Thursday, March 27, 2014

Achievement Unlocks: Lessons From Grad School I Use Every Day, by Sara Bryce


Graduating with my MLIS in 2010 marked the end of an era: prior to that, I had been a higher education student for ten straight years. I had also been working full-time since 2004; school was my hobby, of sorts, in the sense that I had no time to do anything else for fun. It had to be my fun.

It stands to reason, then, that I am in fact one of those people that believes in school and professional development as a way to make myself a stronger librarian. I know for certain that I use everything I’ve learned every single day.

Similar to Giso Broman, I didn’t really have a clear idea of what I wanted to do with the degree (I knew I really didn’t want to work with kids, which is pretty laughable now as a Youth Services Librarian), but I found that getting a general degree worked best for me.

Despite being a generalist, I decided not to write “general studies” on my questionnaire for my Emerging Leaders trading card when asked what my “specialization” was, for fear I’d look somehow lesser. But I shouldn’t have been embarrassed, and current non-track students shouldn’t either: I was able to take a variety of classes, and I still got an MLIS and, perhaps more importantly, a job!

Here’s some of the best classes I took, and the skills I picked up that made me into the librarian I am today:

1. Marketing of Library and Information Services
: Not a single day goes by that I do not use everything I learned in this class. I learned how many bullet points are too many (5), how many words each phrase on a sign should have (3), and basically how to keep library information  from getting relegated to the TL;DR category.

Also, the final project was about mission statements and objectives, and whether an organization is doing what they set out to do, and weighing internal versus external perceptions of an organization’s value. I can’t say enough about this course. Please take it if it’s offered at your graduate school, future librarian. [Editor’s note: there are great books, articles, and more – both in and out of the lis literature – if you’re out of grad school or are working in the field but have no interest in the MLIS.]

ACHIEVEMENT UNLOCKED: I create informative signage and have an elevator speech prepared for people who say, “Librarian, huh? Why are there still libraries anyway?”

2. Project Management: This is definitely one of those classes I was sure I wouldn’t use until I had a “manager” title. BUT… 8 months into my first (and current) librarian job, I became project manager of our second grade library field trips. I helped write a grant, scheduled all classes (11 schools total), wrote a tour, and reported our evaluation of the program. Bringing all second graders into the library was seen as so valuable that we’ve since added kindergarten and 7th grade versions of this project.

ACHIEVEMENT UNLOCKED: By keeping our main objective at the forefront of our plans, I avoided multiple epic freak outs and became a successful project manager as a first-year librarian.

3. Digital Tools: This class was the foundation for my entire online presence. I was introduced to professional uses of social media, and it was where I created a Twitter account. Every student in the class had posting access to a Wordpress blog, and we took turns writing about ourselves and about library issues we researched. I learned how a professional post online was different from the LiveJournal that I kept, and how comments can steer a conversation (for better or worse). Also, Digital Tools taught me about the wonder that is open source software, like Open Office and GIMP!

ACHIEVEMENT UNLOCKED: While I’ve never been someone with a “brand,” I’m definitely better off than I would have been had I not learned about being a librarian on social media.

4. Behavioral Psychology/Brain Development: These were classes I took for my OTHER master’s degree, in reading education. I’m telling you, though, that if you can take electives outside your program, look for ones that will help you get where you want to go.

Behavioral psychology is a great class to take for anyone who works with other people (basically, everyone). I’m not just talking about the public, here; many librarians work on a team or in a hierarchy, and understanding what makes other people tick can help those “dreaded” group projects and meetings work in your favor. Knowledge about brain development helps anyone who deals with children [Editor’s note: It’s also super helpful when dealing with college students.].

ACHIEVEMENT UNLOCKED: This definitely helped me be a better librarian. I know now that an adult’s attention span isn’t that much longer than a child. So my school tours are 7 minutes, and presentations to the Library Board will be 10.

