Applications are now being accepted for the 2008 Triangle Research Library Network (TRLN) Management Academy. I participated in the first academy last year and I thought it was one of the best professional development programs I have experienced. The academy is geared towards new and middle managers and offers a lot of practical advice and tools to help become better managers and leaders. I highly recommend this program to anyone new to management or looking to hone their skills. You can read about my experience here, here, here, here, and here.

Work With Me!

July 4, 2008

MPOW is currently recruiting for an associate head, access & delivery services.  This position will work with me in managing a very large, full-service department.  Position details and posting can be found here.  This is a great opportunity for a dynamic, positive, service-oriented librarian who wants to work in a fast-paced, innovative environment.  And you get to work closely with me! ;)

I returned from Anaheim last night and plan on spending the next four days recovering and digging out from email. This was my first ALA annual conference and it lived up to my expectations of being somewhat chaotic, overwhelming, fun filled, loud and large, and most importantly a great opportunity to meet all sorts of wonderful people.

Like all trips it helps if you have a travel companion who likes to have fun and laugh a lot, Maurice York (get a web presence already!!!!) was mine and he kept me laughing the whole week. The funniest part of the whole trip is now being home seeing people’s pictures from the conference taken at events that we both were at, and only seeing him in them. I have no idea how I did it, but I pretty much avoided all photographic evidence of my existence and attendance. Kinda funny because that never happens to me.

My schedule was sort of all over the place. I didn’t do a lot of pre-planning, I just sort of knew the few places I needed to be and then flew by the seat of my pants. My biggest criticism about the conference itself is the insane overbooking. There were so many concurrent sessions that I wanted to attend and in the end had to make some tough decisions. I wish there was a little less happening at the same time.

A couple of thoughts and observations before I give my blow by blow account:

1. I know everyone who knows me is going to roll their eyes as they read this, but I am really not a great social extrovert when I first meet people or don’t know anyone at all. ALA was a bit intimidating at times because I found myself in social situations where I knew people (through blogs or twitter), but wasn’t entirely sure they knew me and I always feel like such a dork when that happens. There were many people who really went out of their way to make me feel warm and welcomed or took the time to share a lot of laughs (Paul Sharpe and Meredith Farkas I am looking at you). Everyone I met and hung out or chatted with was wonderful. I would go just to hang out with great people.

2. Twitter is where it is at! So much being twittered, so many twitter folk everywhere. Although I was unable to make it to either of the two Tweet-ups, it was so great to put names with faces. Librarians love to Twitter and following the conference happenings via Twitter was great.

3. Web presence in general is important. I witnessed so many “I love what you wrote!” or “I read your blog/twitter feed/live journal, etc…” that it is becoming apparent that a lot of great networking is facilitated through having some sort of online presence.

4. For reasons that I rather not blog about, I paid particularly more attention to my health and wellbeing at this conference. For me that meant going back to my hotel room and crashing as early as 9:30pm if necessary. If I didn’t get the chance to see or hang out with you, I apologize. I was trying to be kind to myself this trip. A first for me.

And now onto the details:

Thursday, June 26:
Arrived in Anaheim at around 11:30am. Checked into hotel, laughed that we were staying in a castle. Went out to look for food. Managed to find food choices and a large number of places to purchase alcohol, including the gift shop of our hotel. Bonus! Met up with friend and had wonderfully delicious dinner at Roy’s Hawaiian Fusion. Since I don’t eat seafood, I chose the braised short ribs. They were fantastic. Sake was excellent and all tales tell that the seafood was also quite tasty.

Friday, June 27:
I spent all day Friday in the Emerging Leaders pre-conference meeting and poster session. I know a lot of people have been waiting to hear my opinion on the Emerging Leaders program. I loved my project group. They were great to work with, fun to laugh with and had wonderful attitudes and personalities. It was a pleasure working with them this year and I think we really pulled off a great project. As for the program itself, I think it is a really good idea, but it has not found the right implementation. Our group had very minimal interaction with our mentor and our project was sorta undefined. We ended up creating what we thought it should be, and in the end it turned out great and got a good deal of positive feedback, but it was not the experience I expected. If anything, I walked away, particularly after Leslie Burger’s session with the ELs, that the upper echelons of ALA have no clue about the reality of being a new librarian.

