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!

_____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

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.

_______

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.)

 

Talking to Your Boss…

February21

Welp, it’s nearly the end of February and I said I was going to blog every Friday this year. NO TIME LIKE NOW TO START!

I’m going to take my cues for my first few blog posts from the panel I sat on at ALA Midwinter which was supposed to be about “getting things done,” but I think really turned into more of an honest Q&A for newer librarians and maybe a little bit of therapy for us all. (Maybe the mimosas helped. I’m not sure. I was coming down with the flu.)

Anyway, I was struck by how many librarians present (and most had three years or less experience as I recall) asked some sort of variation on “how do I ask my boss so and so?” or “how do I go and talk to this person?” So, here we are with my advice on how to talk to your boss.

First, if you need to talk to your boss, talk to your boss. Yes, it’s that simple. We are all on the same team and these are libraries, not places where anyone is yelling (I hope!).

Personally, I have an open door policy. If someone comes in and I am doing something, I will give them a minute. If I’m on a deadline, I will say, “sure, I have a few minutes, but I need to finish this today, so if it’s longer than fifteen minutes or so, let’s schedule something.” But, what if your boss is less flexible? Here are my suggestions:

  • Shoot an email and ask for fifteen minutes. Be succinct. Tell him or her what your problem is and bring SOLUTIONS with you. 
  • If the problem is longer or more involved, start with an introduction to the issue, offer to schedule something longer for sometime soon.
  • Don’t put anyone on the spot on something that needs thinking over.

Follow-up with an email so that you both have a record of the problem, plan, future meeting, solution. I am the first to admit that I forget a lot of stuff if I don’t have a written/electronic record somewhere. My desk is littered with sticky notes.

Also, sometimes an email (or even pick up the phone), is a good way to get your boss’s attention and ask, “hey, can I see you about something? It has to do with such and such.” None of us like to be surprised.

If you don’t bring a solution with you, be prepared to have the dead elk handed back to you. I’m not here to take the monkeys off of anyone’s back. I’m here to figure out where else we can put the monkeys. But if it’s your problem, it’s your problem.

Now, if you’re trying to troubleshoot something that is politically sticky (I have to try this project because YOU, dear boss person, want me to), then tread carefully, but note your concerns and your willingness to still try. All of us boss people are not totally unreasonable, but sometimes we can shed light on something…like WHY it would be good if we did this because it would build a lot of good will with so and so.

In the end, if you’re in a working environment where you really are that petrified to talk to your boss, my advice is really that you need a new job (we’ll blog that next week). And yes, I realize that might be easier said than done.

In Defense of Attending ALA

January21

Lately, I’ve been seeing a lot of “I don’t go to ALA because it’s not worth it” sort of “stuff” online and I have been thinking a lot about writing a post about librarians and continuing education/conferences/money, so here’s what I dumped out of my brain onto the blog.

First, if *I* am the one defending attendance at a conference, we’ve probably all gone too far in our bashing because I will honestly question how much I have learned at an ALA in the last few years (but that’s my fault. I will get to that.)

This morning I read a post in Library Journal that gave some good reasons to go to ALA, but some rather disturbing comments about *not* going. This was what prompted me to blog my thoughts on the matter. I’m not going to link you all to it. You’re librarians. You’ll find it if you want. Without further ado, the reasons you should attend ALA:

  • Networking. Yes, I think this is the most important. This is an extremely small profession and if you ever want to move up, collaborate across institutions, really get to know people, you need to network. I began networking and attending ALA as a shiny, new, baby librarian and some of my best friends in life were the ones I met at that first ALA committee meeting at my very first ALA. We are all big shots now, but we stay in touch. (I am mostly kidding.)