I can’t say that these are classes I planned to take, knowing their desired outcomes. I took classes that sounded interesting or challenging, and didn’t even know when or how I would use them in the future.

What were some of the most valuable classes you took in school?

Sara Bryce is a youth services librarian for La Crosse Public Library. She was a 2013 ALA Emerging Leader and a 2012 Wisconsin Library Association Rising Star. She blogs at Bryce Don’t Play and tweets at @PLSanders

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Night Librarianing is Good for Your Soul

I had an experience last week that is something all directors of small libraries dread: I had a night person quit with no notice. We are fairly much a skeleton crew as it is, and then to lose someone with no hint ahead of time...? Not the worst thing that can happen to a small library like mine, but it's up there on the list. Since we're also lightly staffed with student workers – I opted for quality over quantity, and don't regret it – that was going to leave me with only one person on a couple of shifts, including a night shift. 

The neighborhood where we're located isn't horrible, but we are in a small city and campus is only a couple of blocks away from the little bit of a bad area we do have, so even if I weren't concerned about leaving someone alone for logistical reasons, it's just not safe to walk out alone that late at night. With nobody else available, what did I do? I stayed and closed the library. There really wasn't anybody else who could do it at such short notice, and my staff's safety and comfort is crucial to me.

I've worked nights here before, but never until close. I don't work nights regularly because as short staffed as we are at night, things are even tighter during the day, but I need to figure out a way to stay late at least once per month. Sure, I paid for it for a couple of days: I'm not a kid anymore. However, I saw much at night that I miss during the day, and learned lots about the way our students use the building late at night  learned first hand things I had guessed at previously.

Things I saw:
  • The library is quieter at night, so much so that I never had to police noise levels – students were self-policing. (We share the building with an academic department that has a couple of classrooms, so less noise at night because nobody is tromping through going to or from class. That's not all of it, though. It seems students come to the library at night to get work done.)
  • Quieter, that is, with the exception of the group study space in our basement. That's louder. A lot louder. But not so much that we can hear them on the first floor, so it's all fine.
  • There are just as many, if not more, students in the library at night than during the day.
  • Security guards are more noticeable at night and circulate more. (Our security department is made up of some great people, but I especially appreciate the evening shift.)
  • This was a Wednesday night, but we were pretty full. It's one thing to see hash marks on a tally sheet indicating how many people were in the building, it's something else to see the students jockeying for the comfy chairs and study carrels.
As I was leaving, a little muzzyheaded from being up way past my bedtime, I couldn't help thinking of that scene from Dead Poets Society I posted above. Looking back at that movie now, it seems a little corny and obvious, but when I first saw that movie I was 17 years old and it made a big impression. That idea of looking at things from a different perspective – sometimes literally, other times metaphorically – to better understand it is important, and I sometimes forget that. I need to not forget it, so I'm glad in a way that I had to work until close one night last week. It forced me to do something I should be doing on my own, and I learned a lot.

How about you? How do you keep things in perspective? Look at things from different angles?

Thursday, March 20, 2014

What Did I Do? Keeping Track of Accomplishments Without Going Crazy, by Tyler Dzuba

We librarians are great at helping others but we can be terrible at helping ourselves, especially when that means talking about our own accomplishments. We do a lot of important things (right?), and they’re hard to track. An extended reference question here, a printer jam there, a report drafted and edited, a book budget spent: the odds and ends don’t always fall nicely into memorable boxes. Come performance review season, it can be impossible to remember what precisely it was that we spent all our time on.

Keeping track of my work sounds mundane, but it’s seriously one of the most valuable gifts I give myself. There’s no better feeling at the end of a tiring day than knowing I’m tired for lots of good reasons. It’s not just for my private benefit: telling my boss what I do is so much easier when I have a roadmap to what I need to say. And best of all, it helps me zero in on what’s important to me and my career. If I’m spending a lot of time on something, it’s either something I’m passionate about and need to cultivate, or something I’m tired of and need to cut.

