Thursday, June 16, 2016

Interview Post: Tara Lannen-Stanton


Biographical

Name?
Tara Lannen-Stanton

Current job?
Assistant Director, Job & Business Academy (JBA) at Queens Library. JBA provides job search help, technology training, business development, and entry-level job skills training.

How long have you been in the field?
10 years (wow!)


How Do You Work?

What is your office/workspace like?
I have an office with an actual door, which is just about the most amazing thing ever in the workplace. I have lots of cubbies and boxes filled with years of stats sheets and other items for grant reporting, in case of audit. I’m definitely a messy desk person and have my “organized” piles. I’ve been trying to separate things into current work, to read, to file, and to throw away, but that doesn’t always work.


How do you organize your days?
I live and die by my Outlook Calendar. I make a lot of use of follow-up flags and tasks. For example, when I send out emails that have due dates (either for myself or others), I put a flag on it and set a reminder for a certain day or time. Sometimes that leads to way too many reminders but it’s the best solution I have found. I also take a lot of notes in a 3-subject binder and put stars next to important items and check boxes next to things I need to do or follow up on. I actually have a whole box filled with notebooks that I’ve used throughout the years. Every once in a while I go back to refer to something or for an old idea.

What do you spend most of your time doing?
Meetings, meetings, meetings…also writing, reports, and managing staff. A lot of the work that I do now is program and grants management, but I also spend a lot of time working with our development department to find more funds to sustain, expand, or start new services.

What is a typical day like for you?
Before I go to work, I have coffee rituals, or as my husband would say, “coffee messes.” I definitely like to get into work early so I have at least an hour to work without having to run to a meeting. Then my day basically proceeds as above (meetings, meetings, reports etc). I really love it when I am able to get out to the different JBA locations and see my team and interact with customers. When I see customers in their natural habitat, they’re usually happy and tell me all about how my team has helped them. It’s really nice because when customers call me in my office, it’s usually because they’re upset or something has gone wrong. I don’t really have a set schedule which often means just working until the work is done for the day. I feel like I am never truly caught up, so I do try to write down a few things that I need to accomplish the next day before I leave.

What are you reading right now?
The new Mercy Thompson book. I had forgotten I’d ordered it, so when it was delivered to my Kindle while I was reading something else it was a delightful surprise. 

What's the best professional advice you've ever received?
I’ve been lucky to have some great leaders and mentors around me during my library career, but I think the best piece of advice I got was from my first library supervisor. It was my first semester of library school and I had been lucky enough to land a library intern job at Ann Arbor District Library, but I was really hating library school. When I complained about the busy work and what I felt was the lack of academic rigor, she said to just get myself through and take what I could from the classes, I just needed that piece of paper and I was going to be a great librarian. She was right.

What have you found yourself doing at work that you never expected?
Oh, basically everything I do! When I started library school, I thought I would probably put my MA in Middle Eastern studies to work and be an academic librarian or a cataloging librarian. Several twists and turns later, I ended up doing something within libraries that I love just as much. I’ve immersed myself in the workforce development world, approaching it from a public library perspective where we provide services to everyone, with no pre-qualifications, makes me quite happy even on days when my job is difficult.

Inside the Library Studio

What is your favorite word?
This question was hard. Does it make me a bad librarian if I say I don’t have one? I’m sure there are words that I use often but none really stand out as favorites.

What is your least favorite word?
I don’t think I have a least favorite word either. Probably business jargon-type words?

What profession other than your own would you love to attempt?
Probably another helping profession of some sort…a doctor or teacher. But maybe a trapeze artist or something equally as implausible.

What profession would you never want to attempt?
I would not want to be an honest to goodness grant writer. I work a lot with our development department on writing grants and proposals, but I am a program person. I like to design, implement, and sustain programs.

Everything Else

What superpower do you wish you had?
Flying!!!

What are you most proud of in your career?
Two things come to mind. One is personal; it’s how far I have come both personally and professionally while raising my daughter. I was in high school when I had her and it was a struggle, especially when she was little, to go to school and work and raise her, but I am so proud of what we’ve done together. The second is really just about my department and my staff. We started out as a temporary grant-funded project and in just a few years became an established and, I think, important service for customers at the library. It’s also about the connections we’ve made, the relationships we’ve established, the reputation we’ve built as a great and effective service.

If you're willing to share, tell about a mistake you made on the job.
Lots of mistakes, big and small, I feel like there are too many to choose from. A mistake I made this week was not saving a document I was working on regarding a new program model. I had completely finished it and then clicked out and when it asked me if I wanted to save, I said no. Thankfully that mistake only hurt me, I stayed late to finish it. I think a lot of making mistakes is learning how to deal with the fallout. I’ve found that if you acknowledge your mistakes graciously and apologize and just in general be a reliable person, you can recover from a lot. That and trying not to beat yourself up…I’m still working on that.

When you aren't at work, what are you likely doing?
Reading, watching TV shows (I didn’t have a TV growing up so I just love ALL the shows), and drinking craft beer.

Who else would you like to see answer these questions?
Huh, good question. Maybe Karen Keys or Amy Mikel, two of my favorite librarians at Brooklyn Public Library.


Tara tweets at @TaraLSF, but she says "not often."

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