After being sprung from the EL all day session, I met up with Maurice and we headed over to the LITA happy hour. It was held at the Hotel Menage- the farthest hotel from the convention center. We were troopers and hoofed it although I was fairly certain a tragedy was going to occur when trying to cross the freeway on-ramp. Once there I met up with a bunch of awesome folks and had a few drinks before finding Maurice again and heading out to dinner at Mccormicks. Then walked back to hotel and passed out.

Saturday, June 28:
I love committee meetings at 8am. It is the best part of the conference. I drug myself out of bed to make it to several committee meetings. I ran into my boss by the convention center and chatted with him for awhile, texted Maurice to let him know that I was still alive after narrowly avoiding a large disaster, and then made my way to some sessions. I learned more than I ever wanted to know about RFID in large libraries. I filed all of that info away in the hopes that when I need to think about it in the next year it will magically reappear.

I then attended what I thought was the best session I went to all conference, “Stretching Existing Staff: New Service Delivery Models.” This was a panel presentation featuring librarians from the San Jose PL, Queens PL, Richland County (SC) PL, and the Atlanta-Fulton PL. The topic was delivering library services and rethinking service delivery models without an increase in staff. This was so great and so on my mind lately. The level of enthusiasm from the speakers was palpable and they are all doing such wonderful things in their organizations. It was just the kind of shot in the arm that I needed to hear. I tip my hat to all of them.

After breaking for lunch I attended a session on library space design and redesign. It was a bit dry, but very informative. Lots to think about and keep in the back of my head for the coming building project we are currently in at MPOW.

After that session I headed back to my hotel for a nap before dinner. I wasn’t feeling so great and the quick nap helped. I went out to dinner with a former colleague and an eclectic group of librarians, OCLC folk and a vendor or two. It was this total hole in the wall Mexican restaurant and the only thing more eclectic than the guest list at dinner was the menu at the restaurant – beef stroganoff? chicken teriyaki? Need I say more?????? The food was excellent and the 8 pitchers (you read that right) were delicious. Fortunately our hotel was right next door so no long walking involved in order to get back to the room and sleep.

Sunday, June 29:
Made it to my committee meeting and then met up with Maurice at convention center. This would be the moment in my conference experience where I would begin to refer to myself as “Maurice’s Bag Bitch.” Because when you travel with three laptops, someone has to keep an eye on them all and that is what I did for the rest of the trip. I watched him prep for the Top Tech Trends panel while sitting in the back of the room chatting with Meredith and Adam and then stayed for the presentation. This was my first TTT and I enjoyed it. It was interesting to hear what everyone had to say, and I liked watching the activity in the chatroom and reading comments on twitter. I did feel that the chatroom was a bit distracting from time to time, but it worked. Maurice did an excellent job as moderator (he got the biggest laughs of the afternoon). My only criticism was that I would have liked to see a bit more enthusiasm and sense of humor from the panel. I tend to really enjoy sessions where I feel the presenters love what they are doing and talking about. That was lacking a bit for me, but overall I think it was a success.

I then hung out in the room, being the best Bag Bitch ever, until the LITA President’s Program with Joe Janes began. He was excellent. A very dynamic speaker. Very optimistic and positive. He was able to chide just a little bit without being painful. His take home message was dead-on: we need to do better in the online environment. Lots of great thoughts and ideas to think about as we go into our building process. I am so glad I attended this session.

I followed that up with a trip upstairs to the OCLC Blogger’s Salon where I met up with lots of names I recognized from the blogosphere and Twitter. It was great to put names to faces and have some laughs and good conversation. We then made the greatest escape ever with some pals and had dinner at the Marriott.

Monday, June 30:
I needed to catch up on my sleep, so I slept in a bit. Headed out for lunch and then visited the exhibit hall. After spending almost two hours in there we hit the mother load for history geeks. A small press, whose name escapes me at the moment and whose receipt I don’t have in front of me, was selling their editions of American historical documents and literature at ridiculously low prices. For example, Maurice purchased the entire US constitution and related documents, a 5 volume set, for $30. I purchased the entire Federalist for $5. We spent about $70 for what was probably well over $350 worth of books. We did exactly what we said we wouldn’t which was buy a ton of books, but at those prices we could not refuse. I also bought the greatest children’s book I have ever seen for $3 from a publisher who sold it to me on the sly. I literally pulled out 3 dollar bills and she was like take it!