It’s possible to reconstruct a surprising amount of my activity from email logs and archaeological digs through The Piles of Stuff™. Even so, not a fun way to spend Friday afternoon. So in August 2012, three months into my first professional job, I decided to make a better system.

It boils down to keeping a private, daily log of what I worked on that day. Think Library Day in the Life, but for my eyes only. (Sound riveting yet?)

Your mileage may vary, but five priorities rose to the surface as I started designing my methods:
  1. It needs to be frequent. It’s no fun to forget on the 20th of the month what you did on the 2nd.
  2. It needs to be fast! If it took me a long time to add something to my logs, I’d never keep up with it. A spur-of-the-moment rapidfire process works really well for me.
  3. It needs to be private. It’s not unheard of for me to throw in something like “Wrote passive-aggressive email to [name very redacted], the jerk” or “Had freakout session in office.” If it’s going to be quick, I need the freedom to just write out what actually happened, unfiltered. Bonus: when I’m trying to figure out why some project took so long, these personal notes become super helpful. Why couldn’t I get my act together that week? Because I was holding an unproductive grudge against [name very redacted].
  4. It needs to be flexible. I experimented with a bunch of scripted formats, but a blank page seems to be best. Sometimes, I write little narratives. Sometimes, sparing bullet points. Remember, it’s all about making notes that will be useful to you when you look back at them months or years later.
  5. It needs be a part of my normal workflow. I already did a lot of notetaking in Evernote, so that’s where my daily logs live. If you live by pen and paper, that works too.
With all that, I’ve settled on a system that works beautifully for me. I made a new notebook in Evernote just for this. Every day, I make a new note with a bullet-point list of things I did. Sometimes I editorialize, but usually it’s just a laundry list. Then at the end of every month, I use the Merge Notes feature to make an indexed list for that month in one note, ready to summarize for performance reviews or to analyze for my own devious purposes. It takes no more than 5 minutes a day, and it’s behind a password so I know that it’s for my eyes only. Clean, simple, and endlessly helpful.

And being the nerd I am, I’ve spent some time automating it. (Relevant xkcds. You’re welcome.) Now, I just press CapsLock+J, and a little dialog box pops up on my screen to ask “What did you do?” (See the picture above. [Editor's Note: Click the picture to see a larger version.]) All the rest is taken care of behind the scenes. I don’t have room for details here, but get in touch or ask in the comments below if you want the gory version. For the adventurous and Mac-centric, start here and here and here, and be creative. I can’t help as much with Windows, but AutoHotkey will get you a fairly long way. Godspeed.

When I started my job, remembering what I did from week to week was tricky. Now, two years in, I can tell you what I did on November 5th, 2012 (mostly reference questions and fighting with link resolvers. Very little gunpowder, it seems.), and I can rest easy writing a self-evaluation about what I accomplished over the last year.

What about you? What have you found helpful in keeping track of what you do all day?

Tyler Dzuba is the head of the Physics-Optics-Astronomy Library at the University of Rochester, River Campus Libraries. Twice an alumnus of UNC-Chapel Hill (BS, MSLS), he’s glad to be in cooler weather for a change. He is passionate about citation instruction reform, early-career leadership, personal information management and the tools for it, and coffee. Tyler is serving as the inaugural chair of the New Professionals Section of the Library Leadership and Management Association (LLAMA), a division of ALA. (Ask him about it!) He would love to chat further about keeping track of accomplishments by email (tdzuba [at] gmail) or on Twitter (@silent_d).

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

The Good, The Bad, and The Itchy: My Thoughts on the Ithaka S+R US Library Survey 2013

Deep, and cute, sloth thoughts (source)

The Ithaka S+R US Library Survey 2013 was published last week. Since I'm a library director, I was invited to fill out the survey last year, and I was indeed one of the respondents. I'm in there in the results - even though I'm not identifiably so. As a participant, I was among the first notified of the report being available. I was also invited to attend a webinar given by a representative of SAGE, one of the survey's sponsors. Unfortunately (fortunately?), I received the email less than 3 hours before the webinar and was unable to rearrange my schedule to be able to attend at such short notice. That missed opportunity means that my thoughts here are completely mine and may not necessarily reflect the intent or results of the survey's sponsors.

