My second anniversary as a library director is coming up. Anniversaries turn my thoughts to what I've learned and how I’ve changed. There has been a lot of both. More than I thought possible.
Let me backtrack a bit. We've all, at least once or twice, looked at the people for whom we work and thought we could do a better job. I'm no exception. I respected the library directors I knew up until I made the decision to become an administrator, but with each of them I'd had at least a couple of moments of "oh, c'mon! Are you kidding me?"
Now that I've been doing the job for a couple of years, I can see how off-base I was. It may seem odd, but I felt so silly once I realized my misconceptions that I actively thanked and apologized to directors I had worked for in the past. Now that I've been in the captain's chair for a while, I've learned how smart and forward thinking those directors were. The way they let me run with even my outrageous ideas, how there was never a piece of negative feedback without advice on how to fix the issue, how they respected not just what I did but also who I was.
So, thinking about my past directors and thinking about how I've changed made me want to share. One of the things that's changed most of all is my idea of the role of a library director. My ideas have evolved into a whole new species since I first came to this job. I wanted to share some of my thoughts with you all, since I know there are at least a few of you who are thinking about following in my footsteps.
- Working with Strengths. I'm a big fan of the Clifton Strengths Finder for identifying strengths, but you don't have to pay for an expensive test - you can just get to know your staff. The thing is, not everyone is cut out to do instruction or outreach or grants writing or whatever other things you need in your library. You need people with big ideas AND people who can spot potential speed bumps. And people will be much happier and more productive if you let them work to their strengths.
- Delegation is Your Friend. I can tell you the exact moment when I realized I could let go of being involved with every project in my library, and it came from an odd corner: our dehumidifiers. When we first got them, I would empty the tanks when I first got to the library in the morning. I did this for months. Then I had an early meeting and forgot to come in earlier, so I had to ask someone else to do it. I did a mental facepalm and asked myself why I hadn't done that months earlier. I asked the circ staff to add it to their morning duties, and that was that. I learned to trust my staff, and they responded to my trust.
- It's Not Just About My Success. This is huge. HUGE. Words cannot express how happy I get when I see a member of my staff - professional, paraprofessional, or student assistant - succeeding with something at work. My staff has gotten used to me saying things like, "Look, I care but I don't care. This is your project and if you want my help, I'm here. But I trust you and know you got this under control." This has led to both little and big successes for my staff, which makes everyone happier at work and that happiness shows to our community.
- Recognizing Success. No, I don't leave dead birds for my staff when they do a good job, but I do make sure to compliment their hard work. And not just to them, but also to others. One small example of this is how we built a tree out of green books, and whenever anyone said something nice about it, I responded with "really it was [staff member a] and [staff member b] that did the hard work, and didn't they do a great job?"
I know there are lots of other ideas I've had and changed as I've gotten more comfortable in my role, but these are the biggest changes.
How about you? If you are an administrator, of whatever level, what's the biggest change you've seen in your own approach to librarianship? If you're not, does anything I've listed here surprise you?