Every story comes to an end.  I haven’t been posting much at all because life and work have totally trumped blogging. I wish I could have found more time to write about the library-related thoughts that have been swirling around in my head these past few months, but I just didn’t have it in me.  For this reason, and another that I shall reveal in a moment, I have decided to end Circ & Serve.  I really feel strongly about ending something once it feels like it is over, and really with the lack of new content here, this is over.

The other reason behind this decision:  I am very pleased to announce that I have accepted the position as Assistant Dean of the University Library at the University of the Pacific in Stockton, California.  I begin my new position there on October 1st.  My last day at NCSU Libraries is September 3rd.

This was a difficult decision to make as I have enjoyed my time at NCSU.  The four years I’ve spent here have been an incredible learning experience.  I learned something every day from every person I had the good fortune to work alongside.  It is an incredible library and I will always be grateful for the opportunities I had while here.

I am tremendously excited about joining the library at Pacific.  I loved everything I felt and saw while there.  The campus community is incredible.  The library is doing fantastic work and is committed to providing the best services possible to students, faculty, staff and the community.  My new colleagues have gone out of their way in making me feel welcome and I can’t wait to begin collaborating with them.  While my work will still involve oversight of access & delivery services, my portfolio will expand  and I “will work with University Library administration, staff, and faculty in the development and implementation of effective management strategies and innovative collections, services, and programs, across all areas of the Library, to provide the best user-centered environment for the Pacific Community.” I am thrilled.

So, I’m moving to California!  Which is something I never, ever thought would happen, but in less than a month all of my belongings will be packed up and on a truck heading west.  It’s a new chapter in my life and I’m grateful to again have a wonderful opportunity.

Thank you to everyone who has read this blog and who have inspired it.  Thank you to everyone who I’ve met at conferences or meetings and have talked access services with these past 4 years.  And a big thank you to my staff and colleagues who have made me a better manager, leader and person than I was when I took this position 4 years ago.

I have been working in libraries for 11 years, 10 of those have been in access services and 8 of them have been as a department head.  I am very happy and looking forward to taking this next step in my career.  I’m sure it will be full of surprises and learning experiences!

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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 the oldest of four children.  I have one sister who is three years younger than I am, and two female cousins, one 4 years and the second 10 years younger than myself.  I say that I am one of four because in grand, old school Italian style, our families (my mom and her sister) lived very close to one another and my grandparents.  We were raised as a four-pack and did everything together – vacations, birthdays, weekends, weekdays, after school, Sunday dinners, you name it, we did it together.  When I was 13 our grandmother moved into our house and still lives with my parents.  Us kids thought this was great because now we had Nannie’s cooking every night and she dropped us off and picked us up from school – no more bus.  This also meant that at any given time there were 5-8 people in our house.  It was fun, but insane, and very, very loud.

Sometimes stereotypes are so dead-on that you laugh when you read about them or see them portrayed in movies or on television.  The stereotype of the loud, everyone talking at once, everyone has an opinion, everyone’s opinion is correct, and whomever is the last one talking wins all happening around a table of food is very true, at least it was in my house.  If you put any stock in birth order, you’d know that first born children tend to be more conscientious, more socially dominant, less agreeable and less open to new ideas than later born children.  Add a huge dose of Italian upbringing and this pretty much summed up my personality up until I was 22 years old.  You could not tell me anything.  I had an opinion and you were going to hear it.  I was right, you were wrong and that was the end of the story.  It was my way or the highway.

I took this personality to college with me and surprisingly did very well.  I had my mind opened much more than I had before and became a more tolerant person.  I began college as pre-med.  I wanted very much to be a doctor, but life had other plans for me and after my sophomore year, I transferred schools and found myself as a history major.  I graduated and then on the suggestion of a librarian I worked with, decided to go to library school.  She swore up and down that I would be a “fantastic librarian.”  I am still not sure if she was correct, but I am enjoying figuring it out.

This seems like a very long winded story and way to talk about stepping outside your comfort zone, but there is a point I promise to make.  Being a doctor would have been a great job for me and my domineering personality.  I wanted to be an ER doc, which would have been fantastic since I could bark out orders and work in a high stress environment.  But, that did not happen.  What did happen was during my first year of graduate school I accepted a management position at the library.

Looking back on that time, I can safely say that I was not a glowing success in that position.  I actually had a supervisor tell me that they thought my personality was not suited for management and that I tended to get very upset when I did not get my way.  I wish I could say that I disagreed with that assessment, but I knew then and I know now, that was a dead-on appraisal of my management skills.

