Find Your Flair!

DVFDiane Von Furstenberg is shall we say, “killing it” right now. A TV show, a book, a new philanthropy project and DVF remains a force in the fashion industry. Just like her iconic wrapdress, she shows that versatility, collaboration and staying true to oneself is the secret to success!

7 Pieces of Amazing Career Advice from Diane von Furstenberg

by: Meghan Blalock

Contemporary Art and What It Can Tell Us About Our Libraries

One of my favorite YouTube shows is The Art Assignment. The general premise of the show is this: Sarah Urist Green (wife of YA author John Green) interviews artists from around the U.S., and the artist gives the viewers an assignment to complete at home. Viewers than complete the assignments and share them on social media with #theartassignment. Assignments have ranged from finger knitting a rug to leaving a message with what you would like to tell the one who got away.

The one that I want to share with you today is Sorted Books. I would tell you what it’s all about, but instead I’ll let Nina Katchadourian do it for me:

Didn’t watch it? Summary: get to know someone through their books.

Specific instructions for you playing at home (stolen from the video):

  1. Choose a person you know or would like to know better
  2. Take a look at/through their library
  3. Make 3 stacks of books to develop a portrait of the person
  4. Upload it to your social media platform of choice using #theartassignment
  5. Fame and glory

Of course, the people that I am most interested in are my patrons. But, since the library is FULL of books, I chose to narrow my focus: I went through the return bins at my library and came up with these three diverse stacks.

Book Stack 1

A harrowing tale of betrayal in a relationship

Book Stack 2

A lazy day with a knowledge.

Book Stack 3

A tale of redemption.

Why am I submitting this to a library leadership blog? It’s simple: when we use a different approach to think about our community and our collections, we have a chance for better collection development and for innovation. Most often, the employees who see our recently returned collections are pages or Circulation clerks, but while they’re thinking about where all of those DVDs go on the shelves (and why management is messing with their organizational system just to take pictures of stacks of items), librarians must think about what those items say about our collections, our patrons, and our libraries.

Also, it’s fun. I think you should try it.

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!

The Mound Visit

photo credit: Thomas Huston via photopin cc

photo credit: Thomas Huston via photopin cc

Recently I was attending a Detroit Tigers baseball game with my daughter.  She is still learning the game, so when the manager left the dugout to go talk to the pitcher during the middle of the game she was confused.  “What is he doing Dad?,” she asked as the skipper made a slow strut to the pitching mound.  “He is checking in with the pitcher to see if he is feeling OK, if he needs anything, remind him of the game plan, or to simply encourage him,” I explained to my young fan.  This question got me thinking.  How many times do we check in with the players on our team?

The quick check in, or mound visit, is essential for a healthy workplace.  If we are being observant of our team it becomes obvious when one of them needs a visit.  How many times a week do you simply stop by an employee’s workstation to see how they are doing?  Do you regularly talk to staff about what they need to succeed?  Are quick morning meetings in which you review the events of the day commonplace?  Is recognition and encouragement the norm?

I’m a huge fan of the idea that leaders try their best to interact with their team members once a week.  The benefits of leaving your dugout to be more actively involved in the game are enormous.  This is something I have decided to committing myself to doing during the second half of the year.  I also love the idea of short, 5-10 minute, morning meetings just before you open.  This allows for a review of the day’s events as well as a chance to recognize and celebrate success.

One of my favorite scenes in the movie Bull Durham is when the catcher Crash Davis , played by Kevin Costner, calls time out to talk to his pitcher Calvin LaLoosh, played by Tim Robbins (see below NSFW).  LaLoosh is nervous because his dad is in the stands cheering him on, so Davis does what all great catchers do and distracts him.  Soon the rest of the team is at the mound discussing their problems and Davis goes on to help them all.  Don’t be afraid to visit the mound.  Make it a regular part of your leadership duties and it will result in a winning team.

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.

Pull Over, Watch This

Officer Elton Simmons

Officer Elton Simmons

I just discovered the best customer service training video and it is a news story about a cop.  It is less than three minutes long, but in that short time it encapsulates how public servants should interact with patrons.  Click this link to watch it. 

Officer Elton Simmons has made over 25,000 traffic stops over the past 20 years in Los Angeles County and has received ZERO complaints.  That is not a typo, ZERO complaints.  Think about it, this is a guy who issues tickets and not one single person has complained.  Unbelievable.

What is his secret?  It is so incredibly simple – he treats all people with respect.  Officer Simmons explains, “I’m here with you, I’m not up here” (motions his arm up towards the sky). One thing I hate is to be looked down on — I can’t stand it — so I’m not going to look down at you.”  Wow.  Read that again.

Below are the things Officer Simmons does when interacting with individuals:

  • Uses a tone of voice that is a perfect blend of authority and diplomacy
  • Displays no attitude
  • Gives individuals the benefit of the doubt, even though he still might issue a ticket
  • Refrains from laying a guilt trip on the person
  • Smiles!

When he practices the above Officer Simmons immediately disarms the person from giving him an attitude.  These actions instantly deescalate a possible bad interaction and the driver actually ends up appreciating what he is doing for them.  Which is GIVING THEM A TRAFFIC VIOLATION!

Our goal as public servants should be ZERO complaints.  Like police officers, most library employees are supported by taxes paid by the people they serve.  This news story proves that it is possible to work every day providing exceptional customer service without a single patron complaining about the treatment they receive. It is imperative that we strive for Officer Simmons type numbers if we hope to become an essential service to our communities.

The key is respect and trust.  Library employees need to trust that every patron that enters the building has noble intentions.  We need to respect that a patron’s reason for visting is to possibly try and better their lives by maybe researching information, finding a book to read or even discovering a great movie.  It is time to climb down from the Ivory Tower built on intellectual superiority and simply be with the patrons we serve.  We need to be down here.