Can We Be Friends (With the Boss)?

December16

I’ve been thinking about this topic quite a bit because now I am the boss and I am friends with some of the people that work for me and it’s a topic that people have asked me about in professional library settings. Then, the HBR posted this article a few weeks ago too. I think the HBR example is a little extreme and my advice is a bit different. Additionally, I think this is an especially important topic in academic libraries especially because we move around for jobs and the easiest place to make new friends is at work. But what if you’re the boss? What if you really like your boss and want to be his or her friend? My friends from my library are people I have invited into my home and trust with my children. My work friends are real friend friends. I’d say that in all of the places I’ve worked before, I was never “friends” with any of my bosses. I’d say I was “friendly” with all of them. I think when I first started in this job, I would have said there was no way to be friends with employees. And that first year was hard. It was lonely at work. (It is not easy to be the new person in this place.) I no longer think that it’s impossible to be supervisor/supervisee friends. It’s so much nicer to be at work and know that I have friends here than to be work lonely. I do think there’s some general guidelines to follow that will help you *stay* friends and try to avoid all of the library gossip.

  1. Don’t talk about other people you both work with. Even when you’re drinking or having fun and the thing you want to talk about is funny. Don’t. (And if you are the boss person and if others are? Just excuse yourself from the conversation.)
  2. You’re not going to be able to completely avoid talking about work, so talk about the cool things you’re both working on together or ideas about things, but keep an eye on rule number 1.
  3. When you’re friends, you’re probably going to learn personal things about your boss that other people at work maybe aren’t aware of….keep those things to yourself unless you know it’s public knowledge.
  4. If you’re the boss? Don’t give your friends an advantage in the workplace. This is a hard one for me because the people I consider friends are also the ones who are most proactive and forward thinking, but I try as much as possible to keep the playing field level.
  5. Don’t use your friendship to gain any special treatment. And if the friendship goes bad for some reason, don’t use what you know about each other against each other. I had a job once where I had confided some stressful life things to my boss and then she turned around and used them against me. Don’t be that person.

One last word of caution to those that dare to befriend their bosses. You will totally get labeled as the favorite(s). Don’t worry about it. It’s probably true (but not because you’re friends.)

The Contentious Job of the Library Director

December10

I’m writing this today in response to what I thought was a good post in Inside Higher Ed. As my friend Scott Walter mentioned to me today, I also would have liked it to not be as much about the management of library resources and collections focused. Hey, can’t win them all. It’s also pretty obvious to me that the struggle surrounding the changing role of the library is not just a “liberal arts colleges” problem. Plenty of my library director colleagues at larger universities feel the daily push and pull for and against change. I do think, however, that drawing attention to the conflict many library directors currently face can start some great conversations. Anytime my friends in university administration send me an article and say, “hey, I’d love your opinion on this,” I think it’s a good thing. That being said, I write this really from mostly my own perspective and from the experiences I know others have had or are going through. I write this as a library director and it is aimed at those of you who are working in a library that is trying to change, or on a campus going through a lot of change, and feel the reality of the difficult task of creating a cohesive vision for change in your library.

The Things You Know and the Things You Don’t

First, your library director is often part of conversations and meetings that include discussions about redefining the library or what else we could also house in the library (which leads to other loaded conversations about weeding, collections, and journals). Hopefully, she or he is fighting the good fight to ensure that whatever happens in the library aligns with what the mission and vision of what an academic library is. You may not be privy to all of these conversations, but you should assume that your leader is thinking of the best course of action for the good of the whole. That’s what we library directors do: we keep all of our constituents in mind and think of how we can serve them, physically and virtually, as best as possible. So. My advice is to trust your leader. If you have questions, ask them. But, be prepared that he or she may not be able to share everything because it’s possible they were told not to.

The Role of Librarians 

I’ve never worked anywhere where all of the librarians agreed with the library director all of the time. But, our job as Directors is not to make everyone love us or every idea we have, though that would be great. We don’t think everyone will always like us either. (Here’s a great blog post on that topic.) Our job, in terms of librarian feedback, is to gather it and consider it when making decisions. Ultimately, the praise will be heaped on the entire organization. But if something goes wrong? YouR director usually takes the hit. In my world, that means they get the perk of making the decisions.

