Tag Archives: library management

The Power of Change: Just Because You Can, Doesn’t Mean You Should

At Evanced, my job is to work with other librarians who are implementing our software in their library.  Usually, this goes pretty smoothly, but there is the occasional call that goes something like this:

“I’m implementing your software, but I don’t have the time right now.  We’re experiencing a lot of change,” they say.

“Really?  Budget crunches do that, can I help?,” I respond.

“No, our budget is okay.  We have a new director.  EVERYTHING is changing.  It’s exhausting.”

It’s exhausting.  That was the exact phrase I was told recently.  I was a library director once.  I went in, and I changed everything.  Oy.  It must have been exhausting for my staff then too.

I look back and with my glaringly clear 20/20 hindsight, I realize that in any management role I’ve ever been in, I could have done things differently.  I wouldn’t call them regrets, but definitely valuable lessons that I keep in mind now.  If I could do it all again, I would have…

…sat back and watched for a few months before jumping in and creating change.
…listened carefully to understand the background of “why things are the way they are.”
…dropped the “if you’re not with me, you’re against me” attitude.
…integrated major changes over a span of several months, instead of implementing them in a week or less.
…built-in “downtime” from change for both my staff and I so that we wouldn’t burn out.  Which we did.

How have you managed change at your library or organization?  What lessons have you learned?  I’m interested in hearing others perspectives on this!

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Defining Library Leadership

leaderUnless you’ve been living under your desk for the last couple of years, then all the talk related to the shrinking pool of library administrators is not new to you.  I don’t know about you, but I feel inundated with journal articles, listserv posts, and blogs telling me about how few leaders there are in the profession – about how library administrators are retiring at a faster pace than they can be replace at and that no one actually wants to be an administrator or a leader.

So, I’ve been thinking about this.  This is all personal opinion, which I’m quite good at distributing liberally, but hear me out.  Being an administrator and being a leader are two completely different things.  A library can have one administrator and many leaders.  In fact, systems that fit that description seem to thrive, if the leaders’ skills are well directed.

Librarians don’t want to be administrators because it appears to them that being an administrator looks like a lot of pushing and pulling.  Pulling people to new ideas, pushing people to reconsider their budgets, pulling people to adopt new customer service techniques, pushing people to not do things the ‘old’ way.

But in library school, for instance, you hear a good deal of talk about why the library world needs more administrators.  Why it really would benefit people to consider administration roles as a future career.  Here’s an idea…why don’t we explore what it means to be a LEADER first?

Being a leader can be very easy if it builds on a persons strengths.  You can lead quietly, you can lead loudly, but dang it, just lead.  Blogging is leading.  (Heh Heh…like that pat on my own back?)  Being an early technology adopter is leading.  Going to conference and sharing what you learned is leading.  Being on a committee for your state association is leading.  Fearlessly trying new library trends is leading.  Being creative, trying new things, stepping up to the plate when needed – those are all leader qualities.  And those leader qualities eliminate a good deal of the push and pull that administrators struggle with on a day-to-day basis.

But then that changes the task of the administrator.  You can no longer be in constant control.  You can no longer be power hungry.  Leadership becomes about shaping goals, providing vision, timing events, adding structure to the creative and professional output of all those leaders that are being enabled.

I guess my point is that maybe as a profession we need to redefine what leadership means and how people can demonstrate leadership.  We need to clarify that you don’t have to carry a traditional leadership role to guide the profession and your individual library.  I think once more library professionals feel comfortable with being leaders, then we’re going to have a lot more administrators.

Books with balls…

on the cover, you dirty minds you!

Reading or in the reading cue (complete with balls on the cover…)

Joy At Work: A Revolutionary Approach to Fun on the Job
by Dennis Bakke

Orbiting the Giant Hairball : A Corporate Fool’s Guide to Surviving with Grace
by Gordon Mackenzie*

The Red Rubber Ball at Work: Elevate Your Game Through the Hidden Power of Play
by Kevin Carroll

*sadly, Mr. Mackenzie passed away in 1999, so, no website.  but his book is BRILLIANT and still very TIMELY!

The whys and hows of quitting

Since putting in my resignation, I’ve been faced with the question of “why?” quite a bit.

“Why are you leaving?”
“How could things be different?”
“Why are others not happy here?”
“How can we change the organization for the future?”

On one hand, I’m glad they are asking.  On the other, I can’t help but think that the only way I really prompted this much care or interest was by quitting my job.  Maybe that was the point…I had to lose my job so that others can have greater happiness here.  I’m okay with that.  I guess what my favorite prof, Dr. M, said was true, “Sometimes the only way you can be heard is with your feet…”

So now that I’m being grilled on how to make things better, I’m struggling with one question:
How do you teach “soft skills”?