One further caveat: this post is much longer than I normally publish, but I hope the length is understandable. I've taken the last week to read and ponder the results - how they dovetail and differ from my own experience as a library director. I've thought lots of deep thoughts, although I doubt I looked half as cute as the baby sloth up there, even though I was likely faster, as I was considering what Ithaka S+R published. (I'm going to concentrate on things that stood out to me for one reason or another, so if there's something I don't mention about which you're curious or have a comment, please do leave a comment.)


Let me tell you about me, and about my library. Context is everything in situations like this, and I want you to understand my biases before I launch into a discussion of which parts of the survey resonated with me and which parts made me itch with an allergy-like reaction.
  • My college is small. Some may even say teensy. We have six master's degree programs, but they are mostly professional programs (MBA, MSN, etc.). This is all very recent, as we were a two year school up until about thirty years ago. But we're still super small... even taking the master's degrees into account, we don't top 2000 students.
  • My library staff is also teensy - smaller than anybody in our self-identified peer group. I have 1.83 professional librarians, a number that includes me. (If you're curious, .83 is the decimal translation of a full time, 10 month librarian.) There are 7 part-time staff, all of whom are classified as circulation aids, none of whom are required to have anything beyond a high school diploma (although one member of my part time staff does happen to have a master's degree). I also have 5 federal work study students, all of whom are freshmen this year. Finally, there's a frozen professional librarian position, but I'm not sure when it will be unfrozen.
  • And my collection is, you guessed it: teensy. Somewhere between 60-65k volumes. 
  • Although tenure track faculty do have publication requirements, the college's focus is as a teaching institution. My priorities for the library reflect that as well.
  • It helps that we are part of a state-wide library consortium, but Delaware is tiny and the consortium is predominantly made up of public libraries.
  • Our undergraduates are 40+% first generation college students and 50+% of color, with many coming from families with low socioeconomic statuses ("of color" here is shorthand for "non-white" students, and the vast majority of "non-white" is African American here).
  • About me: I've always worked at small colleges, so I tend to have strong biases in that way, too. Two master's degrees, one in library science and the other in education with a focus on adult education, have influenced me as well. The fact that my first job in higher ed was at a college devoted to the education of individuals with learning disabilities, adhd, and other learning differences, is another thing that gives me a very skewed perspective. And finally, when I answered the survey, I had been a library director for just over 6 months, and I'm approaching the 14 month marker as I write this. Still a relative newb, in other words.
Now onto the report...

The Good


For my purposes, "good" doesn't mean stuff of which I approve - I use it as a descriptor for things that resonated as true. In general, I found myself agreeing more than disagreeing with this document. I was worried, considering the source and all that I heard from others going into my reading of it, but, as I mentioned on Twitter...

Incidentally, I did end up with one curse, but it was a "f*** yeah" of agreement.

Some highlights:
  • "Library director's responses signaled the continuing and perhaps growing importance of staff relative to other major categories of expenditure." (p. 7) Even if I weren't so short staffed, I would still feel this way. The things that we can do at my library that will truly impact the lives of our community are service related, not product. And to expand services, I need more people. Period. End of story.
  • "With almost complete unanimity [even across types of institutions], library directors showed a very strong commitment to the role that their libraries play in information literacy education for undergraduate students." (p. 13) This is not true of all academic libraries, nor even all libraries at small, liberal arts colleges, but I see information literacy (or whatever you want to call it) as my library's main raison d'ĂȘtre at this school. There is no way we will ever be able to afford all the resources of bigger or better funded schools, which is why it's great that we're in a consortium. Nor will we be able to fill many of the other traditional roles played by academic libraries. We're at a teaching institution, so I want to get with the teaching.
  • "Library directors at almost all institutions still feel hampered by lack of money and staff, and this may seriously limit their ability to carry out new initiatives." (p. 18) Seriously? I'd like to meet the people who DON'T feel hampered by lack of money and staff. 
  • And the thing that inspired the one bit of vulgar language, albeit one of agreement? "ILL and services like it [are] one of the highest priority items at all types of libraries." We are usually a net lender, believe it or not considering our size, but I know we wouldn't be able to survive without interlibrary loan and the Delaware Library Consortium.