But what I would really suggest you do, as the professionals and often members of the faculty, is to ask good questions. Try not to go into a conversation about things that are changing in a defensive way. Try not to take anything personally. Change is hard for everyone and sometimes I think it is hardest in our libraries for our librarians. They were educated, trained, and learned certain ways of doing things and they went into this profession often because they loved the library. The traditional idea of the library. Then, everything within their profession began to change, sometimes rapidly, and some do not want to go along for that ride. That’s fine. If you can’t be constructive and part of the team, if you feel like your role is to fight with your library director just because she or he is changing things, then it might be time to re-evaluate where you work or even what you do. Yes, I said that. I don’t like to use grand generalizations, but sometimes the library has moved beyond its librarians.

(As an aside, I think a future blog post will be called, “When It’s Time For You to Leave Your Job.”)

Including the Library Staff

As much as I can, I try and include library staff in our planning and in assessment and then using data to implement change. When it comes to larger campus conversations about redefining the library, I can only do so much. But, our library staff is the heart of this place and I will always do my best to have their best interests in mind when thinking about where the library is going. But, the reality is that positions change, roles change, space changes. And again, I’d love it if library staff could always be counted on for their flexibility. For me, that is mostly true. My staff are at the core of some of our best changes in policy and services. But the same rules apply in terms of becoming a barrier. Don’t stay if you can’t support the vision. But, as someone who works in the library, I hope you feel engaged in the process of change. I hope you visit other libraries, network with colleagues in the area, and talk about what a modern college library is. I hope you feel like you can bring ideas to the table. If not? Try to talk to your supervisor, or go to your director if you feel like your supervisor is not listening.

The Teaching Faculty

I love my teaching faculty friends. I respect my colleagues on campus immensely. I even understand their struggles with watching a library change from what once was a place that primarily kept all of the books to the place where students are studying, talking, doing projects, and, well, thriving (and loudly!). For my humanist friends, the library is their lab. I get that. In my heart, I am still a disgruntled historian. We may not all always agree, but I would encourage any faculty member to talk to the library director about the role of the library in student learning. How what we’d really love to do is help your students do better work, think critically, and become informed citizens of their communities. We want to help you form students into thinkers, doers, and, sometimes, scholars. Let’s put that at the focus of our vision and maybe the other pieces will fall into place. If you’re concerned about all of the changes at your library and you haven’t talked to your library director about their vision and how your discipline fits into it, maybe you should do that. For you that work in the library, help your director talk with the faculty and the campus staff. Be an ambassador to the changing library and help them understand it is at the heart of student learning.

University Administration

As a library director, I can’t express how important it is to feel like your colleagues in the administration are not just on your side, but understand and share your vision of the future. If you’re in administration and you haven’t talked to your library director about what their vision is, I’d encourage you to do so.

For All of my Fellow Directors 

We are all in a changing atmosphere. I don’t know any of my peers who haven’t had changes happen at their libraries in the past five years. And most of us have endured major changes that include staffing, space changes and renovations, and budget constraints. It disheartens me to read about library directors quitting and being dismissed. It saddens me that such disconnect exists between our administrations, directors, library staff, and faculty. I hope that we all have great peer groups, like I think I do, and that we reach out to them to talk when we’re frustrated. I’ve said before that these are truly lonely jobs, these library director positions. Keep your chin up, fight the good fight, and don’t be afraid to move all of the cheese.

 

When in Management, Learning to Let Go: The Struggle is Real

December1

In an effort to get back to blogging on the regular (OK, to get there at all), I’m holding myself to Monday posts because then I can also delay working on other things on Mondays AND get something done I’d like to actually do! Voila!

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I am now in my third year as the bosslady and I can finally say that *I* am no longer the only one responsible for all of the ideas and I have more allies on the path to progress. I am learning the fine art of delegation. I am also learning to fight the urge to control everything. For me, these two things are related.

