Irrational Behavior by Ori Brafman because it will definitely challenge the way they think about making decisions. In addition to all the books, there are some pretty great magazines for the leader on your list like Fast CompanyInc., and Harvard Business Review. All good leaders need to prepare for 2017 and there is no better place to stock up on resources than a local bookstore like Michigan News Agency.

img_4323Nothing beats a good latte after searching all morning for some great books! There are multiple java joints in downtown Kalamazoo and the newest is a new Biggby Coffee. Author Steven Johnson in his very popular TED Talk “Where Good Ideas Come From” discusses how coffee houses are a popular place for good ideas to brew and collide with other ideas. The high caffeine levels of espresso and the sugar in the caramel syrup certainly help the innovative part of your brain. Maybe this is why many leaders choose coffee houses as a location to meet colleagues outside of work.

Giving back to your community can take many forms. When you shop locally, you are intentionally giving back to your community by making an investment in the downtown economy. Leaders who shop locally instill an even greater level of confidence in both the citizens and the small business owners. This giving action will accelerate the growth of a public library in more ways than one. On a personal level, shopping in places in which they recognize me as “the guy who works at the library” fills my heart with an even greater love for the place I now call home.

unwanted-christmas-presents-ebay-sell-gumtreeI am usually the designated Scrooge on a library staff. I don’t want to do extra work or pay for extras just for holiday giggles. You can read my post on this here. But to continue the holiday hell theme, I would like to talk about gifts between staff and bosses. For bosses, this is tricky. Maybe you do appreciate your staff and want to do something for them. Your heart is in the right place, but this has the potential to become a big problem. Please, do yourself a favor and read my absolute favorite author and spiritual inspiration on all things managerial: Alison Green’s Ask a Manager . Read it even if you are NOT a manager. It’s good advice for anyone. Every year, she has a discussion on all sorts of holiday related issues, including gifts!

The general rule is that gifts flow downward, as in from boss to staff. Staff should never gift up the chain of command. Even without meaning to, you can invariably cause another employee to feel pressured to give. Both in and out of libraries, this has happened to me and so many of my colleagues that I think our office culture really needs to make this clear even to the extent of creating a policy. Library people are particularly vulnerable to this practice as it can prey on our service-oriented mindset.

My most egregious example is of a boss that suggested that I make a donation to the library for the holiday season as a personal gesture. First thought: I have a personal gesture for you right here! Second thought: Is this optional? I mean really optional. Many (perhaps even “most”) employees will view this as a professional request and not optional. Even if the boss says “volunteers only,” employees will naturally feel that it really isn’t voluntary – or if it is, you will hold it against me later if I do not volunteer. My daughter refers to this office dynamic as being “volun-told.”

It isn’t just holiday time that we need to be concerned about how we solicit participation or money. I have been in places that want everyone to kick in for flowers or a gift from the staff. Again, the pressure to participate needs to be held in check. If the organization wants to do something like send flowers for a funeral or a baby shower, then the organization should be paying for it. Bosses can provide information for employees if they want to participate individually. I had a co-worker long ago tell me that she felt pressure to pony up for a retirement gift, and she had been employed by the organization for less than a week. She didn’t even know the retiree in question.

As a working person since the 1970s, I am here to tell you that I have personally bought more popcorn, candy, t-shirts, hats, candles, crafts, Girl Scout cookies (ok, that one I don’t mind as much), and assorted other overpriced detritus from various organizations to show support. In reality, I do support these efforts,but I do it off the clock or through my own volunteer work. What I don’t appreciate is the boss walking up to each employee with an order form for ugly candles so his kid can win a band trip. Even if you don’t think that is a problem in your office, just assume it is and clarify to everyone.

So before you think I am a giant party pooper, I have also had the pleasure of working in offices where a boss would absolutely die before asking for a donation for anything. I have seen offices that any giving is voluntary: A piggy bank in the break room, a sign-up sheet for cookies. No discussions. No pressure. Participate or don’t. Gifts are an etiquette minefield and are intended to be positive for both the giver and receiver. Let’s just make sure that happens by eliminating any possible perceived pressures.

Holiday Tunes for You!

Kevin King —  December 1, 2016 — 1 Comment

For over 15 years, I have been crafting a Holiday Mix for my music loving friends and family. I consider it a musical Holiday Card to help you get into the giving spirit. Since many of you like when I post playlists, I thought I would share with you the 2016 Mix! I encourage you to listen to these tunes with thoughts of how you can become a better leader in 2017. We all know the world could use some good leaders.


Happy Holidays from all of us at Library Lost & Found!

photo of self-service book return with text: "sustaining human connections in the age of self-service"I was driving home from work the other night, thinking about the new printing system that is going to be installed soon at our branches and all the new services it will offer. It’s very exciting. It will allow our patrons to pay for printing in a much easier way than our current system and they can pay their fines at a kiosk. It is without a doubt the right thing to have to provide better customer service. But as I started to think about how many fewer patrons will need to come to the service desk, I got a little sad.

Let me just get this out of the way: I am not against technology. I have a smart phone, and I like computers. I also like making things easier for library patrons and staff. While I’m all for automation, I want us as a profession and as individuals working in libraries to stop and think for just one moment.

Being a human can be lonely. I am new in my community and during my first trip to my local public library (not the one at which I work) I felt sad that I didn’t get to interact with any of the employees. I had put holds on my books, so I grabbed them from the hold shelf, used the automatic checkout, and left. That was a sad, lonely day for me and I could have used a moment of human connection, a kind word and a smile. Certainly there are other days when I would have been glad for the automation, when I would have been in a hurry and waiting in a line or waiting for a staff member to complete a task would have been irksome. But sometimes, you just want someone to be a little nice to you.

cartoon robot librarian holding a book

Robots aren’t as good at friendly smiles

If you work in a library, I don’t have to tell you that many of our patrons are not lucky enough to have good support systems, resources to turn to in times of need, or even lucky enough to have their health. If a patron comes to the desk to return a book that could have gone in the book drop, or to give you a dollar bill they could have put in a machine to pay a fine, or to ask for help with a printer even if there is a sign clearly explaining the instructions, stop for a moment before you get irritated that they didn’t use the automation you provided. Maybe what that person needs, even if they don’t know they need it, is a kind smile and a patient person willing to help.

The holidays are upon us and this can be a particularly harried, stressful, and lonely time for people. So by all means, provide the express checkouts and the self-serve kiosks! Get those busy people on their way! But think twice before you send someone who has come to the desk to one of the machines. Machines can take money and even check in books, but they can’t tell someone to have a nice day with kind eyes and a genuine voice. That’s a job for a human being.