The Bad

Hibiscus Thief!

As with the good, the bad is a list of areas where I disagreed with the findings, or disagreed with my peers. For the most part, I didn't actually disagree too much, especially with the detailed reporting. It's important to take into account the fact that the authors of the report didn't try to make sweeping generalizations across different types of institutions, except in rare cases where agreement was obvious. Besides, I can't speak to the conclusions they drew about any other kind of institution besides Master's and Bachelor's granting institutions, so they could have been way off in regards to Doctoral schools.

Some highlights:
  • "Of all respondents, 43% reported that they have not deaccessioned any books as a result of having ebook access..." (p. 46). Are you kidding me? ARE. YOU. KIDDING. ME? That means more than half of the academic libraries involved in the study HAVE done this! Even though information literacy is the core of my library's mission, access to materials is key! Even at schools with predominantly wealthy student bodies, not everyone can afford expensive ereaders or similar. I'm wary of getting rid of print periodicals, but I can deal with that lack a bit better since students can print out an article without breaking the bank. Printing an entire book, on the other hand? Not cool. Having both the print and the electronic version would be lovely, but if I can only afford one, I always opt for the print edition. The digital divide is alive and well, but people keep ignoring it.
  • "Respondents at all types of institutions perceive that they place greater value on their libraries' role as a repository of resources than do their immediate supervisors." (p. 13) I don't know that my provost and I disagree on this, but it's hard to see a library the size of mine as a real repository - despite my emphatic disagreement above about the kinds of resources we keep. 
  • "At least at some institutions, library directors do not feel that they are working in concert with the rest of their institutions in the area of undergraduate education." (p. 36) We might not have as strong a role as I'd like to see, but we are definitely part of the conversation. I serve on a couple of committees that are part of our undergraduate efforts, and I've started a pilot program for a new approach to information literacy that is designed to work in concert with our new core curriculum. When I talk to faculty about my vision for library participation, they listen. I still have an uphill, but I feel we are on the same team. Am I lucky? Or just more persistent? Or something else? Don't know, but I have very different feelings about this than my peers.

The Itchy


I know it's "the good, the bad, and the ugly," but I just couldn't. There is no such thing as an ugly sloth - not even in The Goonies. Similarly, there aren't any ugly moments in the Ithaka S+R report, only things that confused me. So "the itchy" seemed a better fit.

Some highlights:

  • "It is primarily the library's responsibility to foster [information literacy] skills." (p. 7) Truth: I don't remember how I answered this particular question, but I suspect I had as a hard time with it then as I do now. The itchy bit here is the word "primarily." Information literacy is our bailiwick, but in some ways it's just a specific application of critical thinking skills. And teaching critical thinking...? That's everyone's job. Further, those kinds of skills really only stick when the library and the faculty work together. My personal definition of an information literate individual is: someone who identifies when they have an information need; knows where to turn for reliable information; acquires that information efficiently, effectively, and ethically, and then successfully incorporates the new information into his or her existing body of knowledge. Even if we had access to all the papers and research assignments that our students produce, we wouldn't be the best judges of how successful the new knowledge is integrated. We're not, most of us, academic specialists in the fields being taught by our faculty. Sure, I could judge the quality of the work of education majors, but that's about it. Librarians need to be at the table, but information literacy is primarily a shared responsibility.
  • One final itchy point about information literacy in the report is its portrayal as an academic skill and only an academic skill (p. 36). Can we please stop that nonsense? Information literacy is a life skill - it's how we graduate educated voters and consumers of medical information and so on.
  • The report suggests that there is "compelling evidence suggesting that there may be a causal link between data-gathering and confidence in strategic planning." (p. 24) We are at the beginning of a strategic planning process at my library. Actually, we're in a phase that, as strange as it sounds, is more akin to planning to plan than actual planning. That's because our parent institution is getting to the end of our current 10 year plan, and working on a new one that will start next academic year. I am gathering evidence and data, looking for community buy in, and generally being a good little strategic planning do bee. But we in the library don't have total control over our strategic plan since it needs to be in the service of our parent institution's strategic plan. I like and have confidence in the people who are part of the ad hoc campus group that is a precursor to an actual strategic planning committee, but my confidence in the eventual plan they will create isn't there yet. This means I could do everything right and still have wobbly feelings about the library's strategic plan.

All in all, I think the report is probably a good barometer of where my brother and sister library administrators are. I didn't agree with the majority on everything in the report, but as I said above I had expected to disagree more than I did. Sprinkled throughout the report there were quotes taken from an open ended question that was part of the original survey, and without exception the quotes sounded like something I could have written myself. The quote that resonated most strongly with me, however, was in the executive summary:
"This cycle of the US Library Survey illustrates the pronounced difference in academic library leaders by institution type. Views on collections, services, and organizational positioning differ notably across Carnegie classifications. While there are also many areas of broad commonality, this diversity appears to be a key and perhaps growing characteristic for this community." (p. 6) (Emphasis mine.)
I've often joked that small college libraries have more in common with public libraries than with libraries at PhD granting institutions, and it's funny because it's frequently true. I hope the Ithaka S+R report helps us to transcend our differences instead of just highlighting them, because we really do have a lot to teach each other. That is my biggest take away from a close reading of this report. Maybe I'm being a bit Pollyannaish about the whole mess, but I think it's possible. What do you think?

Thursday, March 13, 2014

A Crooked Path to the Library, by Giso Broman

Library school was an accident for me. I submitted my grad school application after the deadline, and consequently was accepted into my program off of the wait list, three short weeks before classes started. Mine was not the realization of some childhood dream; I was just anxious to get back into the workforce. Im one of those suckers that decided to study what interested me, in the hope that the money would follow,rather than choose a path with a high ROI. Lets face it; very few librarians go into the field to amass large sums of money.

Ironicallypainfully sometimesmy first career is often characterized as quite a gravy train. I worked for the Postal Service, as both a clerk and letter carrier, for 14 years. I was there long enough to earn the top pay level and got a generous amount of time off every year. The wages arent excessive, but generous when you consider all the overtime. Its not an easy job, but neither was it especially stimulating. When I decided to return to school after more than a decade and a half, it was more to prove to myself that I could finish my bachelors degree than to do anything specific. And therein lies part of the problem.

My bliss-following undergraduate work was divided between two majors: (human) Geography and (Brazilian) Portuguese. A BA in a language or one of the social sciences will these days almost invariably lead toa temp agency, as it did in my case. I really dont know what I was thinking, looking back at the summer before I started my library science graduate program. How could I have gotten so many As and still have been so stupid about the job market? Luckily, I had been wise enough to hedge my bets by applying for library school. People I knew and trusted had liked it. I would be good at it. It's a professional degree…”

I found I was not alone. Although there are an awful lot of my mom is a librarianand I just love bookslibrary students, a lot of my friends were of the trying to figure out the next stepvariety. By the time my second year rolled around, I had a pretty solid handle on what I was interested in: technical services at an academic library. Thats specific enough, I thought. I did a practicum in the preservation department, got some cataloging experience from one student job, and did some digitization at another. I felt like I was really playing it smart.