Delegation gets a lot easier when there are great people whom you can delegate to. If you don’t have that, you can often feel like the success or failure of the entire place is on your back. So, you keep the control. However, even if your perception is that no one can do it as good as you can, once you are in a position of authority you should delegate. Even if your confidence in someone is lacking, they may surprise you and you gave them the chance. More times than not, a doable task or project will be handled OK by someone (even if not done quite as well as you would have done it yourself.) Delegation can be hard, but once you stop and free yourself up to spend time thinking about the bigger picture and plotting a path for the whole organization, you see the real value.

Over the past two and half years, I’ve been so stressed trying to do my job and pieces of others’ jobs, while also envisioning new positions and moving the whole organization forward with the great, existing staff. Now, with three new people added to the mix, it’s all starting to come together. Some days I actually have time to think about the future and plan for it and chart out our course. But, only because I’ve been able to let go of some of the control.

It’s hard when you are a Type A person who wants things to be perfect to let go of the control of whole parts of your organization. It helps in the letting go if you work with great, knowledgeable, people (I do!). But, more than just having too much on my plate, the hardest part of letting go was really just because I am a control freak.

That’s right. I. Am. A. Control. Freak. Any of my fellow library directors feel my pain?

If you, my friends, are also in this boat, say it with me: I do not have to control everything. I can let it go. I can trust others to do their best work. Now, if you have fabulous colleagues whom you know will always hit it out of the park, that does not actually mean that giving up the control is easy. Sometimes, you have to pick your battles and decide what you definitely need to still hold on to and then what you can delegate to others. I think it is especially hard to give up control in areas of work where you used to have sole focus or things you know that you are really good at. For example, I’ve always coordinated and worked in library instruction and information literacy. I can’t do it on the level I once did and also run the library, but it’s hard for me to let go of those responsibilities fully when I know this is an area of growth for us. So, I’m holding on to much of the responsibility in that area for a while. But, in areas of marketing and outreach, website design, and the administration of all of the public service areas, I’ve managed to turn all of that over and it’s been fabulous. It is really great to watch  your library staff run with their ideas, but still use you as a sounding board when they need to.

Now, a note to those who feel like maybe their boss is a control freak? Or maybe you just want to be more involved or have more responsibility? It doesn’t hurt to ask, but tread carefully. Your boss may think that something is clearly on his or her responsibility or there may be history behind their controlling behaviors. Most of us just really want things to go well and, therefore, we do what we know. Often, that means we just get it done and do it well.

So, as we start the month of December and wrap up this year (and for those of us in academia, come close to wrapping up our semesters), here are my tips for delegating and giving up some control. Maybe a new year’s resolution?

1. Give up sitting in meetings on that committee where you are really adding no value but you were on it because you were new/the boss/the department head. Believe that others can get the work done and will give you a head’s up when they can’t.

2. Let your people do their thing and trust that the organization is working. Or, reorganize it so that it does. Don’t try and be everyone’s supervisor and task master.

3. If you think someone in your organization cannot do something so you’ll just do it yourself, get them the training they need.

4. If there are projects where you feel like you have to stay in the know, can you utilize a monthly report (or reporting schedule) instead of being directly involved?

5. Let someone else have a spot on that campus/organizational committee where they just asked the library director to be on it for informational purposes. Someone else can bring the information back to you and you can have your time back.

 

A Love Letter to Librarianship

November4

For the first time since I’ve been a librarian, I’ve been thinking of what else I could do with these skills not because I feel overworked, but because I feel like maybe this isn’t the right profession for me any more. This was never just a job for me. It’s my career, my profession. I love my job. I love my library. But, my passion is about my whole profession. So, if this profession is going to be about yelling and screaming all over the Internet and shaming people who ask questions because they are not on the RIGHT side of an issue, then maybe it’s time. Somewhere, I feel like we lost civility. Or so it seems. Of course, what I could do is just stand with the many who remain silent, stay clueless about whatever the issue is, or just choose not to engage. That sounds like the easier path, really.

Like with almost everything I write, I’m just writing this sort of free thought. There is SO MUCH negativity and animosity in my profession these days that it makes me sad. So, I thought this week I would simply tell librarianship why I love it so very much.

____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Dear Librarianship,

I love you because I have made amazing friendships all over the country (and even in some other countries) because of you. We connect at conferences and on social media and we engage each other and befriend each other in very meaningful ways. I love you because you make me think. All of the time. My colleagues ask great questions, post good things to read, and are really quite an intelligent group of people. I love you, librarianship, because you do good things for people in your library spaces. GREAT things even.

