Yep, We Have Them!

April 8, 2010

iPad E-Board

At 5:30 pm EST, NCSU Libraries will begin circulating iPads as part of the Technology Lending Program.  As part of the launch event 5 students will be blogging their experiences using the iPads as they take them to their classes, do their work, and generally goof around the web over the next week.   They are blogging about what they find on the University homepage: http://www.ncsu.edu.

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As managers we ask a lot of our staff.  We ask them to roll with changes in processes, services, work spaces, sometimes even the department or units they work in.  We ask this and expect them to receive it with grace, flexibility and a smile.  If you’re a good manager you’ve planned ahead and are offering the support and resources required to make changes like this successful and as pain-free as possible.  If you’re working in a fast-paced, rapidly changing environment, you’re making these decisions fast, with little to no time to really plan ahead as thoroughly as you’d like.  More and more the latter seems to be the norm and that is fine, as long as we remember that we still need to provide resources, support and guidance to the people these decisions and changes affect.

So we ask a lot of our staff.  We ask for their patience.  Their understanding.  Their cooperation.  Calmness.  Flexibility.  Maturity.  The list goes on and on and on.  But what are we giving them in return?  What are we changing?  In my experience when we ask our staff to accept changes we expect a level of self-awareness and actualization in order to make the process successful.  We expect people to be able to articulate their needs and wants in order to make a transition go smoothly.  But are we asking the same level of self-awareness from ourselves?  Are we moving outside of our comfort zone?  Are we adapting our management styles and strategies to respond to the constantly changing needs and wants of our staff, our patrons, our libraries?

It is very easy to find ourselves in a rut.  We stick with what works.  What is comfortable.  What we know well.  Unfortunately, what worked last year or last month or last week or Hell, what worked yesterday, may not be what is going to work today and tomorrow.  Can we recognize that?  Better yet, once we recognize it, can we make the changes?

We tell our staff that change is good.  Change is necessary.  Change is constant.  But are we walking that walk?

I feel like I’ve gotten off track the past 7 months.  I’m stuck in a rut.  This is me admitting that I need to change my approach to certain management issues.  This past week reminded me of the type of manager I strive to be.  It also made me realize that I got so caught up in one aspect of management that I lost sight of the big picture and the larger goal.  I’ve been thinking about this all week.  More importantly I’ve been asking questions and listening to the answers I’ve been getting.  I’m taking this information and doing a bit of a self-inventory.  Standing in front of the mirror and taking a look at things from a different angle.  I’d be lying if I said that there wasn’t room for improvement.  I’d also be a terrible manager if I thought everything looked great.

My point is this: change *is* good.  For everyone.  Including those of us in charge.  Great managers and leaders are constantly examining how they approach challenges and obstacles.  This does not mean you have to change your values or beliefs, but you may have to change how you embody them.

We all know that people change.  Yet we forget that fact when we manage performance.  Here is my reminder to myself of that fact.  It is also a recommitment to my staff.  As you all strive to do better, so will I.  Together we will do great things.

Change is Good

January 5, 2010

Yesterday, Colleen and I were walking back from lunch and we ran into one of our staff whom I had not seen since before the holidays.  She had a very good holiday season as she became engaged, bought a new home and new furnishings.  Naturally, she was beyond happy. You could see her happiness coming from every pore of her body.  Her effusiveness while telling us about her latest life happenings, her body language, her eyes…..all spectacularly happy.  It was absolutely contagious.

Around May of 2009, this particular staff member was informed that her position that she has dutifully performed for 10 years was going away due to budget issues.  She was literally handed a new job description.  One that had absolutely nothing to do with the type of work she had been doing.  I was impressed with her positive attitude about this situation then and to say that now would be the biggest understatement on the planet.  She has embraced every aspect of her new position with energy, enthusiasm and flexibility.  It is amazing to watch and I could not be any more proud to have her in our department.

In our conversation yesterday she kept repeating something: “Change is good.  It is hard at first, but you have to go through.  It’s scary, but sometimes when something isn’t working you have to make a change.”  She recognized how much change she has gone through in her professional life this past year, and admits that while it was scary at first, in the end it turned out to be a good thing.

Her feelings nicely sum up my own thoughts about work and life.  Change is good.  We may not always realize it when it is happening, but if we allow ourselves to take a step back, give it some time or space, and look at it objectively we will find something positive.  I’m hoping to continue the trend of positive change that we’ve been riding in ADS for the past two years.  I am hoping that 2010 will be the year ADS kicks ass.  I think with people like this in the department there is no way that can’t happen.

Looking Back at 2009

December 17, 2009

I can’t believe that in less than 3 weeks 2009 will be gone and 2010 will be upon us.  To say that 2009 was a rollercoaster would be an understatement.  The past few days I have been thinking back on the year and listing what I thought the highs were.  There were many moments that make me smile. I’m going to try to list some of them chronologically.

January:  Our new associate department head, Colleen Harris, started.  She has been a fantastic addition to the department’s management team.  She hit the ground running and hasn’t stopped.