Then Maurice went to the UPS store to ship our treasure home and I met up with a director friend of mine for a drink in the Hilton bar. 45 minutes later, Maurice joined us, regaled us with his adventure in the line at the UPS store, and then we went back to the hotel before meeting up with friends for dinner at Buca. Dinner was great, I was exhausted from walking all over the place, so it was back to the hotel and bed for me.

Tuesday, July 1:
We took a little trip out to Cal State Northridge with one of our colleagues to see their ASRS (Automated Storage and Retrieval System) and the library. In order to get there we rented a car and ended up with a convertible because that was all that was available. This was my first time in a convertible and unless the next time is in Alaska at night, I will never do it again. The sun and LA traffic do not make for a fun ride in a convertible. The folks at Northridge were very friendly and they have a very nice library. Tons and tons of public computing, very impressive. It took us almost 90 minutes to get back and we needed to get ready for the Inaugural Ball that night. Maurice and I were attending in support of our former colleague, Andrew Pace, becoming the president of LITA. We had a lot of fun. Librarians and dancing is always a treat. The “band shouldn’t play to an empty room” rule was in full effect and we totally closed that party down. It was the most fun I have had in a while and I laughed till I almost passed out. Upon returning to my room after midnight, I quickly did pass out in anticipation of getting picked up by our airport shuttle in 5 hours.

We spent all day Wednesday on planes and in airports. I was pretty much cranky and delirious by the time we were picked up. I plan on using the next couple of days to recover and get back on Eastern standard time (so far it is not working).

This was my first ALA and it was a tremendous amount of fun. I owe Mo a big thanks for being the best partner in crime ever, and I am glad that my Bag Bitch services came in handy. I want to thank everyone I met and talked to. It was great to meet so many wonderful people. It feels so weird being home and not surrounded by hundreds of librarians. Even though I am exhausted, I feel inspired and rather optimistic about the profession and all the good things that are to come. Thanks for being awesome, everyone!

Annual performance appraisal time has come and gone at MPOW and with it comes the ups and downs of giving and receiving feedback. One of the hardest things a manager has to do is provide feedback about a person’s performance. It is especially difficult if the feedback is negative, for aside from the discomfort that comes along with telling someone something they don’t want to hear, comes the potentially unpleasant experience of them telling you all sorts of things that you don’t want to hear. However, there are some tactics you can employ to make the experience go smoothly and help turn an uncomfortable situation into a positive and constructive one.

Giving Feedback:

1. Be Clear: Know what you want to say and make sure you are saying it clearly. Write it out beforehand and practice the conversation that you want to have.

2. Be Specific: Address the exact issues. Avoid generalizations. Give examples of the behavior or performance that needs to be corrected or is at issue.

3. Emphasize the Positive: Don’t let the entire conversation be negative. If possible, emphasize and encourage what is working well. However, do not sandwich negative feedback in between positive comments. This may deemphasize the importance of the areas needing improvement. Begin or end the discussion with the positive.

4. Focus on the Behavior NOT the Person: This is not personal, it is professional. It has nothing to do with who someone is, but about the actions they exhibit while at work. Discuss specific behaviors and cite examples, do not make assumptions about or imply anything about a person’s personality, intelligence, demeanor, etc. The desired outcome of the discussion is a change in behavior, not a radical transformation of a person’s character.

5. Own the Feedback: Don’t pretend to be the messenger. You’re the manager, you’ve observed the areas of improvement, you’re performing the evaluation. Don’t try to kid yourself or your employee by acting like the criticism is coming from someplace else.

6. Don’t Provide Advice: Very often people don’t need advice on how to change poor performance- they usually know the cause and if it is a repetitive problem they have heard all the advice they can hear. Instead of offering your personal insight and advice, allow the person to take ownership of their problem and discuss a plan of improvement. Ask what they can do to change a situation. What can you work on together to reach the desired outcome? How can they work better? What will they do to improve their situation?

7. Discuss Expectations and Timelines: Clearly lay out expectations and the time frame in which to achieve them. Clearly define benchmarks and how they will be evaluated. Make sure that employees understand what is expected of them and that you will be watching for improvement. Make sure employees understand the consequences if they fail to change or improve behavior.