I love you, librarianship, because I learn something new everyday. Because someone within it says something thought provoking nearly every day. I love librarianship because I get to read books. All day long. (Ha, I kid.) I love you, librarianship, because you make me laugh every day. I love my colleagues who are good at what they do and have fun too and share stories with each other.

I love you, librarianship, because I’ve had the best mentors in this career. They are also great friends and I am so grateful for them.

I love you, librarianship, because we share our triumphs and our struggles together. I love going to conferences and hearing about all of the great stuff my friends are doing or to hear about something new. I love to hear about the good fights we are fighting to help our communities. I love how we analyze data and present evidence to show how awesome our libraries are.

I love you, librarianship, because you make wearing pencil skirts and cardigans cool.

I love you, librarianship, because now as a boss person, I get to watch new librarians blossom and grow into supernovas.

So, librarianship, this is a good thing we have going here. Let’s focus on the positive and just ignore the negative, shall we?

Love, Me.

 

 

 

The Hell of the Coordinator Experience and Why It’s Good for You, Librarians

October17

Coordinator jobs in libraries can be some of the toughest jobs, no doubt. I’ve heard some feedback lately from some Director peers that they find these Coordinator positions, with a lot of variety in responsibilities, often hard to fill or get less applicants. But we need them. Instruction coordinators are everywhere (especially in academic libraries). I’ve also seen a lot of assessment coordinators, outreach coordinators, programming coordinators, collection development coordinators and so on. You often have great responsibilities and none of the power. Sometimes you have a budget, but it’s more likely that’s an afterthought. You usually have no direct reports so you’re not even getting supervisory experience. So, why is this good for you?

Because, in my opinion and experience, you will develop skills like in no other position that not everyone in libraries possesses.

  1. Political savvy: In all of the groups of librarians that I’ve done some sort of analysis of their strengths or frames of influence with, this one almost always comes in at the lowest among our peers. But, when you have no power and you need to get things done, you learn to approach people and projects with a little more savvy than the average librarian. You learn to look for clues to discover how people will react. As your political skills develop, you begin to be able to build your plans around things you’ve learned instead of jumping in and then realizing that you’ve overstepped or screwed up. You understand what WIIFM means and see the bigger picture more easily.
  2. Triaging and Prioritizing: Now, I definitely think that all librarians are good at this to an extent, but when you get to Coordinate things? You get to really juggle priorities and figure out what is an emergency and what really can become a long term project. What needs to be done absolutely before the end of the semester or needs to be completed next week? You get this down.
  3. Advocacy: Going back to the fact that if you’ve been named say, Instruction Coordinator, you probably also have no budget to bring in workshop guests or hold luncheons for your team (which you can’t require people to attend), you get good at advocating for what you need financially and otherwise. Also, you get good at telling the story about what it is that you’re trying to build.
  4. Buy-in: A good coordinator can bring people together and help them see that certain projects or work are for the good of the whole even if it’s not something you have to do.
  5. Work across department lines: Coordinators often are called just that because they have to work with a variety of people across the library and, well, coordinate things. This is a characteristic that will help you in any library because, let’s face it, we all could learn to collaborate a little better across our departments.

That being said, they are usually really busy jobs and can bring you a lot of work. You will need to work on setting limits and saying no. You will be tired. But you will learn a lot.

So, if you’re wary of that job that wants you to have your hand in twelve difference things? Try not to be. It will be a lot of work, but you will gain a bunch of experience that you might not have if you had chosen a safer, more traditional, less frenzied path.

Because I’m the Boss: Getting Things Done and Decision Making

October8

My new boss, while we discussed how the campus faculty were “angry” about a decision she made, said this to me: “I could move this slip of paper from here to here and unhappiness will occur. People will say we should have discussed it more first. They should have known I was going to move it before I decided to move it. That’s nonsense. Move it. They’ll complain either way.”

She’s kind of a genius and I really like her. (Plus, she likes shoes. A lot.)