  • Learning. We are in a rapidly changing profession and learning should be something we all do all of the time. Who to learn best from? Your peers. Yes, some people put on great programs and have financial resources to do things that I will never be able to do, but what else can I take away from their presentation? The first few ALA and ACRL conferences I went to were amazing! I found my people!
  • Job Hunting. I interviewed once at an ALA. It was a decent experience. I didn’t want the job, in the end, but I think if you’re on the market, it’s worth a shot.
  • Committee work. Again, if I am defending this, we’ve got problems, librarians. I spent a good chunk of my first ten years in librarianship serving on committees. You know what I learned? First, I learned a lot about group dynamics and how bureaucracies work, but I also learned a lot from other people who knew more than me, were better organized, came to the committee with different experiences to share, and I did a lot more networking. True story, I got my last job because I served on a committee with someone and she thought I would be a good manager. Does ALA have a lot of committees? Yes. Do some people do more work than others? Yes, welcome to life. But, like most things, you get out of it what you put into it. Besides, committee work is what runs our organization. If you don’t want to be a part of it, don’t bitch either.

Now, that all being said, let’s talk about funding. I have a pretty good CV with presentations and conferences all over it and I had about half of those paid for. The other half? I paid for myself. I didn’t always have a kick-ass shoe collection. I had to make choices. I’m not saying you should go into major debt to go to conferences and network. But, I think it’s about time we seriously start talking about investing in ourselves and our careers in this profession. I know a lot of teaching faculty who barely have one research trip paid for before they earn tenure. But, they go anyway. Because their jobs and their passion depends upon it. Yet, what I hear from librarians (often) is, “well, my library won’t pay for me to go.” I know we’re not the highest paid profession, but I would suggest if things are close enough to you, or in state, or if you can get a presentation accepted, to pay out of pocket for some of your professional development. One day, those presentations or conference attendances might be what separates you from someone else in an applicant pool.

So, there’s my two cents. If you’re going to Midwinter, maybe I will see you and we can have wine! If not, try not to be disparaging to those of us who are going, or maybe have to go, and try not to assume it’s not worth our time and we don’t bring back good stuff.

A Library From the Ground Up

December6

So, I blame @RachelMFleming for this entire blog post. She asked me on the Twitter one day what kind of people I would hire to work in a library, if not librarians. Now, I am not saying there would not be any librarians at all, but I am saying, if I could start from scratch, this is what I would look for.

To start, I want everyone to have a positive attitude or at least come to work thinking “what can I do today to like my job?” because when you’re the Negative Nancy all the time, you’re just going to impede everyone’s progress. I want people in every position who are innovative, thinking outside of the box, and figuring out how to make it happen. I want dreamers. I want people who see something we put together that turns out well and says, Fantastic! What’s next? And through everything we do, I want a culture of assessment and examining what works, what does not, and thinking about why and how to constantly get feedback.

I want people who are independent workers, self-starters and can deal with a changing environment.

Also, I work in a college library. So, this really applies to academics. 

More specifically, sort of.

1. Teachers. People who could work with faculty and students and teach them the concepts of information literacy, with the most important element being the evaluation of information. This is the most important life skill we need to be imparting on our students. And the right teaching people could help faculty integrate those concepts into courses, majors, and beyond.

2. Technology people. Know what we need, buy it, make it work, maintain weird library stuff (like the LMS).

2. A spreadsheet/numbers analysis guru or two. Someone who could harness all of the data we have and make it pretty and help tell a story.

3. Data management/authority control. Right, a cataloger.

4. People who can work with the old stuff we have and make it digital. I’d like someone with the knowledge and appreciation in this area, who also wants to teach and work on digital projects.

5. People who like order and can be independent workers to do all of the pieces of ordering, keeping the books, watching spending, finding new and better ways to spend our money.

6. Dreamers. I would want people who could help me keep thinking bigger and better. These are the people watching the trends and knowing what we should be looking at/investing our time in.

7. Marketing. Not to market specific library resources, but to make the presentation of our stuff look good and to know how to get the message out.

8. Learning and information technologies. What are the new cool things? Who wants to try them out and should we invest money in them. Would also be good to run the website and things like social media because someone knowledgeable needs to.

9. A space planner. I would love to have someone walking around looking at how things get used, making some analysis, and helping us utilize space better.

10. Collections guru. This person would handle all of the decisions and negotiating and making sure it is right and good and analyzed.

11. Services coordinator. A person to figure out desk staffing, services, and keep a constant analysis of what’s working.