Receiving Feedback:

1. Don’t Justify or Argue your Position: Don’t lose your temper. Ever. Arguing will only make an uncomfortable situation worse and solves nothing.

2. Have Some Perspective: Remember that this is about specific behavior or instances. This is not personal and is not a judgment or indictment of you as a person. You’re having a discussion about how you interact with patrons at a service desk, not about the moral fiber of your soul.

3. Think Before you Respond: Listen to what is being said and consider it before responding. Ask questions, ask for clarification. Don’t interrupt or have a biting comeback for every comment. Consider what the feedback is about and why it is negative. Ask yourself if there is any truth to it before shooting off a response.

4. Don’t Sulk: Act like an adult, not a child. It is perfectly acceptable to give yourself some space while thinking about what has been said; however ignoring someone, sulking, or being nasty are not effective and mature responses to processing and handling negative feedback.

5. Choose Your Path: No matter what is said and discussed, ultimately what you do with feedback is your decision. You can choose to look at it as a learning and growth experience and use it to improve yourself and your work, or you can stew about it and let it consume you. Own your actions and decisions. Be honest with yourself- is the criticism something you have heard before and are struggling with? Do you need assistance in turning performance around? Are you happy in your work environment?

No one likes to hear anything negative about themselves. Giving someone negative feedback is not a fun experience. It is not something managers look forward to doing. The best we can hope for is that we take a bad situation and make it a positive one by honestly discussing issues and working together to develop strategies for improvement.

I was asked if I had any more advice on how to intellectually separate the professional/personal life and deal with the consequences that decisions in one have on the other. I am trying to avoid a lame, cop-out answer like, it boils down to your personality type, but I may not be able to steer clear from there. I thought about this a lot today and I think that there are several strategies that can be helpful here.

The main issue is when we, as managers, are forced to make uncomfortable decisions or move into an arena outside of our comfort zone. How do we not allow those incidents and feelings to invade our personal lives?

Sometimes we can’t. Sometimes we are forced to deal with a situation that just plain sucks from every angle and there is no graceful, pleasant solution and we end up taking that home with us.  Through experience I have learned some ways to make this part of the manager job less painful.

1.  Be honest and transparent from day one. Establishing a reputation as an honest, straight shooter who does not talk around a point, nor act evasive when asked a direct question goes a long way when having to deal with an unpleasant personnel situation.  People want to hear the truth and know what is going to happen to them, vague or untrue responses will only add fuel to the fire and can make a situation go from bad to worse in a heartbeat.

2.  Give constant positive and/or corrective feedback. I am constantly amazed when people are surprised that they are getting a less than stellar evaluation or are reprimanded for repetitive unacceptable behavior.  A good manager discusses a behavior, conduct, or performance issue with the staff member the first time it happens and provides corrective or instructive feedback and sets clear expectations for change.  On the flip side, positive reinforcement lets staff know that what they are doing is great and is encouraged.  It is easier to point out horrible customer service when stellar customer service is praised.  If a problem is recurring, it should be dealt with every single time it happens.  If a disciplinary process exists, you may need to utilize it, and no one should be surprised that this is where the issue went.

3.  Maintain trust. Staff are more apt to discuss issues honestly with you if they know that it won’t end up as Monday morning gossip.  This one really speaks for itself.  You can not be a successful manager if you can’t keep private information private.

4.  Accept that people are the master of their own destiny. One of my favorite sayings is that, “I am not responsible for keeping anyone in a job.  I am responsible for coaching, mentoring, providing feedback, setting goals and objectives, and working together with staff to create a positive work environment.  After that, it is on you.”  You can’t force someone to do what they need to do, nor can you force them to change.  All you can do is help provide the tools, incentives, instructions and guidance to help them perform up to expectations.  It is not your fault if they choose not to take advantage of what you are offering and then suffer the consequences.  This is heavily tied to honest, open communication.  You need to make sure that you are communicating expectations and assistance clearly and concisely.  Sometimes referring a person to outside resources (i.e. HR or training & development) is a solution.  Whatever the course of action, make sure you are clearly laying out the path that needs to be followed.  Assist when necessary, but beyond that, you can’t make a person take the path.