Communication or Consultation

So here we start my next post, discussing something that drives me crazy every day. You see, there is a lot of complaining around here about lack of communication (not just in the library). Some of it may be valid. No one is perfect and information can certainly fall through the cracks. But, I also had an epiphany this morning. People aren’t complaining about communication per se, but rather, they are annoyed that they are not consulted every step of the way. At the end of the day, I am the Director. I am the Bosslady. I get to make the decisions. I also get to delegate decisions to others to make. I would like all of our decisions to be informed, data driven, and reasonable. Ultimately, it will be me who is accountable for those decisions.

We are a smallish organization. Even at this size, not every person will be involved in every project and every decision. We have a lot of transparency throughout our processes and I am always working to implement more. Everyone who supervises someone in this building hears things or reads things or both at least three or four different ways. We keep agendas and notes now for everything. I encourage communication and collaboration between units and with supervisors continually. But, it would be impossible to truly move any organization forward with a decision by consensus for everything. For example, if we are re-examining the guest user policy? I’m tasking a few people most informed on the issue to come up with the new policy, keep me posted of changes, and then inform the staff of those changes. Done. Now, if we are doing something like aligning projects with library goals, I’d like the input of the entire staff. We will have a discussion. We will come to an “I can live with it” level of consensus and move forward. Done.

“How Come No One Asked Me?”

Finally, I heard this again this morning….but “I wasn’t asked about this first.” And I realized that this isn’t a lack of communication on the actual decision or plan. People wanted to be asked their opinion on something unrelated to their position (or tangential at best.) I entrust people with projects and decision making when it impacts their jobs directly, when I know they have the knowledge or skills necessary to implement a plan, or sometimes when they have consistently performed well and I know I can count on them. Or sometimes I ask people to be a part of a project when I know they can bring constructive criticism to the conversation. If you can answer your naysayers in the development of a project, that’s often helpful.

Getting Things Done

Not to rip off the title of a book, but I am here in this job to get things done. That means that there is no longer a “decision by consensus” and complete democracy over everything in this organization. I do not think that is the best way to run this particular organization. If there are things you don’t like, go to your boss (or your boss’s boss) and ask to discuss them. Don’t gossip. I know we all love to bitch at work, but it will get back to people. And then? You’re really not asked to participate.

Sour Grapes…or Fear

Often, the people complaining the loudest about “not knowing” or “not being asked” are having a bit of sour grapes. Maybe they used to be asked more for their opinion by the previous so-and-so. Maybe they are annoyed that someone is moving their cheese. Maybe the just like to be a Negative Nancy. Whatever the reason, some people at work are just cranky and they will complain either way. But sometimes, we complain about things like communication and “not being in the know” because we feel threatened in our positions. Maybe we think the boss doesn’t see our position as vital. Or, worse yet, maybe we kind of know it isn’t, but we’ve been OK with being idle for a while. If your negative attitude or complaining is about fear of change, then being in an organization that will constantly be changing for the next foreseeable future might not be the place for you.

So…

You want to be more involved in the decision making process? Stay informed, make sure your criticisms are constructive, and be a team player. Remember that at the end of the day, the end users are our reason for existing. Are your decisions and emotions in line with that priority? I can honestly say that every decision I’ve made here and every project I’ve committed us to has been to make a better library for our users.

And if someone complains one more time about not knowing what is going on around here, I’m going to flip a table.

 

How Did We Get Here? The Rise and (Hopefully) Fall of Rockstar Librarians

September26

I should start off by saying that my hope is that soon the era of rockstar librarians comes to an end. We brought them into this world and we’ll have to take them out.

I keep racking my brain about this week’s drama in librarianship. One librarian is suing two others. You know the story. I wish it hadn’t gotten to this point and I’m saddened that it has. But maybe it might just be that we can have some open dialogue as a profession and talk about what has happened over the last five or six years and how we got here. I’m writing this really free form and trying to get something out of my head and onto “paper” that’s bothering me. I mean absolutely no malice or offense towards any one.