12. Fantastic, customer service oriented people at service points.

13. A kick-ass assistant. Cherry on the cake.

PS. Maybe also a Nutritionist. (I KID.)

Are you learning these things in library school, maybe? Fantastic. If you didn’t? Figure out how to get them.

You asked, Rachel. So, I answered :)

Things Librarians Love (Or Should). Ahem.

November13

So there was a list today. And since I haven’t blogged in a while and also I am procrastinating prepping for a big meeting (IT WILL BE FINE), I present to you a list of things that librarians love and it is a better list than was on an unnamed online source today that is notorious for annoying, crappy lists.

These are in no particular order.

1. Cardigans. We work in places with notoriously whacky HVAC systems. Also, they are cute.

2. Booze. Not everyone is a drinker, but every social event that involves drinking and librarians? It goes through a lot of booze. I promise you this. We can put away the booze.

3. Book carts. Fine. Apparently, some librarians need/love these, so it stays.

4. Patrons. The ones that are  nice to us, send us thank you notes, stop and tell us how we changed their lives or how much they like what we are doing. Are there bad days and terrible patrons? Yes, but to ever list “complaining about patrons” on a list of things we love? Bad form.

5. Space Heaters. See reason for number one.

6. Free Conference Shit. We love these. Especially if there is a tote bag. If you haven’t had your ankles smashed in by someone pulling a cart full of swag, you haven’t lived.

7. Free Food. Free cake in the middle of an ALA conference looks like…well, a thousand people pushing and shoving to get free cake. Combine free food with free booze, like at a vendor party, and we will go and listen to vendor reps yammer on forever and a day. There may also be free fancy swag at said party.

8. Free books. The Advanced Reader Copies. We ship them home from conferences (ironically making them not really free.) We shall not mention #arcgate though.

9. ModCloth. We are all wearing it or a copy of something from it at conferences and we look damn adorable. (Usually with polka dots.)

10. Pencil skirt. It goes with number one. We rock it.

11. Tote Bags. I am ashamed to admit how many tote bags I have. We all leave an ALA conference with at least two, I would bet. Well, we might NEED THEM ALL SOME DAY.

12. Inserting cute animals in conference presentations. I HAVE NEVER DONE THIS, BUT EVERYONE ON MY TWITTER AGREED.

13. Twitter. We have a fairly large network of active Twitter librarians and we love it and each other. <3

14. Buzzfeed. LOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOL. I KID.

15. Being Passive Agressive. Our profession really takes this to an art form.

16. Awards. And then Award Hating. If you’re not one of us, you probably won’t want to know more than that.

17. Rockstar Librarians. …

18. Socks. I will give the woman this one. Most of the librarians I know do love quirky, cute, and fun socks.

19. Books. Whether e-book or print, most of us do actually like to read. But I hope we don’t judge other people’s preferences.

20. Being Helpful. For goodness sake, if you can’t agree to this one, you are most definitely in the wrong profession. Even if you don’t help the public, you probably help your colleagues. Or at least you should.

21. (Addendum.) Cats. And things with cats on them. I FORGOT THIS AND I HAVE TWO CATS. Oy.

22. (Oops.) I also forgot glasses.

I will not add sensible shoes because ew.

Honorable mention. Neil Gaiman. I mean, I get it. I guess. But, I am not a crazy librarian fangirl. However, I put him here because like 90% of the librarians I know are.

Thank you to everyone who contributed to the list: @jaleh_f, @erinaleach, @kdnorthrup, @cougarlibrarian @sarainthestacks

Note: This list is heavily female librarian oriented. And, while there is often a lot of kerfuffle about male librarians and a lot of male librarian hating on social media, I love my guybrarian manbrarian friends and so a big shout out to them and I would be happy to add to the list if they want :)

Apparently, for the men, I shall add here sweater vests, bow ties, and fedora hats. HAPPY NOW?

Have more? Tweet to me at @winelibrarian and maybe I will add it. ;)

 

Workplace Trust

November1

Let’s face it, you see the people you work with more often than you see some of your closest friends, family, and sometimes significant others. You get to know each other fairly well and often, you gossip about all of the other people you work with. I’m not going to tell you *not* to do that because I think developing close workplace relationships, and sometimes gossiping, is important to your mental health. But, I want to caution you about breaching trust, especially the trust of your boss.