With graduation (and unemployment) approaching, I elected to do a one-year paid internship in corporate archives and records management, rather than end up with no paycheck at all. Im now in my ninth month of that internship, and the position has been good, but not great. Im learning (and earning), but Ive also lost a lot of the momentum that I had while in school. It took me several months to realize, but I am glad to have some clarity now. And Im glad to share it with you here.


Broadening your horizons is great, but only up to the point where youve identified where you want to be going. Practically speaking, you can really only aim at one target at a time.

I started library school without a clear sense of what I wanted. I knew that I was interested in the organization of information, but nothing more than that. I didnt want to limit myself. Im glad that I discovered through my coursework and conversations that I wasnt that excited about reference or instruction. I had done a lot of training in my postal days, and I felt comfortable with those skills. Instead, I focused on technology and metadata. I really enjoy cataloging and digitization; in fact, it was harder to leave those two student jobs that I had than it was to quit the Post Office!

But then I did a dumb thing. Instead of seeking out more opportunities using those skills that I really loved, I returned to the wide-net approach, so as to not end up at the temp agency again. I abandoned my passion no sooner than I had found it. Whos to say whether I would have found my first elusive cataloging job last summer, had I not been busy at the corporate records management internship? I might well have ended up packing boxes in a warehouse, just as I had been two years prior. But I do regret that I didnt truly follow my bliss. I went after it for a bit, but then chickened out when I started imagining myself penniless and in the soup line. I compromised too soon.

I expect that now that Ive regained my focus, I will continue moving in the direction that I really want to take my career. If you recognize any part of your own story in what Ive written, I hope that can get back on track too!

Giso Broman will complete his internship in archives and corporate records management in May 2014. Plans and possibilities are changing daily as he continues his job searchinquire within! When he isnt occupied with work (or the pursuit of future work), he spends slightly too much time on the couch watching crime dramas, reading grammar textbooks, and messing around with XML. You can find him at or on Twitter at @giso6150.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Accumulating Management Experience: What I Did

During an email exchange with a recent MLIS grad, I was asked, "I was wondering how you started to accumulate management experience?" That question gave me pause because, other than an ill-fated job as the assistant manager of a Roy Rogers back in my early twenties, I never really had any management experience before my current position. And since this is part of the topic of a panel I'm on that I'm hoping will run at ALA Annual, I thought I would write about it.

The answer to this seeming contradiction - how do you get management experience before you're hired as a manager - is that, while I never had library management experience, I had had lots of experience with leadership. Further, I know lots of others in library administration who would say the same. Here are some things I did that I brought up when asked about my management background:
  • Volunteered to serve on unpopular campus committees. Copyright, anyone? Stepping up to the plate in this way is a leadership skill in itself. (I ended up taking over as chair of this committee when the chair left for another institution. Nobody else wanted to do it, so I seized a resume building opportunity.)
  • Chaired ad hoc groups. Standing committees typically have election requirements, and if you're a new kid and therefore an unknown, you probably won't get elected. Ad hoc and other temporary groups that are formed to fulfill a specific need, on the other hand, won't have as many restrictions.
  • Worked with a state-librarian group and helped form a brand new committee. Being a "founding member of" sounds nice, doesn't it? Very leader-y.
  • Coordinated programs and activities. I was the coordinator of the instruction program, and in some ways I think coordinating is harder than managing (same goes for chairing committees). I also founded a cultural literacy talk series and coordinated that. I brought gaming to the library where I used to work, and I coordinated that. I would get a wild hair, get an idea, check in with my director, and run with it. Again - this is leadership in action.
  • Taught a freshmen writing class. This isn't an opportunity that most will have, but when it was presented, I eagerly and happily grabbed it. Nothing in my life taught me management skills better than teaching 20 freshmen how to read, write, and speak like college students. I've fired people, and I've failed people. Trust me: failing someone was harder.