I think this era of rockstar librarians has directly contributed to the current climate at conferences and the current legal case dominating our professional discourse. I want to try to frame the “rockstardom” without naming anyone in particular. You all know of a person that does a lot of speaking gigs, maybe who holds a lot of sway in conversation on social media, has maybe won awards or whatever. Sometimes they are also a bit of a jerk. In their minds, they’ve become better than others. They start to dominate all conversations, reject other opinions. They become a librarian rockstar. You might have someone in mind who fits this description. For the record, not all are men, in my opinion. How did we get here? I think there’s blame to go around and here are some of my initial thoughts:

  • Our vendors pay money for some people to give talks. Maybe that inflates their egos. Maybe they drop great talking points that get us excited about librarianship. Then another vendor hires them. More ego. I have personally heard “rockstars” bragging about having their rooms paid for at conference and giving talks and getting free dinners and drinks. Those perks shouldn’t mean you can be a jerk.
  • Fine. I think the Movers & Shakers may contribute to this. Please no offense to those who did not let it turn them into jerks. Ditto Emerging Leaders. Anytime you bestow an honor like this on someone in librarianship, there’s a chance it may make them a jerk. (Not all. I know.) But, I will admit to being at a social event at an ALA and hearing a new Emerging Leader (I think the first year or so) bragging about how he wasn’t really doing anything and getting a free conference and getting drunk. And I thought: so that’s worth my dues.
  • Social Media. There is power in thousands of followers. It creates a feeling of self-importance. (Yes, I realize I have them but they are not all librarians. Also, I used to act like a bit of a jerk a lot. I admit that. I’ve apologized. I’m not a jerk anymore and haven’t been for years and somehow they still stay. I’ve blogged about the evolution of my own changing social media use elsewhere.)

So, somehow, these things have helped create a generation of librarians who are extremely popular, both socially and professionally. Again, without pointing out anyone in particular, they are popular speakers and they are popular on social media and the social circuit during conference. Sometimes they are popular mostly just on the speaking front or the social front, but I’ve seen a lot of overlap. A lot of us attend these conferences, go to their talks, and then maybe some of us even hang out with them. So, in part, we’re feeding the beast really.

Some of us have wondered how certain individuals keep getting hired to give keynotes. All flash, no substance. Yet, it happens. Why? Because someone’s attending the talks.

I also really don’t want to turn this into a rant on what adults choose to do at conferences. I have not witnessed the plaintiff in the legal case sexually harass anyone. But, I did witness a different rockstar getting what I would call a little too cozy with a friend of mine, who was super enamored with this person due to their social media presence. That day, I stepped in and got her out of there because I knew she’d regret it. I never said another word about it. But, I think about it at every ALA.

So, librarians, what do we do now? I wish I had answers. I don’t. I mostly just want to have a conversation about the lack of civility and conversation and the aura of rockstar librarians and how it’s turning everything to shit. And then maybe figure out how to fix it.

*Please note: Not all popular librarians that give a lot of keynotes and win awards are jerks. I know that and you do too.

The Dreaded Staff Evaluations

September4

Well, it’s a new semester! A new school year! A new beginning!

And so, I’ve committed myself to writing on this blog every week, usually on Fridays. Today, you get a Thursday because I will be OUT OF TOWN tomorrow. Woooooo.

I’m planning on writing on a lot of topics this fall including building a relationship with a new boss, hiring decisions, avoiding burnout, going into library management, re-envisioning positions after retirement, emotional intelligence in management, and just whatever else I feel like writing about in terms of librarianship.

Right now, I’m working on library-wide staff evaluations. We do these before the new academic year starts here. I’ve done these on all kinds of calendar cycles in previous positions. Being that this is my third year here, I’m trying to be much more purposeful and hands on in the way we do things and really thinking deeply about what we say and do and what we put down on paper, which brings us to staff evaluations. This year, I poured over each one in my library (not just for my direct reports) and made suggestions, corrections, and, for a few, flat out rejected the statements and ratings and asked for rewrites.

These are crucial and important documents in almost every workplace. They can be used to calculate raises. They can be used to create a paper trail on problem employees. They should be used to state yearly or long term goals. But, I’ve also seen them used (maybe especially in the non-profit sector) as a reward mechanism, especially during times of low if any raises and in positions of little to no growth. So, I’m here to tell you to stop doing that and also stop expecting it.