When I accepted my first professional position I made a promise to myself that I would work on developing my management skills.  There was not a lot of opportunity to attend formal professional development classes for this, but I found ways that I could improve my skills.  I started very simply, I listened to other people.  I really listened.  I considered other people’s opinions.  I worked on having better discussions about projects or issues.  I engaged others.  And, more often than not, I took their advice or suggestions and put them into practice.  I also learned how to accept criticism and feedback.  I learned to listen to it and accept it with grace and then work on improving the problem.  When receiving criticism and feedback I practiced what I like to call “generous listening.”  To me, that meant remaining calm, not interrupting, not arguing, asking for clarification or suggestions, and then thinking about what I was just told.

Do I need to explain how difficult this was for me to do?  Me, the gal who won every argument by yelling the loudest.  The one who would sit at a table of 10 people who were all talking at once and was still heard.  The oldest child who’s way of doing things was always the right way.

The point I am getting at, rather circuitously, is that doing that self-reflection and work was difficult and at times extremely uncomfortable.  Being honest with yourself, the type of honest where you admit you have faults, is painful.  However, it is also invaluable to our development and improvement and when you are committed to changing, the results can be life changing.

Being a good manager requires constant self-assessment.  It requires adapting to your environment and those who you are interacting with on a daily basis.  Learning how to communicate.  Discovering how to motivate people.  Realizing what you are doing that may be ineffective and sometimes damaging.  In short, it requires you to go outside your comfort zone on a continual basis.

The good news is that once you regularly go outside your comfort zone it starts to become familiar and comfortable.

An interesting side note: the three remaining in my four-pack (my sister and two cousins) all became teachers….and married teachers.  I find it funny because the classroom, at least as I remember it, is not a democracy.  You do what the teacher tells you.  This is even more funnier after I tell you that they are all math teachers.  There are no gray areas in math. The answer is either right or wrong.  This is the perfect place for our types of personalities.  I’ve been a manager for almost ten years.  When I come home for holidays, events or vacations and we are all together (now our numbers seem to have doubled) I get teased because I am the “quiet one” who “never argues” anymore.  I just smile and tell them that I am listening to them. 🙂

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:

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!

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.

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.

Through the Looking Glass: Future Business Challenges for the Academic Library by James G. Neal, Columbia University

Thinking about the experience we have had this week, the metaphor is Alice through the looking glass, us wondering if we could pass through the other sic and experience the business side of libraries. Having experiences with Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dee through time, played chess with the queen, etc. We spent the bulk of our week talking about strategy, change, culture.

Librarians in the academic environments need to be aware of the business challenges that are facing the university and the library.

Holy cow do we have a lot to think about!!!!!!!! There are many shifting values in the library and we need to use our tools and abilities to change the culture and to personalize the library experience.  Many of the core services and products of the library will remain, but will need to be integrated to provide a more self-service experience for patrons.  James Neal provided us with 30 action items or ideas that libraries need to focus on in the future and now.  Most focused on technology and building more digital services and a robust digital environment for patrons.  The prevailing message, at least to me, from his presentation was that libraries need to become partners, owners and stakeholders in many of the changes and new services and technologies that are occurring.  We need to step out of our traditional circles of influence and look for collaborations and partnerships in places where at one point in time we may not have belonged, but now it is necessary for our input, skills, resources, and talents.

Presentation by Lynda Aiman-Smith, Associate Professor, Management, Innovation & Entrepreneurship, College of Management, NCSU

Life-cycle Concept of Services

  • Introductory Stage
  • Growth Stage
  • Maturity Stage
  • Decline Stage

Without an idea champion, no project will live. An idea champion sells the idea and gathers resources to implement the project. Most times the resource gathering is done creatively and under the radar. Idea champions get people excited about projects. There is an equal chance that this project will fail, as it will succeed.

When resource planning and allocating for projects, always ask who the idea champion is for each project. This gives you good indication to whether the project will succeed.

Once you move towards design and prototyping you need to look towards your customers.

In each phase ask: who is the idea champion, who is affected, who cares, what competencies are needed or will need to change, what technology exists or needs to be created?

So far this has been the most valuable day. We worked in our project groups and I was very fortunate to be grouped with three other librarians who are working on the same project I am. We bounced a lot of great ideas off of one another and really worked through some of the finer details of what we are doing and how we are doing it. The evaluative tools we learned today were very useful in figuring out the granularity of the process and who is involved in each step.

Most importantly, I met three other people who I can email and talk about my project. I know I am not alone in what I am trying to accomplish and I have a new support network.

Lynda Aiman-Smith is an extremely engaging speaker and is very upbeat and motivating.