You may not get to be "management" in your first, second, or even third job in libraries, but everyone can be a leader - no matter what role they play in the hierarchy of a library. Leaders see an opportunity, come up with a solution, and execute it.


Other experienced librarians, please add what you did to get experience in the comments.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Just for Fun: Batty

I've loved bats for a long time now. What's not to love, right? Okay, I know my love of bats and rats and snakes and other animals that are traditionally abhorred seems strange to some, especially when you consider my fear of monkeys. It's precisely because I've realized that not everyone appreciates bats the way that I do that I've put my chiropterophilia into action lately. Sometimes I tweet with the hashtag #probatagenda, but other times I just find super cute pictures to share:

But, in the interests of possibly converting some of you to my way of seeing things, here are some important facts about bats:
  1. Bats are responsible for a lot of pollination, including some of my favorite fruits like bananas, guavas, and mangoes.
  2. Bats do an amazing job at pest control. Especially mosquitoes.
  3. Bats are suffering from a deadly plague right now, called White Nose Syndrome.
  4. Heck, even BuzzFeed knows that bats are cool.

But really, my love of bats is because I think they are cute cute CUTE. Look at these guys!



I want to leave you with one not so cute (well, partially cute) YouTube, but it's a zefrank so it's also incredibly not safe for work in parts:

How about you? Do you like bats?

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Why I Like Assessment


I know I've published a post about assessment and research in the past, but I've been thinking about it a lot lately so I wanted to share.

Before I get into why I like it, I want to share two of my pet peeves about assessment:
  • Assessing "because we have to." This can take a number of forms, but in my part of librarianship it mostly takes the shape of a looming threat from an accrediting body. Because of poor (or good?) timing on my part as I've moved from job to job, I've managed to be on the ground for three major reaccreditations and even more minor ones. Middle States twice and NEASC once. One thing I've learned from these experiences is that assessment must be for a purpose, and for a real purpose, not just because Mommy Middle States and Daddy NEASC are gonna spank you otherwise. Besides, they will notice if you assess but don't do anything with the data.
  • And that's my other pet peeve: assessing and not doing anything with it. Let me repeat: they will notice. This is how you actually piss off an accrediting agency - gather info but never do anything with it. You MUST close the loop, otherwise why are you gathering the data in the first place? (Other than the obvious things that everybody who gathers stats wants to know, like reference transactions and such. But that's a pet peeve for another day.)
Now onto the reasons I enjoy doing that word that so many pronounce as though it's an invective:
  • Assessment can help you improve. The whole point of libraries, in my mind, is public service. Say what you will about preservation of the scholarly record or the democratization of knowledge, because even those boil down to public service. Whether your "public" is a bunch of lawyers who need help identifying the relevant case law or a bunch of toddlers trying to learn their ABCs, librarians and libraries are in this to help - and looking at how we've done in the past can help us do it better in the future.
  • Assessment can help you prove the things you already know. We are doing a space use survey and will be doing a kindness audit in advance of reworking how we use the space in my library. I already *know* that we get filled to the brim with students since there are few spaces on campus where small groups can work and even fewer spaces allocated for quiet study, but in order to get permission from the powers that be to reapportion the space, I need to be able to prove the need. So... space use survey it is!
  • Assessment can be a marketing tool. I've talked before about marketing and it's once again germane to this conversation. We're in the process of evaluating a new database provider and I'm fairly set on switching to them from our current provider for a number of reasons (more complete coverage that will support departments that haven't before been supported, cost savings, better product, etc.). Rather than just dictate WE ARE CHANGING from on high, I've asked members of the community to look at the new database and to fill out a survey about what they like and dislike. I have been able, in some cases, to answer people's concerns directly. I'm even running a drawing for prizes like a $10 gift card to our bookstore as a way to get people to participate. Marketing is a conversation, and soliciting feedback is a fantastic way to get the conversation started.
So, how about you? Are you an assessment lover already? If so, why? If not, why the heck not (and did I maybe convince you to change your opinion)?