Over-inflating evaluation ratings can only last so long and go so far. If you, or I, as a supervisor consistently tell all of our employees that they are excellent in every way in every category, then they’ve reached the ceiling. They have nowhere to improve. Coming into work, doing your job and doing it well, is an average score or a “meets expectations,” depending on your campuses language. I expect that of everyone. It’s what you do that’s truly above and beyond the basic job that gets you the excellent, 5, or whatever rating you use.

And let’s face it. Most people hate to have the evaluation meeting. Most people get nervous about it, whether you’re the giver or receiver of the evaluation and even when you know you’re doing a good job. I have wonderful staff and these meetings make me nervous. I doubt that ever stops. (Just like I am always nervous the first day of class. Still.)

We often really like our employees. Sometimes they become friends and feel like family. But, giving them an inaccurate review does not help anyone, even if it makes everyone feel better. So, the next time you have to write staff evaluations, I’m going to suggest a few steps to avoid over-inflating this important document.

  1. Go back to the job description. Make sure it’s accurate. Does this person come to work and do all of these things? Then, they are great and doing a good job. (Just average.)
  2. Are there certain areas in which they excel? Call them out on those pieces.
  3. Even if they are excelling, are there things they can do to push themselves over the next year?

Also, if you have not already, everyone in your workplace who writes evaluations should sit down and talk about what different ratings mean to you in order to try to standardize the ratings across departments. It is my job as the director to inform staff when adjustments have to be made, but I can see the disparity first hand in how different supervisors rate and describe work. Just like we norm rubrics, we need to norm evaluation ratings. (And we are totally doing this next year.)

I think the best advice I got in writing evaluations came from a friend in HR. She told me to make the process collaborative. So, have the employee send you their highlights for the year first or even fill out the form themselves and identify goals for the next year before you write the evaluation. Also, if there is space for employee comments, encourage your staff to make some. Did they run into specific obstacles in their jobs this year? Do they have specific projects they wanted noted on their evaluations? Appropriate acknowledgement is important.

In terms of writing goals, I also have my employees note how they will measure their success.  Our form allows for that, but not everyone fills it out across campus. We fill our forms out correctly and fully in the library because that’s what we do. :) I also encourage them to keep it to three goals. Three is manageable.

Now, even I do not get an “E” rating in every category. I know, this is shocking. And I am very hard on myself in my own pre-evaluation analysis. (Probably also shocking.) But, doing just average in some areas gives me something to strive for and I’m OK with that. So, you should learn to be too.

Well, that’s all for now. Happy fall semester!

 

 

What the Boss Should Give a New Librarian (A newish librarian’s perspective)

April23

Editor’s note: I asked after Midwinter for people who wanted to guest post on the blog and Catherine volunteered! It turns out her post is even more timely now as she will be starting a new job soon. Yay! So, congratulate her on that too when you get a chance (@ms_codson). If you’ve got a topic that you’re interesting in writing about (burning issues in librarianship, management, stuff like that, let me know!) I really love the message that Catherine is sending in her piece her and I think you will too! Happy reading!

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I’m a Millennial librarian, and a relatively new one, having just passed my three-year mark in a professional position. At this point in my career, I am starting to think about management opportunities in my own future, and as such, I’ve been reflecting on what worked, what didn’t, and what else I wanted or needed from managers in my first position.

By the time you reach your first professional position, you ideally have some general knowledge about how a library works. How to answer a reference question, how to work on teams, how to balance a crowd of patrons in front of you — between library school and internships/practicums/paraprofessional work, these are your responsibility. Your boss should not need to teach you how to work. What a good boss should give you, however, is a collection of maps.

First, a physical map. Each library building is different, and knowing where the bathrooms are is key. This was the first question I was asked at the reference desk as an intern, and I didn’t know the answer. (It’s a trick question of sorts — there isn’t one on our first floor!) Help your newbies find where they need to be, as well as where visitors may wish to go.

Next, a virtual map. What does your library do that they may not have learned elsewhere? Even if we (the new hire) are amazing librarians, some things are specific to a particular organization. Nothing can replace years of experience in the building, but the more you can document and share your policies and procedures, the easier it will be for new librarians to jump on board. This includes people, too. Use your knowledge of interpersonal relationships to help newbies navigate the library and get things done as efficiently as possible. Someone is notoriously bad at email? Point that out. If you have a good strategy for getting a meeting hijacker to back off, share that, too. Set new hires up for success.