March: Our circulation/reserves supervisor, Tina Adams, was named Library Journal’s Paraprofessional of the Year. To say that I was/am beyond proud is another understatement.  This was the first year NCSU Libraries submitted a nominee for the award and we won!  The competition was stiff, but the awesome thing was the terrific amount of support Tina received from her colleagues.  Her nomination letter and letters of support were strong and spanned various departments in the library.  I am so proud of her.

May: The department survived another semester.  We had a full year of course textbooks and Reserves Direct had been implemented for an entire year.  Neither of these projects could have been possible or successful without the expertise of our colleagues in collection management, IT, acquisitions, metadata & cataloging, and preservation.

June & July:  In addition to the staff training that ADS completed, staff successfully navigated the merger of the media/microforms center with ADS.  This involved some changes in responsibilities and positions for certain staff, as well as absorbing and moving the entire media collection.  I am incredibly proud of how all the staff directly affected by the closing of MMC and ADS as a whole handled this change.  We also took over the responsibility of circing tech lending devices.  This is a high volume service that requires some more specialized knowledge and included a staff person being added to the department.  Again I am proud and impressed by how this was handled by everyone directly affected.

August:  The first Annual ADS Staff Retreat was held the first week of August.  It was/is the proudest day of my professional career.  Nothing has made me happier than what happened that day.  The department came together all at once, for the first time all 30+ of us were in the same room at once, and we talked about the kind of department we would like to be.  The ideas expressed and shared were positive and constructive.  I was proud and impressed with my staff.  They showed me how incredible they all are and how much they are committed to both the department’s and Library’s mission.  It was amazing. It would not have been a success were it not for the fantastic facilitation provided by our colleagues in Training and Development.

September – December:  The first semester where we were hit with the big three: tech lending, course reserves, and textbooks.  This was also the first semester where we hired students to work the circulation desk alongside full-time staff (at least since I have been here).  I truly feel the semester was a smashing success.  The students are a tremendous amount of fun to work with and watching them and the staff bond has been a riot.  There are some definite lasting friendships. There is now a waiting list to get to work in ADS.  Students are stalker our supervisors in order to get interviewed.  It is awesome and indicative that we are doing something right.  I am beaming.

Personally, I have had one of the most fulfilling professional years of my career.  Aside from what is listed above, my colleagues continue to impress me with their expertise and willingness to collaborate and share.  I gave more presentations this year than any year previous.  In my opinion they were all resounding successes.  I am most proud to have been included on the ACRL/NY’s Annual Symposium’s program this year.  It was a fantastic day and I thoroughly enjoyed giving my presentation.  I spoke at Brick & Click on managing staff performance and got terrific feedback.  It was a great feeling to share some of my expertise with my colleagues at other libraries. The first Access Services Conference was held this year in Atlanta.  It was exciting to be a part of the inaugural program and I am looking forward to attending and presenting again at next year’s conference.  It was a thrill to finally put faces to names and to have it reiterated that I am not alone in the work I do.

On the whole 2009 was pretty awesome.  I am looking forward to 2010 and the challenges and opportunities it will bring.  BRING IT, LIBRARYLAND!

I am so incredibly proud to work with Tina Adams, LJ’s Paraprofessional of the Year for 2009.  Tina is a valued member of my department who truly cares about our work and our staff.  What tickled me pink about Tina’s nomination was the willingness of our colleagues to write letters of support and recommendation.  She is a credit to the profession and I hope that I have the good fortune to work with her for many years to come.  Congratulations, Tina!  You deserve this!!!!

I would like to take a moment to thank the Journal of Access Services for driving home the point that the work we do here in access services is ripe for the mocking.  I can’t exactly pinpoint my reaction to the fact that every article in the current issue is authored by the Annoyed Librarian.  I guess it wouldn’t bother me so much if I didn’t feel that the AL is just way more negative than they are witty or satirical.  I was a fan of AL a while back, but that changed when I found myself flinching more than laughing at the posts.

I guess I am feeling mostly disappointed that a peer-reviewed journal, in my particular area of librarianship, would publish 10 chapters of ranting.  I am all for having a sense of humor and throwing digs at some of the more absurd and knee-jerk reactions libraries and librarians tend to have, but I think the AL is just a lot of negative without a counter balance of anything positive.  Frankly, I am tired of negative.

For other opinions on this topic see the following posts:

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.

I sort of kept an activity log for Monday. My Monday resembled this:

8:20am: arrive at work

8:20-8:30am: talk to day supervisor about the morning and what was happening that day

8:30-10:00am: revised position descriptions, scheduled three meetings, updated gaming tournament, worked on poster for conference, read and responded to email.

10:00am-11:30am: met with department librarians for weekly meeting, worked on position descriptions, talked about activities, problems, planned services.

11:30-12:00: ran back and forth between office and circ desk to solve some patron problems and discuss strategy with circ/reserves supervisor.

12:00-1:00: continued working on position descriptions, conference poster, fielded staff issues, scheduled another meeting.