Personally, I have a good relationship with my boss. He trusts me to tell him what he needs to know to be able to speak on behalf of the library. But, we don’t work in the same building and sometimes we go weeks without seeing each other. I can assure you though, that if he told me something big about his plans or campus news, I might tell someone I’m close to just to get it out and vent, but I would absolutely not tell a soul that I work with or works for me. The trust between an employee and a supervisor is one that should not be broken.

When I was a new librarian, I often gossiped in my circle of four. I mean, how could I not? My first professional librarian job opened my eyes to how completely insane a library really can be. I was overwhelmed with the weird, the old-fashioned, the quirky, and the just plane nuts. I needed to get it out. Fortunately, I had a great inner circle of four of us (and we are all still friends today, twelve years later). But, I remember advice there that my mentor gave me once: when the big boss tells you something, they will test you, don’t tell stories out of turn. My big boss at the time there was fairly ruthless in the way he lead, but he was also keenly observant and so I wouldn’t doubt him doing this sort of double-handed stuff to find out who he could really trust.

At one point, things went so wrong with things at one job because people were outright lying about me and others, that I ended up leaving. Gossip can quickly snowball into something much more hurtful and dangerous and negatively affect people’s whole lives.

Fast forward to now, when I am the boss. I’ve blogged on here before about how lonely being the boss can be, and it’s really true. I literally trust just about no one in this library yet, because I am the only new person and I need to keep feeling my way around. Recently, I found out that a person who reports directly to me had been gossiping to a few people and it was causing a lot of consternation among the other staff. Everyone thought this person was right, knew all of my plans, and knew all the answers, but the information (when it finally came back to me) was clearly blown out of proportion. I think this person thought they’d be the favorite staff person if they had all of the inside information. Sigh. What to do? Well, I had to scrap some of my plans totally and discredit the person. You can’t move forward as the leader wanting the admiration and needing the ear of one and it costing you the rest of the staff. At some point, I will have to deal with this person’s gossiping issues but I have too many other things moving along right now to stop and spend all of my energy corralling a bad apple. But the trust there is gone and it’s hard for me because I am still new and need to be able to confide in and have confidence in those that work for me.

So, be careful that your need for admiration from your peers does not come at the cost of the respect of your boss or other coworkers.  By all means, socialize with your work friends, but just be careful. Too much scheming often backfires on you. Sometimes, it takes your boss a while to catch on to *who* is spreading the bullshit, but eventually they catch on.

And, I implore you, if you *hear* gossip that feels troubling about your job, then by all means go in to see your boss and ask for some clarification. Don’t add fuel the fire. Get your answers from the horses mouth.

 

My Thoughts on Faculty Status for Academic Librarians

October11

I’ve been kicking around the idea of sharing my thoughts on this topic for some time. And, from time to time, have chimed in via Twitter and have also had this conversation with various librarian friends. My own feelings towards faculty status for academic librarians  has certainly changed as my career path moved along its trajectory. But, really, I can see it as both a good and bad thing.

This is not a manifesto for or against faculty status for librarians. It’s just merely my thoughts on why I can see it both ways.

When I was a brand new, shiny librarian, I was dead set on landing a job with faculty status. I did not apply for any that didn’t have it, in fact. (The job market was way different back then.) After all, I was a SCHOLARLY librarian. I had a Masters in History. I intended to research and publish and add to all of the fabulous conversations in academia and libraries forever and ever amen. In my first job, I was super productive. Published articles, did some research, did presentations. I was pretty fabulous early on in this biz. I had idols. I had mentors. I loved serving on committees with other faculty. I was at a place where the librarians were pretty respected and had good reputations. I had never heard the question, “Do the librarians here really *deserve* faculty status?” (Well, maybe only a couple of times.) What I did observe about faculty status early on though was that it did lead some people to professionally atrophy. Well, because they couldn’t be fired. It was certainly not the majority of the people there though, so I really had no preconceived ideas that that sort of thing was happening everywhere else in libraries. I mean, faculty status or not, doesn’t EVERYONE want to keep learning?