Directions to the nearest committees and working groups. I entered my first professional position straight from an internship, and it never occurred to me to ask for these assignments. Other new hires were quickly picked up, but I slipped through the cracks and didn’t join any committees at the library- or university-level until almost a year later! Identify opportunities for your new hires to get immersed in current library projects as they gain their footing and find their additional teams.

And finally, a (metaphoric) kiss and a shove out the door. You hired us, and you have set us up for success. Push us past our comfort zones and into projects where you know we can add our expertise. Especially for the first new hire in a while, it’s easy to fall into the “new person” trap. At some point, it’s time to jump and do the work. As long as we have a net.

LibrarylandMapcodson

Catherine Odson will soon be a tech guide with Anythink Libraries in Adams County, CO. She previously worked in educational technology at the University of Pennsylvania Libraries and earned her MS(LIS) from Drexel University in 2011.

Oversharing and Whining: Do These Things Make You a Bad Job Candidate?

March10

I read a librarian’s blog post this morning that posed an interesting dilemma. In essence, the author felt there are not enough networking events for non-drinkers at library conferences. While I wouldn’t necessarily disagree with that point, my first response, and my instinct, was “OK, I get what you’re saying (though I think this is a problem in probably every profession), so now do something about it.” Make a Facebook group, create a Twitter, reach out to others who probably also feel this is an awkward problem in our profession and want to find ways to work around it.

Do something.

This got me into several Monday morning librarian conversations in the back-channel, as Mondays sometimes do. (Ok, that is likely to happen almost every day.) Social media, blogs, and the Internet seem to become havens for people to just bitch and complain. Rinse. Repeat. I feel like that is especially true in my profession, but maybe that’s just because I’m exposed to a larger number of librarians in social media. I get that. I’ve been there. Then, a friend asked me if being the oversharer on the Internet makes someone a bad job candidate in my eyes, and I thought about it.

Here’s my thoughts:

I wouldn’t necessarily think someone who overshares (and even whines) a lot about their job/profession is not a good worker, person, or librarian, in general. But, I would be concerned if it was a constant pattern. For example, if you’ve whined about your horrible working conditions at Library A and then you make a change and get a new job (yay, change!) and then you’re back whining about Library B? Maybe the problem is you. Maybe.

What do you do about the issues you raise? Do you get the librarians of the Internet foaming at the mouth and incite some real change? Do you just put your say out there and then drop it and move on? Are you a solutions person or just a constant bitcher?

Also, we all need to vent and share our thoughts. It’s not healthy to keep it all in. And I totally get that social media is the easy way to do that now. We find our like people, they get us, we bitch together. But here’s my dilemma and maybe I need to think about this more and write again sometime. Oversharing on the Internet is not as much a problem to me as my perception of a growing sense of entitlement in the library profession. Am I the only one seeing this and feeling it?

It’s possible.

I’ve never been one to think that I can just drop a thought out there and that the universe will make it so because it’s my right for it to exist that way. If I did, I’d be demanding out loud that all meetings everywhere have a wine bar available. (I kid. )

Maybe we need is a Librarian’s Bill of Rights. What *are* we professionally entitled to across the board? And then, what are the things that would make us more productive, better colleagues, and responsive to our profession in a positive, healthy way? We could make those the agenda items that we want to work on the institute change. (I’m kidding. That sounds dreadfully awful. Maybe we just need to be adults.)

So, in a nutshell, whining and oversharing do not make you a bad anything, but it could paint a picture of you as the Whiny Negative Naysayer of LibraryLand and nobody wants that person around. What you do with your frustrations and the results you can produce or ideas you bring to the table are the things you should be oversharing.

This may all be my own ramblings and not make sense whatsoever. But, whatever, it’s Monday and it’s *my* blog. I can overshare my thoughts if I want to.

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The blog post that sparked my thinking today can be found here: http://satifice.com/2014/03/10/been-thinking-about-network-and-a-culture-of-drinking/ (Again, I don’t disagree with this issue at all. I’d love to hear solutions and ways to work towards making more alternative events available if this is really an issue librarians want to be passionate about.)

 

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