1:00-2:00: met with my supervisor to discuss issues, items, etc.

2:00-2:30: read and replied to email, met briefly with asst. dept. head and circ/reserves supervisor to address a problem with schedule.

2:30-3:30: met with colleague to discuss and arrange travel plans for ALA mid-winter, modified my hotel reservation, re-worked travel request form. Talked on phone with microform reader/scanner vendor and then with campus purchasing department. Phoned security supervisor about shuttle service and set up meeting.

3:30-5:30: finished first drafts of position descriptions, worked on committee charge, set up committee meeting, finished conference poster. Worked on statistics. Checked in with circ/reserve desk and ILL staff. Read and replied to email.

This was actually a pretty light day, as it was not back to back meetings. But, it was long and I got a lot accomplished. It was hard to capture all the informal, “in-between” meeting with various staff that takes place all day. If I listed every time I was asked a question or needed to make a decision, it would be a very long list.

I’ll probably do this again in a few weeks. I hope it was somewhat helpful.

A Day In the Life

October 12, 2007

I was looking at my stats yesterday and saw that several people found this site when searching, “what does an access services librarian do.” I thought that was a good question and one I should answer. The short answer is anything and everything that needs to get taken care of. If that sounds like a pat answer its because it is. It is really hard to describe to other librarians, as well as non-librarians, exactly what it is I do all day, everyday. My job description gives some of the details. I “manage a department that encompasses several key public service areas: circulation, reserves, current periodicals, media/microforms, interlibrary loan and document delivery and stacks services.” I do all of those things, but I also do a lot of other stuff that doesn’t really fall into a neat category.

In my previous position (head of access services at another library) I spent an entire day tracking down a ten foot, 4 inch wide strip of wood that was mistakenly removed from the front entrance doors of the library making them unable to close properly. Depending on the size of the library I have either been fully responsible or heavily involved in the security of the building; being the liaison to campus police and the private security company. I’m one of the first people called when there is an emergency or problem (my staff are in the building all open hours).  I’ve cleaned bathrooms and picked up trash, at other libraries I make the phone calls to housekeeping and work with them and facilities staff to ensure that the building is clean and safe. I’ve moved furniture. I oversee a shuttle service. I pushed a golf cart down a ramp onto the back of a trailer last week. The daily activities vary greatly depending upon what is happening in and around the building, as well as with library staff and patrons.

There are some responsibilities that remain the same no matter the size of the library. I manage a staff who work the front line service desk(s) of the library. This requires a lot of coaching, training, problem-solving, motivation, and positive reinforcement. I troubleshoot and solve problems my staff are having with one another, the patrons, the automated system, a policy or procedure – anything that is happening. I oversee time off, sick leave, hiring, firing, disciplinary action. I attend lots of meetings- planning, updating, troubleshooting library services, events, issues, etc.

I write or respond to at least 200 email messages a day. I travel to conferences, write journal articles and book chapters, and mentor new librarians or those thinking about becoming one.

I laugh more days than I don’t. I have more really fun days than I don’t. I interact with almost every department and person who works in the library. I get to come up with wacky ideas for patron services and library events – sometimes we actually implement them. I serve on library and campus committees.

I guess the long answer is that an access services librarian is very busy. I personally feel that with all that activity and responsibility comes a lot of fun and excitement. If you bore easily, than this is definitely the job for you. No day is the same and it never seems to get old or stale.

Maybe Monday I will keep a real day in the life and actually do an hour by hour account of what I do all day.

My current place of work is the first library I have worked in that has had 24 hour service. We are open 24 hours Sunday-Thursday. I was quite surprised when I started in January at the actual number of people who are in the library at 2, 3, and 4:00 in the morning.

To cover these service hours my staff work across three shifts: day, afternoon/early evening, and overnight. We have an excellent overnight crew and the past few weeks have really highlighted how capable they are.

Surely there is a different atmosphere in the library during the wee hours of the night and morning. And though during this time we are only open to students, faculty and staff, there are unusual incidents that take place. I have yet to hear about a true safety or difficult situation, most of them have sort of been extremely funny.

Now that classes have begun and the students have returned there has been a steadily increasing number of them in the library at night. While idealistically we would like to think that most of them are coming in to study and do work and are coming to us after classes or dinner or whatever, the reality is that a small number of students do come into the library straight from the bar or party.

We are one of the only places on campus open 24 hours, so students come in to get away from their dorm room or because they want to be someplace with other people, or they just don’t feel like going home yet, and yes, most of them do want to study and do school work. But it can be funny when a well meaning, harmless, intoxicated student comes into the library and tries to pull a prank or does something ridiculous.

And when we see that happening, we have to intervene or ask someone else to. The majority of the time it is a harmless prank or just drunk stupidity. And to be quite honest, some of the drunk stupidity is downright funny.

But the staff has to take it seriously and act professionally and in the best interest of the library, other patrons and of the individual at hand. Knowing that I have very capable people dealing with this while I am at home sleeping, allows me to actually sleep.

Something else to think about when working in customer service.