5. Have a life outside work. I know this sounds trite and smug, but it is a lot easier to deal with work when you have something to look forward to when you leave at the end of the day.  We have all been workaholics at one time or another.  We have all put in the 14 hour days, but at some point it needs to end and a healthy balance of work and life needs to happen.  Indulge in your favorite hobby, go out with friends and loved ones, go home and talk about something else.  It is often said and it really is true, don’t take work home with you.

These are what I consider the important points when dealing with unpleasant work situations.  Over the years I have learned the value and importance of each of them and put them into practice every day.  There are still days, weeks, situations that leave me feeling quite beat up and bruised, but I get over them relatively quickly.

There was a time in my career when I took these types of interactions seriously to heart and would spend days feeling awful about them.  At some point I learned and accepted all of the above and realized that situations at work die down over time.  They do not define me as a human being, nor do they make a deep statement about my soul and character.  We tend to get caught up in the moment, but in the end, the discomfort does pass.

The good news (sorta) is the more practice you get in dealing with these types of uncomfortable issues, the easier it gets the next time.

There is a great post over at Management Craft today.  I can’t say, “Amen!!!!” enough about it.  If you have ever worked for someone who says one thing and does another, you know the frustration that comes along with that type of management style.

I can’t reiterate this point enough.  As a manager, don’t make promises that you can’t or won’t keep.  Do not say one thing and then do another, or worse, do nothing.  The other point that goes along with this is if you make a promise and it is going to take longer than anticipated or something is happening that is affecting what you are doing, let people know.  Keep the communication flowing.  Be honest.  If you slacked off, admit it. If something came up and threw a wrench in the whole plan, let your staff know.

Lisa writes, “Great managers do what others don’t or won’t.”  That is 100% true.  As managers we have to be the bad guy sometimes.  We have to have the uncomfortable conversations.  We may have to step completely outside our comfort zones and be people we normally aren’t in the course of a day’s work.  And we have to understand that we can’t internalize or take any of it personally.

Great managers do what they say they will, but they also know how to maintain an objective, impersonal perspective.  I have learned that I am really bad when having to deal with coworkers who cannot accept constructive or professional criticism.  I am very aware of how I give criticism.  I keep it simple and cordial.  I never make it a personal attack or say it in a way that it could be perceived as such.  However, some people cannot separate the professional from the personal and that can cause problems.

Being able to separate the two is a key to success.  While I do identify as a librarian and a manager, I know that is not who I am in the core of my being.  There is much more to me than what I do for a living and when someone comments or criticizes my job performance, I take it as such.

I wasn’t always like this, and I was much more miserable in my career.  The best advice I can give anyone, is do your job to the best of your ability, do what you say you will, and don’t take it personally.

There is a great deal of discussion going on this week about librarianship as a profession and the differences between those of us working in libraries who have an MLS versus those who do not and the type of work we do and deprofessionalization or devaluing of the library degree, and yadda, yadda, yadda. I will defer to Rachel’s two posts for a great analysis of much of the debate surrounding this topic and why people feel the way they do. I agree wholeheartedly with Rachel’s and Meredith’s thoughts on this topic and I think Dorothea makes some excellent observations and offers some interesting points for further discussion. My two cents in this whole discussion is: Welcome to my and my staff’s (both current and former) world.

For the most part I am going to take myself as an example out of this, but before doing so let me put this out there, you want a nice, healthy dose of being made to feel second class by colleagues – be a circulation librarian for a week at someplace other than MPOW who thankfully get it. I have written about this before, so moving right along…

Rachel posted a sample of some of the comments left on her post by para-professional staff:

* “My entree into the world of library work made me want to turn tail and run, not become a librarian: the issue of who is “real” and who is not is way too reoccurring on list serves like lm_net.” – Sarah Zoe
* “Having been on the “them” side of an us vs. them argument for a while now, I also feel apprehensive about joining the degreed population. The condescension with which some people refer to those in my position is enough to make me feel ill. I joined publib for a few months last year and ended my subscription after I had a nightmare that degreed librarians were attacking a fellow technician and me while we hid in a car. The librarians smashed themselves up against the windows of the car, clawing at the glass to get at us.” – Jamie
* “As someone with a college degree but not a MLS, I am not treated with the same degree of respect by other ‘true librarians’ although I perform many of the same jobs.” – Judy Tsujioka
* “In terms of treatment on the job, it is intimidating to be in this position, be specifically called an LTA because it’s blasphemous to call me a librarian (!) and not be valued for my ideas. Certain tasks aren’t given to me because I don’t have a degree, though I certainly could do them and have the time to do them. It’s unfair and I’m tired of these two spheres in the library world never crossing over. It does nothing for the profession as a whole. I’m not asking to be put on reference alone or anything, but simply to be respected for what I do despite my lack of a degree. Furthermore, I hate being reminded that I am ‘not there’ yet. I’m doing the best I can, with the finances and time that I have.” – JP
* “In the olden days, whenever I expressed an opinion in front of a “librarian,” I would be asked, “Where did you get your MLS?” This was code for, “Do you have permission to speak?” I would answer that I was a mere school librarian, so all I had were bachelor’s degrees in math and English, a teaching credential, and a library credential — all obtained in the early 1970s. When I got around to enrolling in the MLS program, in the 1990s, I discovered that my articles were on the required reading list. I asked the professor, “Is this guy any good?” After a few moments of praise, he paused (quick fellow) and asked, “What did you say your name was?” And then, “Why are you taking this class? You could teach it.” I replied that I was taking the class so that degreed folks would take me seriously.” – Richard Moore
* “I was astounded when, a few months back, I discovered that I couldn’t get class credit for completing a real-life project at my own library because…. dum-de-DUM… my professor did not consider my director a real librarian. This instructor required all projects to be conducted with the partnership of an MLS-degreed librarian” – what’s in a name?

Do I need to say that this makes me angry, frustrated, disheartened and plain sick? Well, I just did. I have been thinking about this issue of “deprofessionalization.” To quote David Rothman on Uncontrolled Vocabulary last week, I also think the term is a whole “lot of bullshit.”

You wanna know who is devaluing our profession? We are.

Every time a librarian says or does something that makes a non-MLS library employee feel like a second class citizen the profession and the degree loses its value. Every support staff person who is treated badly is one more person who thinks librarians are jerks and that having an MLS means you are better than those who don’t. Every MLS student whose opinion is not valued because they have yet to graduate is one more MLS student who is doubting that this was the right career choice and wondering if the time and money is well spent.

I have to keep reminding myself that just because a person has a professional degree doesn’t mean they act professionally. Respect is earned; not demanded or given freely. Common courtesy goes a long way and treating people differently based on the type of degree they do or do not have is ridiculous. When did it become all about us and not about serving our patrons?

I found some of the comments made by librarians on Rachel’s posts quite embarrassing.

I’m talking like hide my MLS embarrassing.

Hope I never work with you embarrassing.

At MPOW we ask a hell of a lot from our staff. They do work that is being done by librarians at other organizations and they do a damn good job. The day I think I am better or more qualified or my opinion means more than theirs is the day someone better tell me to quit because I am overcome with bitterness. We should be encouraging our coworkers to consider getting an MLS. We should be actively engaging in discussion and listening to their input and ideas. Valuing all opinions – degreed or not.

Until we do this, you can continue to see our profession and our degree looked upon as a union card, a joke, and/or a license to be an asshat. There’s your deprofessionalization.

Back from the Dead

March 23, 2008

Not really dead, but maybe a little comatose. When we last left this blog it was just before the holidays and their accompanying craziness. So here we are, well into a new year with lots going on and lots on the horizon. I am definitely one of those people who likes the beginning of the year. I definitely look at it as a blank slate, a chance to begin again or start over– a good time for change.

Three months in and there has been a good deal of change in the department. We have had a bit of staff turnover and are in the midst of filling some positions. People view staff turnover in different ways. Some people look at it as a bad thing or a negative indicator. I am not one of those people. I like staff turnover–not all at once, but I look at it as an opportunity to breathe new life into the department. Not to say that those who have departed will not be missed, but it is the chance to see things from a new perspective. To shake things up a little. To make changes and to move forward.

Since I have been here, I have only had the opportunity to hire one new staff member so I am enjoying the chance to hire a few more new staff members. In access services it is really more about personality type than it is experience.  I really like people with fun personalities who  can roll with change and who like working with the public.  That type of personality can come from a wide array of work experience and environments.

I guess I’ll begin with the oldest first. So, Brick and Click was fantastic. I met some wonderful people, learned some new stuff and was inspired by what other people and libraries were doing. Not bad for a one day conference! Next year’s conference is November 7, 2008 and presentation proposals are due February 28. Mark your calendars, this is one you shouldn’t miss!