Balancing budgets and making sure student behavior is well monitored is one thing, and they are very good at that.  But how on earth do you teach the warm and fuzzies that are actually very crucial to management?

I am looking at the Human Nature at Work website and am a big fan of the book Growing Great Employees but translating all of that into tangible concepts that this organization will grasp?  Well, I don’t know if that’s going to happen.

Ideas?  Anybody?

Let’s try empowerment

So I posted my rant on customer service, and Glenn at Business Exchange posted to say that he agreed with my thought that customer service starts with management, but only to a point.  He wrote an interesting piece to encourage individuals to focus on the customer service areas they can control.

I love a good discussion!  Yes, Glenn, you are right, but I’m sticking with my original statement regarding service starting at the top.

For a bit of extra cash, I work at a large urban library.  I was recently talking to a fellow librarian after she dealt with a very difficult patron and handled the situation so that both parties were happy with the result.  I mentioned how smoothly it all went and she happened to say “Yeah, it wouldn’t have been like that five years ago…”  Upon prodding, she told me that she didn’t feel empowered under the former management.  She didn’t feel that she could offer the customer service she wanted because she didn’t feel that she had much control.  The outcome of any customer service exchange was either a rebuke by the top brass (either telling her she didn’t handle it well or if it was a difficult situation not providing her with back up on the decision she made) or something along the lines of “you are setting a precedence and people will take advantage of that over time”.

The new management makes her feel empowered.  Even if they don’t agree with something, they provide a united front and then have a reasonable discussion afterwards.  Current management gives her the tools she needs to be great, keeping her informed, and making service a priority.

Another way management leads the way in customer service is by rolling up the sleeves and showing what is expected.  I went to hear a well known director speak about management about a year ago.  Almost with pride, the director stated “I haven’t worked on desk since we started using the Internet!”  WOW.  That’s awful.  Firstly, by being out at the reference or circulation desks, even just for a couple hours each week, you can provide a sterling example of what is expected.  People learn a lot through observation, and many people have never truly seen phenomenal customer service.  By setting that example, you have the power to say “see, this can be done, and we will be doing it”.  I also think that when management gets out there, they observe needs and trends that may not otherwise be addressed or seen by busy staff who don’t have time to create a full report to management.  Plus direct observation is often far more powerful than just hearing it.  (“It is hell on earth when you only order one copy of the newest Tom Clancy”)

A director I know recently sat back to observe the library and noticed the bored kids who were waiting on parents using the adult reference computers.  (The children’s department is far away and it’s a security nightmare to let kids go in there alone!)  So, the director found some small packets of crayons, printed out Dora the Explorer coloring sheets, and handed them out.  It was a simple customer service solution that caught the attention of the staff and made them realize “hey, I can do that too!”

So, Glenn, you’re right.  Individuals can create outstanding customer service moments on their own, but I’ll follow up by saying empowerment by management certainly helps!

Customer Service Rant #3,487,923

Okay, not a rant per se.  There was a pretty interesting article in MSN Money today about the things that grocery cashiers do that are annoying.  However, I’ve seen variations of all these things in libraries too!  No eye contact, not thanking a person for their business, etc. etc.

Click here to read the full article!

The best bit of advice: good customer service starts with management.  Wow!  Hold me back!  What a concept!  Everything starts with management – from good attitudes, to limiting gossip, to creating community and developing a standard of service.  The best leadership is by example, no?

Hmmm, this all reminds me of a recent post at Not Your Mother’s Weblog!  All I want is customer service.  Is this so much to ask?

Even Bosses Should Say Thank You

Today I held a lunchtime wedding shower for one of my employees.  It was my way of saying thanks to someone who works hard and demonstrates immense work ethic and concern for her work.

I think that too often, the detail-mindedness of librarians can become our downfall.  We are so busy seeing what is “not right” and what needs to be fixed that we don’t see what is right and don’t say thank you to people who do well.  More often than not, when you ask a librarian about how things are going at work, you get a negative response or a litany of the things going wrong.  I do it myself, so I know.  But I make a special effort to tell my employees “thank you” every day and tell them a thing or two that I was happy with.  I find that when the time comes for me to tell them they did something not-quite-right, they respond more quickly and try harder.

Doesn’t that all seem obvious?  It seems like a “Well, DUH!” sort of thing, but it must not be, because not a lot of bosses do that.  I know mine doesn’t and it’s why I try to be mindful of it.

Before I step off my digital soapbox today, I want to share one more thing.  When I was a high school vice principal, someone gave me a list of things entitled “Twenty Things I Learned from Being A Principal”.  One of the things was: If someone asks you if you are busy, respond by saying, “Yes, but I have time for you”.

That single statement has been an incredibly powerful tool in my managerial toolbox and I use it often.  You have more time than you think and the people around you will appreciate you stopping for them for just a few moments.  Try it.