In my second job, I earned tenure and a promotion to Associate Professor and was even more productive. While I had heard some rumblings on campus about faculty status for the librarians and my then Director was not a huge fan, I knew the faculty I worked with closely never questioned my status. I watched two librarians be denied tenure there. They were decent librarians, I think, but they were not in the mold that the new Director wanted. She wanted hip hotshots (ahem) and they didn’t fit. But, me? I was a productive committee member, taught First-Year Seminar, worked my butt off in the library, and represented their departments well. Privately, they had asked if *all* of the librarians should be faculty. They just simply wondered if the work was the same or if some didn’t want to publish and present, maybe there should be a non-tenure track option. My own Director almost tried to push that sort of dual track that I know does exist in other places, but when I left there, there had been no change.

Eventually, I landed at my previous job, which did not have faculty status. The librarians who worked for me there were fabulous librarians and unphased by their status. I encouraged them to be and do their best and they presented at national conferences and wrote articles. Thye did outreach to faculty and taught classes (credit and library instruction). They were no different and no less respected by the teaching faculty on campus in my view than at the previous institutions where I had faculty status.

Currently, my librarians have faculty status. And also, some of them have not grown professionally in a long time. I feel a tide turning in this library and the piece that I can’t budge and encourage? The faculty. It’s never been a question here of faculty status or not, which is fine. But I have personally seen the evils that can come with tenure and I really, really don’t like it as the Bosslady.

One of my professor friends once said to me: You librarians do all of the work of the faculty to have your faculty status but get none of the perks (because we were on 12 month contracts and made less money). So true. Also? We were forced to go to every Faculty Senate meeting, volunteer above and beyond, and basically we had to prove over and over again that yes, we really should and could be faculty.

I will agree that there are a number of librarians who are very productive with their research and scholarship and really serve the universities and colleges where they work in a similar way to faculty, in that respect. But, as an administrator, I wonder now what faculty status is holding us back from? What really is the percentage of faculty that atrophy once they receive their tenure? What’s the percentage that push the boundaries in technology, teaching, or assessment and say, “well, I am going to try all of these new things because I have tenure and can’t be fired.” I mean, couldn’t we do those things without the status?

I often hear the argument, “Well, faculty status gets us a seat at the table with the teaching faculty. We are in the conversation and respected.” Really? Are you? If there were funds up for grabs for a Study-Abroad Program run by teaching faculty versus an Integrated Information Literacy Program run by faculty librarians, would the faculty be on your side? And if they were, would it be because you were faculty? Or because they thought you were good librarians. Personally, I can’t think of anything I’ve earned as a librarian that I got because I had faculty status. I earned the respect of my teaching faculty colleagues because of my enthusiasm and my eagerness to help their students learn and to be a good librarian.

As for our scholarship, we often have great ideas in posters and panels at conferences, which does not really mirror academic discipline conferences and discourse. But what about our journal literature? Are we adding to the literature for the sake of publishing or perishing or are we adding really new ideas to our body of literature? I often wonder this every time I pick up a journal. There is no doubt good research is going on and there are solid publications, but are those all being doing by tenured or tenure track librarians? Or are they being done by librarians who just really want to be able to measure the impact they are having on their students? What really is the benefit of faculty status and what really is the cost?

As an administrator, I find it hard to be supportive of a system that allows people to keep their jobs indefinitely whether or not they continue to meet expectations. Especially in a field that is so rapidly changing and so pivotal, I think, to student success. As a librarian with tenure, it’s also hard to admit that maybe our “faculty status” should be questioned.

I have no answers, but I enjoy the conversation and the spirit of the debate. I don’t write this or bring it up to sway anyone one way or another, merely to point out that maybe it’s not the most important thing you need to have in a job, though.

In Defense of Directors: It’s Lonely at the Top

August12

A couple of weeks ago I was teaching in a week-long, immersive workshop and found myself, as I often am, defending library directors. Now, this post is not in defense of the raging lunatics (which I’ve worked for) or the absent library director (been there, done that), but it is in defense of the ones who seem a little preoccupied, not really in tune with every detail of your job, or the ones who keep you on your toes because they are always changing things (guilty).