I will be heading to Philly next month to attend the ALA midwinter meeting as a participant in the 2008 Emerging Leaders program. While I am not thrilled with how it started, I am going into the program optimistic and open minded and looking forward to a wonderful learning opportunity.

Meredith has two recent posts that I wanted to comment on. The first, while not really related to what I do everyday, had me thinking about a large part of my responsibilities in a different light. While she is writing about outreach and services to students and when is enough enough, this post had me thinking in terms of staff and taking responsibility for motivating them. I do feel that part of my job as a manager is to motivate and encourage my staff to do their best, but sometimes I feel like I have done everything in my power and it is not enough. I was feeling a bit down about it a few weeks ago and then I read Meredith’s post and felt better because this sort of thing happens in many different ways to different people.

After a lot of thought I made peace with myself. I feel that while some of the responsibility does lay at my feet, a lot of it also has to do with each individual and the attitude they bring into work with them each morning. A friend reminded me of the Fish! philosophy, specifically the tenet: Choose Your Attitude! That cuts to the heart of it. You can be the best manager in the world, but if you have a staff member who has a bad attitude and who can’t or won’t do anything to change it, there is nothing you can do to fix this problem. It is up to each individual to make the choice of whether they are going to come into work with a positive attitude or with a negative one.

I need to work on reminding myself that this is true.

Meredith’s most recent posts have hit a chord with me as well.   I have been in the exact place Meredith describes and it can be very disappointing when you realize that something isn’t working out the way you envisioned.  I left a position for the exact reason Meredith describes.  I loved my coworkers, loved the work I was doing, was close to my family and friends, but after two years (and some events) I realized that there was no place for me to go in the organization and that I was beginning to get bored.  I bore very easily.  I work best under pressure and in a fast paced environment where each day is different and that wasn’t the case in that position or organization so I needed to look elsewhere.  Looking back now it is readily apparent that the organization was too small and I needed to be someplace bigger with more happening.

Coming to that realization while still working at the library was painful at times.  Other times, when things really weren’t going my way, the decision to leave seemed incredibly easy.  The hard part was accepting that I needed to move on for the sake of my career and my happiness.  The second hard part was accepting that in order to do so, I had to move away from family, friends, and the place I grew up.

In three weeks it will be my one year anniversary at MPOW.  Now more than ever I believe that making the big move and coming here was the best career and personal decision I have made.  I love my work.  I love the environment I am in and I love that every single day is different.  They are not all wonderful and perfect, but they are never boring and that is what matters most to me.  I can say without hesitation that I wouldn’t mind working here for the next ten years.  I know that there is a lot going on now and a lot that will happen in the future and that I will have the chance to be involved.   I feel supported and encouraged and that my contributions and work have value.

So I say to Meredith and anyone else who may find themselves in a similar place, embrace the realization and look at it as an opportunity to figure out what you want to do and where you want to go in your professional career.  It can be a painful and scary process, but it can also be extremely exciting and rewarding.  There is not a large jump from feeling bored or trapped in what you are doing to resenting having to come into work everyday.  Sometimes it is hard to keep those feelings in check while experiencing them.  I often tell people that sometimes the best career decision they can make is to leave a job where they are not happy or fulfilled.

You gotta know when to hold ‘em, know when to fold ‘em!

As a manager I frequently find myself in situations that rely on my skills at compromise.  This does not mean that I am giving something up or losing. Compromise is not a dirty word nor does is always have a negative connotation.  I like to think of compromise as a synonym for collegiality.

We all find ourselves in situations where we need to work together to solve a problem or provide a service.  We may not want to work collaboratively, nor may we instantly see the benefit that our compromise will have on someone or something else.  It is important to remember that all of us are working towards the same goal of providing our users with outstanding services and a positive library experience.  However, it is also important to recognize that many of us are trying to accomplish this goal with limited resources.  Collaboration helps a lot, but compromise also has a role. Compromising on a process or workflow by agreeing to cut back a step or two is an example of how this can work.

The important thing to remember is that compromise is not permanent.   Situations can always be re-evaluated and reworked and circumstances change.  But in the act of compromise you have gained the gratitude and respect of your colleagues, and that will always be a benefit in the future.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.