Running a library is a lonely business. No one on my campus really gets what a library director does or can even commiserate about most of my issues. We employ a large department and it is made up of a weird caste system of positions (faculty, administrators, full-time and part-time staff, and students). I have to deal with faculty AND staff issues and never the two shall meet. I do have more than one advanced degree, but I am not “real” faculty. I have made a few good friends so far on campus, but they are basically in charge of themselves and maybe one other person. They are great collaborators and have shown me the ropes and helped me work through some university issues, but when it comes to talking budgets, collections, personnel, or other library fun stuff, they can only help out at the big picture level. So, in short, your boss is probably a little isolated when it comes to library stuff.

You’re right. We don’t know every single job in the library and what it does day-to-day. I know I have people who do acquisitions, cataloging, reference (sort of), teaching, collections, circulation, reserves, technology, etc., but I don’t think I need to understand what it is that you are doing every minute. I need to understand what your goals are, what you need to do your job well, and how you want to contribute to push the library forward. That. If you are with a group of librarians discussing an issue and you say, “but my Director just doesn’t get XYZ,” then my response to you is EXPLAIN IT TO THEM. Ask them for 15 minutes. Provide bullet points. Give them the real cost of something. Tell them why it’s important. Done.

We have a lot of stuff going on in our heads. OK, this maybe just me, but I don’t think it is. I could be totally thinking about how to put together a five year plan and then get distracted by the day-to-day, e-mail, budget crisis, lights out over the circ desk, and lose my train of thought. Your director needs to have an idea of what is going on all over the building, while also still moving ahead (hopefully), so sometimes we may seem distracted. That’s probably not always the case, but it is true that sometimes, we are indeed distracted. Please accept our apologies.

We expect a lot from our shining stars and we give a lot back, too. What I tried to impress upon several people at the workshop last week was that if your Director is sending you to stuff like an expensive week long workshop, or conferences, or whatever they can? They think it’s because you’re bringing something back and you are one of the shining stars. We don’t always ask you how everything went or what you’d like to do on a daily basis, but that’s partially because we think you, like us, are running with it and will let us know when you need something. That is key because I, and most of my colleagues, will do whatever we can so that our people can be successful (short of forcing them to learn new things. I’ve tried. It fails.)

Communication is a two-way street. This is really important. A lot of my staff complained last year that I didn’t communicate enough. I assumed that the supervisors/librarians were communicating things downward. That was incorrect. I’ve worked to fix this, but someone could have stopped a lot of annoying complaining and just asked me or told me what was happening first hand. If you don’t tell your boss that you need things to be successful or that you’re not getting the information? We assume everything is perfectly fine.

Just because we don’t want to know your whole life story does not mean we don’t like you. I get this a lot from people who don’t know me well. I can appear to be really aloof. Usually, I am just thinking. But I definitely compartmentalize my life, a lot. This is something I should maybe work on, but I like to keep life and work separate because I have my own workplace baggage. Anyway, just because I don’t bake muffins and sit around in the coffee klatch in the morning, doesn’t mean I don’t like those people. It means that I am here to do a job and I am trying to do it well but that doesn’t mean I don’t like you. Your boss may seem the same way. Us extroverts are notorious for compartmentalizing and if we have to accept Introverts the way they are (of course we do), then you can deal with our issues, too. For me, if anyone wants me to like them? Just come to work, do your job, contribute to the overall mission, and try and have some fun along the way.

We pick our battles. One of the biggest criticisms I hear from librarians about directors is that they feel their directors aren’t advocating for XYZ enough. Well, the truth is, we have to align our library’s priorities to the institution’s priorities and sometimes those don’t include your specific pet projects. But, I promise, if you keep me informed on an issue and are sure to keep me up to speed on how it will positively affect our community or our students, I will have that information right there when I see an opportunity.

There. I hope this helps you see your Director’s or Dean’s perspective a little bit too. If you’ve got bigger problems with your boss than the ones I’ve mentioned here, I’m sorry. We’ve all been there. May it get better or may you find a way out.

 

 

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